On July 17 the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division announced it is taking additional steps in response to induced seismicity concerns, aided by a $200,000 grant from the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment.  This new OGCD directive expands the total size of the areas covered and applies to 211 additional disposal wells. Operators of the wells will have until August 14 to demonstrate they are not injecting below the Arbuckle formation, the state’s deepest formation underlying most of the state. It is theorized that injection below the Arbuckle puts the well in communication with the basement rock.

This latest directive also provides further clarification on the state’s evolving “traffic light” system for injection well operations, well permit review procedures, and conditions of operation. Weekly volume reporting is now required for wells in areas of interest surrounding the center of observed earthquake clusters in 21 Oklahoma counties. Well pressure and volume for wells injecting into the Arbuckle must now be disclosed daily instead of monthly. Moreover, wells disposing of greater than 20,000 barrels per day must conduct mechanical integrity tests annually instead of every five years.

This latest directive follows an OGCD directive issued in March covering more than 300 disposal wells that inject into the Arbuckle formation within areas of interest. To date, hundreds of disposal wells have already been affected by the regulations:

  • 124 Arbuckle disposal wells have now reduced their depth or been “plugged back”
  • 16 are in the process of plugging back.
  • 54 are limiting their volume to less than 1,000 barrels a day.
  • 96 have proven they are at the proper depth
  • 25 have cut their injection rate in half
  • 37 are not injecting

In addition, for many wells, operators have also agreed to voluntarily cut injection rates. The new directive from the Commission will impact over 200 additional wells.

Meanwhile, the energy industry has been praised by the Governor for voluntarily contributing seismic data and research assistance to the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.  As well regulations and state traffic light systems relating to induced seismicity evolve, we will continue to monitor breaking developments here at the Hydraulic Fracking Blog.