Oklahoma Corporation Commission moves forward with new guidelines for hydraulic fracturing operations

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OKLAHOMA CITY – As 2016 is coming to an end, officials say there are plans in the works to make sure 2017 doesn’t include nearly as many earthquakes for Oklahomans.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division and the Oklahoma Geological Survey have developed seismicity guidelines focused on operators in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province and Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher counties region.

Officials say the Oklahoma energy industry is prepared to fully cooperate with the new measure.

If  an earthquake is a 2.5 magnitude or greater, the Corporation Commission will contact operators within a 2 km radius of the seismic events and will implement internal mitigation practices. However, operation will continue.

If an earthquake is a 3.0 magnitude or greater, operators will initially pause operation for at least six hours. Once the operator and the Corporation Commission agrees on mitigation practices, they may resume work with revised completion procedures.

If an earthquake is a 3.5 magnitude or greater, the operator will suspend operations and will hold an in-person meeting with the Corporation Commission to discuss if work can resume with changes.

Tim Baker, with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, says the good news is that the areas are not capable of generating huge amounts of wastewater.

Jeremy Boak, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, say old and new data have prompted a plan to mitigate the earthquake risk in these new areas.

“Then-state seismologist Austin Holland did some work on small earthquakes some years ago in what is now widely known as the SCOOP and STACK, and showed some of them might have been related to hydraulic fracturing,” Boak said. “More recent small events outside the AOI (area of interest)  might also be linked to hydraulic fracturing. While the data indicates that seismicity related to the SCOOP and STACK would be far less frequent and much lower in magnitude than the activity we are addressing in the main earthquake region of the state that has been linked to wastewater disposal, we have enough information to develop a plan aimed at reducing the risk of these smaller events as operations commence,” Boak said. “Unlike the strong earthquake activity in areas of the AOI linked to disposal activity, response to seismic activity that might be related to hydraulic fracturing can be more precisely defined and rapidly implemented.”

The Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association said its companies are ready to implement the new guidelines for hydraulic fracturing immediately.

“The Commission’s announcement is another example of states being in the best position to move quickly and effectively to properly regulate oil and natural gas activities using transparent data and sound science,” said OKOGA’s President Chad Warmington. “The new guidelines to manage and mitigate anomalous seismic events will help to protect and maximize the development of Oklahoma’s abundant natural resources for years to come. As the data indicates, these seismic events have been small, rare and manageable. OKOGA operators in Oklahoma are actively monitoring their operations and adjusting in real time if they identify geologic risk factors, using methods that have proven effective in Ohio and British Colombia. The OCC’s new guidelines will compliment these efforts.

“Seismic activity in Oklahoma is down more than 20 percent since last year, thanks to measures taken by the state in collaboration with the Oklahoma oil and natural gas industry and the scientific community. We remain committed to being an active partner and working together to understand and further reduce the number of seismic events in Oklahoma.”