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Oklahoma Corporation Commission issues new wastewater disposal directive

OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials say as the number of earthquakes drop across Oklahoma, a new directive for the oil and gas industry is aimed at the future.

On Friday, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division issued a new directive that would limit the growth of future wastewater disposal rates into the Arbuckle formation.

“The data from the Oklahoma Geological Survey shows the earthquake rate has been dropping since we issued various directives reducing the then-current volume within the AOI,” OGCD Director Tim Baker said. “The continued drop in earthquakes, as well as new data and input from the Oklahoma Geological Survey have caused a change in our orientation from focusing on current disposal volumes within the AOI to looking ahead to try and ensure there isn’t a sudden, surprise jump in those disposal volumes. This directive includes not only those Arbuckle disposal wells within the AOI already restricted in volume, but also the few potentially high volume disposal wells that previously were not under a volume reduction directive because there has been no seismicity in their area. In all, it will cover 654 Arbuckle disposal wells in the AOI.”

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Baker says the directive will not reduce current volumes, but looks ahead to keep future volume increases in check.

In the future, wells will be able to increase the amount of wastewater disposed in the area. However, this directive puts a cap on that increase, creating limits on how big of an increase can occur at one time.

The directive also gives well operators a little flexibility when it comes to multiple wells. Under the system, the well operator would have a 30 day allowance for how much can be disposed.

“Operators will be allowed, on a limited basis, to increase the volumes in certain wells and, if necessary, offset with lower volumes in others, so long as the 30 day allowance that encompasses total disposal of all his wells is not exceeded,” Baker explained.

“The amount and quality of the data now available to us is far ahead of where we were a year ago,” Baker said. “We can make decisions on a much timelier basis. Given that, operators need to be aware that we will take action if that data indicates further volume reductions should be put in place. The earthquake rate is headed in the right direction, but this remains our most critical issue.”