OCC: Protocols for oil and gas industry seem to be working to prevent earthquakes

OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission say steps they have taken to reduce the number and severity of earthquakes across Oklahoma seem to be working.

“While still evolving, the “traffic light” protocol system developed by the OCC and OGS and put in place by directive in December has thus far yielded some good results,” said OCC Oil and Gas Division Director Tim Baker. “The actions taken under the directive have been in response to events that have occurred away from the Arbuckle injection wells that have been linked to most of the earthquake activity in the state. Researchers have linked some of this smaller and relatively rare activity outside the main earthquake area to well completion operations, including hydraulic fracturing.”

Under December’s protocol, the Corporation Commission contacted well operators following 27 earthquakes that registered above a 2.5 magnitude.

“In the cases where companies have taken mitigation actions, the earthquake activity either stopped quickly or tapered off and stopped soon after,” Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Dr. Jeremy Boak said.

While officials feel like this is a good step, more research needs to be done.

“The work to ensure the safe, responsible, and economically viable development of Oklahoma’s oil and gas resources is an ongoing process. When it comes to all forms of induced seismicity we know far more now than we did only a few years ago, but there’s much work that remains. OGS will continue to monitor and track seismic activity and lead research projects to better understand induced seismicity. Areas we are focusing on include the possible link between initial small-scale seismic activity and subsequent larger events, and the physical properties of the Arbuckle Group and basement rocks that may play a role in seismicity,” said Oklahoma Geological Survey Seismologist Dr. Jacob Walter.