Oklahoma legislator calls for study to find alternatives to wastewater injection

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Oklahoma Disposal Well Site

OKLAHOMA CITY – A state legislator is working to convene one more public hearing about other options for disposing wastewater from oil and gas exploration.

“We need to have a thorough discussion of how ‘oil patch’ wastewater will be disposed of,” Rep. Richard Morrissette said. “Injecting it back underground into disposal wells, where it can trigger seismic activity, cannot continue at previous levels.”

Scientists say it’s not hydraulic fracking that’s causing the earthquakes, but rather the technique of wastewater disposal.

Fracking creates millions of gallons of wastewater that get injected into deep underground wells. In some cases, the fluids can seep into faults and unleash quakes.

In August, state leaders, including Gov. Mary Fallin, acknowledged that there is a direct correlation between increased seismic activity and wastewater disposal wells.

In the last several months, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has cracked down on oil companies’ wastewater injection wells following a series of earthquakes.

Morrissette says that over the last five years, approximately 205 billion gallons of wastewater were injected into disposal wells in the state.

However, he says there are other ways to get rid of the wastewater.

Morrissette says one brine processing company is coming to Oklahoma, which will allow companies to boil the brine out of the wastewater, making distilled-quality water.

Also, another Oklahoma company has developed evaporation technology that it claims can reduce almost all of the “fossil” wastewater to water vapor and dried salt.

Morrissette says that while the evaporative system may be too expensive at this time, he believes that “costs will decline” as the technology matures.

However, oil and gas operators remain skeptical that these processes could actually work with wastewater produced from fracking.

The House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will convene an interim legislative study later this year.