Oklahoma Corporation Commission targets 245 injection wells following large quake

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has released a plan they hope will help reduce the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

The plan targets wastewater injection wells in the northern part of the state.

The plan is different than previous plans – this time, targeting more than 5,200 square-miles instead of specific wells.

Some of the wells impacted by this plan have not even been linked to earthquakes.

“What we are trying to do with this plan, unlike past plans, is get out ahead of the seismicity,” said Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The new plan is being released just days after a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook the state.

“If anything, the 5-plus earthquake we had in Fairview underscores the need for that,” Skinner said.

Skinner said they’ve used data from earthquakes over the past couple of years to develop a map showing where the reduction will focus.

He said they’ve closely watched where the earthquakes are happening and believe they are following what is known as the Mississippi Lime Play.

“What you clearly see is the earthquake activity starting in pretty much north central Oklahoma, just barely north, moving north and west and following what we would call the Mississippi Lime Play,” he said.

The plan calls for a 40-percent reduction in the amount of wastewater being injected back into the ground.

That’s the equivalent of more than a half million barrels each day.

The plan will be phased in through four stages over a two-month period between now and the end of April.

In all, 245 wells will be impacted.

Skinner said some of those wells have not been linked to earthquake activity.

“The idea is to regionalize the whole approach rather than focusing on a particular group of wells,” he said.

“I feel them all the time here,” said Rubye Raigans.

Raigans believes a wall at her home collapsed because of the earthquakes.

She is hoping action like this will stop the quakes.

“It’s a mess,” Raigans said. “I’m going to have to clean up, but I’m sure that’s (earthquake’s) what it was.”

“Everything we do we obviously do with the hope of reducing seismicity,” Skinner said.

He said research shows this plan is necessary to reduce the number of earthquakes.

“The bottom line to what we do is: Is this justified? Does the data support the approach?” Skinner said. “There’s no doubt this has to be done, this is a step that has to be taken.”

The plan will be phased in over the next two months; however, there could be more changes to come.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said they are continuing to research the earthquakes and will make more changes if necessary.

“The Corporation Commissioners demonstrated their authority in today’s announcement to drastically reduce the volumes of saltwater which can be injected in more than 200 disposal wells in northwest Oklahoma. I know the Commissioners, who are elected by Oklahomans, take very seriously these decisions and their impact on residents in the areas affected by the spike in tremors, mineral owners in the region and operators and employees in the energy sector.  I appreciate the Commission, in consultation with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, using science and data to develop this plan which hopefully not only manages the issue of the ongoing tremors we have had for the past few years in northwest and northcentral Oklahoma, but actually is significant enough to get ahead of this issue.  While I agree with the Commission that they have the full authority to regulate saltwater disposal wells, in light of a past challenge to their authority I filed House Bill 3158 this session to remove all doubt that the Corporation Commission has the complete authority in these emergency situations to take whatever action it deems necessary without so much as a hearing,” said Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman.

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