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Injection well used to dispose of oil field wastewater. (Image: Faces of Fracking via Flickr)
Injection well used to dispose of oil field wastewater. (Image: Faces of Fracking via Flickr)

Disposal well plan expected after latest Oklahoma quakes

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Corporation Commission was working Wednesday to finalize a plan for wastewater disposal well operators to shut down or reduce volume in north-central Oklahoma, which has been rattled by a swarm of earthquakes.

Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said the agency’s oil and gas division was working on a plan that could be released this week.

The largest quake early Monday was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at magnitude of 4.7 and struck about 15 miles southwest of Medford. That was followed by at least 15 earthquakes of a magnitude 2.5 or greater in the last few days.

Jeremy Boak, the new director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said that while there has been a slight reduction in the number of significant earthquakes in the region over the last several months, it’s difficult to determine exactly how the changes in disposal well volume is affecting the seismic activity.

“I think that some of the decline we’ve seen since July does in fact relate to reduced injection,” Boak said. “But when you shut in a well, it takes a while for it to take effect, because we’ve injected a very large amount of water in there. Just slowing it down or cutting some of it off does not produce an immediate response.”

Related: Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s response to earthquakes spurs further debate

Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Tuesday the creation of a “fact-finding work group” to explore ways that wastewater, a byproduct of oil and natural gas operations, may be recycled or reused instead of being injected underground.

About 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater was disposed underground in Oklahoma in 2014, according to statistics released by Fallin.

Boak said part of the problem with finding a use for wastewater is that it is typically filled with naturally occurring chemicals like sodium chloride as well as petroleum byproducts.

“It’s more saline than Dead Sea water,” Boak said. “And since you pulled it from the ground, the best place to put it is back in the ground.”

 

This article was written by Sean Murphy from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.