Oklahoma implements largest reduction plan yet for disposal wells

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil & Gas Conservation Division (OGCD) announced its largest volume-reduction plan yet for oil and gas disposal wells in western Oklahoma’s Arbuckle formation in response to increased numbers of earthquakes.

The regional plan covers 5,281 sq miles and 245 disposal wells. OGCD Director Tim Baker said the plan, announced Feb. 16, along with a 191,000 b/d reduction plan begun in Fairview recently, will bring the total volume cutback for the entire area to more than 500,000 b/d, or about 40%.

“We have taken a number of actions in the Medford, Fairview, and Cherokee areas,” Baker said. “However, there is agreement among researchers, including our partners at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, that the data clearly underscored the need for a larger, regional response. That is why, even as we took actions in various parts of the region in response to specific earthquake events, we were already working on a larger plan.”

The Feb. 16 plan is a response to the continued seismicity in the area, and Baker said it includes areas that are not yet experiencing major earthquakes.

“The wells covered in this plan include those along the western area of the plan’s boundaries where there has not yet been major earthquake activity,” said Baker. “This plan is aimed not only at taking further action in response to past activity, but also to get out ahead of it and hopefully prevent new areas from being involved.”

The plan will be implemented in stages during 2 months as recommended by researchers, who caution against sudden pressure changes. Meanwhile, staff continues to work on other areas of the state.

OGCD has been working on the plan since late October, staff members said, adding it was not influenced by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake in the Fairview area on Feb. 13.

Earlier Feb. 16, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal court against three Oklahoma oil and gas companies in an effort to reduce injection volumes (OGJ Online, Feb. 16, 2016).

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman, a Republican who lives in Fairview, has introduced legislation that would ensure OCC has the authority in take action in emergency situations to shut down disposal wells or reduce injection volumes.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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