OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state commission that regulates Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry ordered some injection well operators to reduce wastewater disposal volumes on Monday after at least a dozen earthquakes hit an area north of Oklahoma City in less than a week.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said it was implementing a plan that affects five wastewater injection wells operating within 10 miles of the center of earthquake activity near Edmond, a northeast suburb of Oklahoma City. Among the recent quakes to hit the area was a 4.2 magnitude temblor on New Year’s Day that caused minor damage but no injuries.
Oklahoma’s energy regulator declared in November that the state now has more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world, which scientists have linked to wastewater injections, a long-used method to dispose of the chemical-laced byproduct of oil and gas production.
A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey traced wastewater injection methods to the 1920s in Oklahoma and tied the rise in quakes in the past 100 years to industrial activities, such as oil and natural gas production. About 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater was disposed underground in Oklahoma last year, according to statistics released by the governor’s office.
“We are working with researchers on the entire area of the state involved in the latest seismic activity to plot out where we should go from here,” Oil and Gas Conservation Division Director Tim Baker said, adding that responding to the swarm of earthquakes in the region was an ongoing process.
At least three earthquakes were recorded Monday in the Stillwater area, about 50 miles northeast of Edmond. The largest was a magnitude 3.2 quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Baker said his agency also was looking at the new seismic activity.
The response plan announced Monday calls for one well located 3.5 miles from the center of earthquake activity near Edmond to reduce disposal volumes by 50 percent and four wells by 25 percent. Other wells within 15 miles of the activity will conduct reservoir pressure testing.
The commission said the operator of the well closest to the earthquake activity, Pedestal Oil Company Inc., has agreed to suspend operations entirely to assist the agency’s research effort. The operator of another well, Devon Energy Production Co., has also agreed to suspend operations, and no objections have been raised by operators of the other wells.
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