Oklahoma warns of more quakes from energy drilling

December 20, 2016 by Tim Talley

Oklahoma regulators said Tuesday that the number of induced earthquakes could increase as oil and gas production expands in a broad area of the state, and they're telling energy companies that they need to be ready to shut down if a temblor exceeds magnitude 3.5.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission's Oil and Gas Conservation Division and the Oklahoma Geological Survey have developed new guidelines to help producers deal with the risks of earthquakes linked to in drilling oil and natural gas wells in parts of the state where new development is underway, officials said.

The commission said the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province and the Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher counties fields in central and southern Oklahoma are expected to account for most new oil and gas activity in the state.

Researchers have linked the rising number of earthquakes in parts of the state to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and . Regulators said the new operations shouldn't produce as much wastewater as in other regions where earthquakes of magnitude 5 or stronger have occurred.

"There is broad agreement among researchers that disposal of these large amounts of water into the state's deepest formation can be linked to the high rate," said Tim Baker, director of the commission's Oil and Gas Conservation division. By comparison, the regions targeted for new drilling produce only small quantities of water.

But state seismologists found that some in the regions might be related to hydraulic fracturing, a process used to enhance production by injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure.

Unlike areas of the state that experience strong earthquakes linked to disposal activity, "response to seismic activity that might be related to hydraulic fracturing can be more precisely defined and rapidly implemented," Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak said.

A spokesman for the energy industry said producers are ready to implement the new guidelines.

"As the data indicates, these seismic events have been small, rare and manageable," said Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association. The new guidelines will help manage and protect development of the areas, Warmington said.

Explore further: USGS: Oklahoma quake likely caused by wastewater disposal

Related Stories

USGS upgrading Oklahoma earthquake to 5.8 magnitude

September 7, 2016

Two earthquakes this year in Oklahoma greater than magnitude 5.0—including a record-setting quake last weekend that damaged more than a dozen buildings—are expected to increase the likelihood of a more violent quake in ...

Oklahoma oil, gas regulators order changes after earthquakes

January 5, 2016

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 ...

Manmade earthquakes in Oklahoma on the decline

November 30, 2016

New regulations in Oklahoma that call for reductions in the amount of wastewater being injected into seismically active areas should significantly decrease the rate of manmade, or "induced," earthquakes in the state, Stanford ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Ultra-sharp images make old stars look absolutely marvelous

March 21, 2019

Using high-resolution adaptive optics imaging from the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. The remarkably sharp image looks back into the early history of ...

When more women make decisions, the environment wins

March 21, 2019

When more women are involved in group decisions about land management, the group conserves more—particularly when offered financial incentives to do so, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study published ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.