A directive issued Thursday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is the latest attempt by the state’s chief oil and gas regulator mitigate the impact of water injection on seismic activity. The commission has so far called for shutting or reducing volumes at more than 500 wells this year.
The Thursday directive targets the areas around the towns of Medford and Cherokee in northern Oklahoma, which has recently seen a rash of earthquakes. The most recent were on Monday, when seven temblors hit the Medford area. One of those quakes registered a 4.7 on the Richter scale.
The plan calls for seven wells to be shut-in and 66 others to reduce injection volumes by 25% to 50%.
In addition, operators of 67 other wells have been told to prepare for “possible changes” in operations.
Players affected by the directive include SandRidge Exploration, which operates 85 wells in the area, 12 of which have so far been ordered shut-in. Other operators affected include Chesapeake Operating, Midstates Petroleumand Chapparal Energy.
The measure is only the latest in a series of similar directives that are part of Oklahoma’s strategy to ramp up restrictions on disposal wells after a study from the state’s geological survey linked wastewater injection to a 600-fold increase in earthquakes.
However, the response is beginning to wear thin for some lawmakers. Earlier this week, wire service Associated Press reported that a state representative said the oil and gas lobby is keeping officials from effectively regulating the industry.
“The problem is we’re being totally reactionary as opposed to proactive,” AP quoted Cory Williams as saying.
“We wait for a seismic event, and then we react to it, which is an abysmal policy for handling something that can cause catastrophic damage to property and/or life.”