Oklahoma Sets New Limits For Oil And Gas Drillers To Halt Earthquakes

  • The number and intensity of earthquakes in Oklahoma have risen dramatically in recent years with the underground disposal of wastes from oil and gas drilling.
  • The state has asked energy companies to reduce wastewater disposal by 40 percent.
  • The new guidelines cover more than 400 wells located in a 5,000-square-mile area.

Oklahoma officials on Monday told oil and gas producers to dramatically scale back underground disposal of wastewater that has led to a dramatic surge in the number and intensity of earthquakes.

The new restrictions, imposed by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, will require drillers to cut the amount of underground-injected wastewater by 40 percent from the peak in 2014. The move represents a shift in strategy for the state, which had initially targeted individual wells linked to seismic activity, said Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the commission.

“We’ve built the case we need based on broad correlations rather than specific,” Skinner said. “We can’t look at a single well and say, ‘You did this.'”

The New York Times notes the restrictions are technically recommendations that may force energy companies to produce less oil and gas. They follow a similar move for wells in northwest Oklahoma imposed by the state last month.

Earthquakes in the industry-friendly state, recently linked to drillers’ injection of wastewater deep underground, have risen from a few dozen annually in the mid-2000s to more than 6,000 last year. The waste is a byproduct of petroleum production, forced from the ground with oil and gas. Energy companies have been injecting the material thousands of feet underground into an area called the Arbuckle formation.

A website tracking quakes across the state shows a near constant stream of seismic events. Oklahoma was hit with its third-strongest earthquake in recorded history, a magnitude 5.1 event, just last month.

Skinner said the restrictions —> Read More