Oil Companies Shut Down Wells Near Earthquake Swarm

Jul 28, 2015

A disposal well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After a swarm of earthquakes recorded near the town of Crescent, which peaked with a 4.5-magnitude temblor on Monday, state regulators asked a pair of oil companies to limit activity at three nearby disposal wells.

Monday’s quake caused light damage. Multiple people reported feeling it in Arkansas, more than 400 miles away

Oklahoma City’s Devon Energy Production and Arkansas-based Stephens Energy Group agreed to shut down the two wells nearest the shaking. Stephens also agreed to cut by half the amount of waste fluid pumped into a third well, says Corporation Commission spokesperson Matt Skinner.

“After being informed of the conditions and our concerns, before we even talked about a directive or a technical meeting, all the operators simply volunteered to do whatever is necessary,” he said.

All three wells were in active use and appeared to be injecting waste fluid into the Arbuckle, a zone near an underground formation linked to earthquake activity, Skinner says.

The Corporation Commission recently broadened its scrutiny of disposal wells, which scientists say are likely fueling most of Oklahoma’s earthquakes. That crackdown is likely to continue and expand further.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma’s public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.