Disposal Wells

Last year was a banner year for earthquakes in Oklahoma, but the state has recorded more magnitude-3.0 temblors in nine months than it did in 2014, Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan reports.

U.S. Geological Survey

A boom of earthquakes linked to oil and gas production “has and will continue to have sharp economic consequences” in Oklahoma and other states experiencing man-made seismicity,  Standard and Poor’s Rating Services write in a recent report.

An oil and gas operation in Logan County, Okla., in 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities on Monday ordered the operators of 23 disposal wells in two counties to reduce the amount of wastewater pumped underground.

The 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck near Prague, Okla., in November 2011 mortally wounded two century-old towers at St. Gregory’s University — a small catholic university and monastery that has become one of the most visible illustrations of Oklahoma’s earthquake surge. 

The shaking occurred nearly four years ago, but the university and monastery are still struggling with physical and financial damage.

An American Energy Woodford well near Perkins, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are expanding regulations on disposal wells in earthquake-prone regions of the state. The orders, known as directives, were issued this week and broaden restrictions issued nearly four months ago.

Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen of St. Gregory's Monastery traces cracks in the walls of the monk's workshop, which was damaged in a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck the nearby city of Prague in November 2011.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma appears to be accelerating, and the state is responding.

Lawmakers have scheduled capitol hearings and oil and gas regulators will soon issue stricter guidelines on disposal wells linked to the shaking. Future earthquakes are a big concern, but one Oklahoma institution is still dealing with the damage one quake caused nearly four years ago.

Oil-field workers in November 2014 tending to American Energy-Woodford's Judge South well near Perkins, Okla., shortly after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered it temporarily shut-in.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In November 2011, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague, Okla., causing significant damage and injuring two people. Right away, the possibility that the disposal of wastewater by injecting it deep into the earth — part of the hydraulic fracturing process — was to blame came up.

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

The video, produced by Ariane Wu, was based on a reporting collaboration between myself and Reveal’s Michael Corey

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Provided / Continental Resources

Harold Hamm, the founder, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, says he requested a meeting with a state seismologist to get information, not to “bully” a scientist tasked with studying an earthquake surge that has been linked to oil and gas activity.

EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan reports:

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