Disposal Wells

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say Oklahoma oil and gas regulators should “consider a moratorium” of waste-fluid disposal in its most seismically active areas.

The suggestion was made in the federal agency’s annual review of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s oversight of disposal wells, which Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request:

Mona Denney surveys earthquake damage inside her home near Pawnee, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Geological Survey is upgrading the strength of an earthquake that shook the state on Sept. 3 to 5.8 magnitude. That change makes the Labor Day weekend temblor the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma. The quake is the latest in a seismic surge researchers say has largely been fueled by the oil industry practice of pumping waste fluid into underground disposal wells.

Gary Matli, a field inspector supervisor for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, checks on a Craig Elder Oil and Gas disposal well located east of Guthrie, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The oil and gas industry practice of pumping waste fluid into disposal wells is likely responsible for Oklahoma’s exponential surge in earthquake activity.

SandRidge Energy Inc. facilities superintendent Andy Ferguson, left, opens the valve at one of the company’s shuttered disposal wells on Aug. 10.
Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

Two pairs of Logan County residents have dropped legal action against a quartet of Oklahoma energy companies.

Lisa Griggs and April Marler alleged their homes were damaged from earthquakes that were caused by New Dominion and subsidiaries of Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and SandRidge Energy. Brenda Lene and Jon Darryn Lene also say their home was damaged by earthquakes caused by water injection. 

New Source Energy Partners is headquartered at 914 N. Broadway Ave. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

It’s been more than 18 months since the start of the energy downturn that saw the price of oil dip to about $30 dollars a barrel.

It’s slowly starting to rebound, and it’s led to bankruptcies, a few success stories, and even some variables that have nothing to do with market forces.

Last week New Source Energy Partners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The small company based in an office along Broadway in Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley had a credit cut in October that took its borrowing base from $49 million to $24 million.

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House on Monday voted to approve legislation clarifying and confirming the authority of state oil and gas regulators to take actions designed to stop industry-linked earthquakes.

Gov. Mary Fallin and Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague at the Governor's Energy Conference September 4, 2014 in Oklahoma CIty.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday approved the transfer of nearly $1.4 million from the state emergency fund to strengthen Oklahoma’s earthquake response.

The money is going to a pair of agencies tasked with researching the earthquake surge and regulating the oil and gas activities likely causing it.

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

SandRidge Energy has agreed to shutter some disposal wells in earthquake-prone northern Oklahoma in a settlement that avoids legal action by state oil and gas regulators.

Oilfield trucks line up at Overflow Energy's Oakwaood No. 1 disposal well in western Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A string of widely felt earthquakes is rattling residents and seismologists, who are warning that parts of Oklahoma could be primed for more severe shaking.

More than 5,700 earthquakes shook the state in 2015 — a record year of seismic activity in Oklahoma. The New Year is off to a shaky start.


State oil and gas authorities are finalizing legal action to force a “financially strapped” Oklahoma energy company to abandon disposal wells suspected of contributing to earthquakes.

Sandridge Energy has been defying directives from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to shut down six disposal wells in north-central Oklahoma. Commission staff are finalizing a legal filing that, if approved, could modify permits and halt operation of the wells.

An Eagle Energy Exploration disposal well site in May 2015, where workers plugged-back an Arbuckle disposal well regulators said was drilled too deep.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Researchers studying Oklahoma’s energy industry-linked earthquake surge and state regulators eager to quell the shaking have circled the wagons around a specific class of wells companies fill with wastewater and other fluid byproducts of oil and gas production.

Mike Moeller, senior director of mid-continent assets for Enbridge Energy.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s boom in man-made earthquakes has become a national security threat. It’s easy to understand why.

The ground is shaking near Cushing, Oklahoma, home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America, where big money is made storing and moving crude. The massive oil hub is connected to dozens of pipelines and lined with hundreds of airplane hangar-sized tanks currently holding an estimated 54 million barrels of oil.

Workers in an oil field near Seminole, Okla., in 1939.
Russell Lee / Library of Congress

An upsurge of earthquakes linked to the oil and gas industry continues to rattle Oklahoma, but new research suggests most of the significant earthquakes recorded in the state over the last century also were likely triggered by drilling activity.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators in August 2015 ordered oil and gas companies to sharply limit waste fluid injection at disposal wells, including this one, Equal Energy's Goodnight SWDW No. 5 in Logan County.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Marjo Operating Co. Inc. is the first oil and gas operator to challenge regulatory actions issued by state regulators attempting to curb an ongoing surge of earthquakes linked to the industry.

A group of state energy officials, researchers and industry experts issued a report Monday offering guidance on how to handle earthquakes triggered by oil and gas activity.