The Oklahoma Corporation Commission handed down its largest single reduction of disposal wells Tuesday, calling for a 40 percent reduction among 245 wells in the state's Arbuckle formation.
“One of the things that's different about this plan, where it differs from others, is not just its size, but that it will encompass wells that are not having serious earthquakes around them right now,” OCC spokesman Matt Skinner said.
The wells are used to dispose water released from the earth during oil and natural gas production in the formation. In some areas like the Arbuckle region, experts estimate as many as 50 barrels of waste water can be produced for each barrel of oil extracted.
The plan covers more than 52,000 square miles of Oklahoma oil country and would mean the reduction of more than 500,000 barrels of waste water a day. According to a release sent out by the OCC, the plan is in conjunction with recent planned reductions in Fairview.
“Based on the data from our research partners, really a regional plan is what was called for,” Skinner said.
The plan includes seven counties in Oklahoma's northwest. According to Skinner, the reductions follow what the Oklahoma Geological Survey calls a clear path of earthquakes based on stronger and stronger evidence since 2014.
“We are getting great input,” Skinner said. “We are getting data now that is far better than the data we got say a year ago or even six months ago.”
Oklahoma does not have a its own seismologist as it has had in previous years, but Skinner said while OCC is looking forward to working with a state seismologist in the future, whomever that may be, he is confident the data from OGS is sound.
Among the companies hardest hit is SandRidge Energy with 65 wells reduced. The company recently settled out of court after refusing to shut down several wells last month and going through a string of layoffs. Chesapeake Energy is had the second highest amount with 31 wells to be reduced.
The reductions come after a 5.1-magnitude earthquake last Saturday in Fairview, but Skinner said they have been working on a regional approach for some time.
“We have been long afraid of having an earthquake as strong as the one that hit this weekend and that's why we've been working on this over the past few months,” he said.
The reductions come the same day as the Governor’s announcement to give a research grant to the Oklahoma Energy Resource Board to buy equipment to monitor and analyze data from disposal wells across the state.
“This is why I created the council,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in the announcement release. “It proves that we have assembled the right group of industry representatives, agencies, regulators and researchers to address Oklahoma’s rise in earthquakes.”