This year, the Corporation Commission has already moved to a broader approach with disposal wells and seismicity. But even in the last month, they've taken larger actions more often.
In March, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission called for 347 disposal wells to stop operations and check depth and not to resume until it is proven that depth is not in the basement of the Arbuckle Formation. And then in July, it asked 211 wells to do the same.
But lately, the large actions are no longer months apart, now multiple times a month, as we continue to feel earthquakes. Four directives have been issued in November.
Thursday morning, a 4.7 magnitude quake in Cherokee shook things off shelves in a supermarket and stretched to people in 13 states. The Corporation Commission said two wells were shut down and 23 others had to reduce volume near Cherokee.
And because these orders are indefinite, producers have a new potentially permanent problem: what to do with the water that comes out of the ground along with oil and natural gas?
“If a water disposal well was in an area where there was a significant amount of seismic activity and the Corporation Commission shut that down, certainly the producers would have to find an alternative way to move their water, either by truck or take it to a different salt water disposal facility,” said Steve Agee with Oklahoma City University.
And hauling it off to another site can be more costly, making it another hit to the state's defining industry during an already trying time.