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.
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.
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.
St. Gregory’s University is an Oklahoma earthquake icon. When the 5.7-magnitude quake struck near the city of Prague in November 2011, one of the school’s century-old, Tudor Gothic-style towers collapsed. Another started spitting bricks.
The earthquake is Oklahoma’s largest recorded with modern instruments. It’s also the largest earthquake anywhere that scientists have linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. Two people were injured. None at St. Gregory’s.
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.
As Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm developed over the past few years, State Seismologist Austin Holland’s work days got a lot longer. That’s the main reason Holland is leaving his position in Oklahoma to be a supervisory geophysicist at the Albuquerque Seismic Lab.
“I have averaged about 80 hours each week for the 5 1/2 years I’ve been here,” Holland said Monday in an emailed statement. “I want to change my work-life balance, and this opportunity is a good way to do that.”
Since Holland came to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the state has seen a rapid increase in earthquakes, some of which have been linked to disposal wells used for produced water from oil and gas activity.
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 vast majority of Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes occurred in areas where the energy industry pumped underground massive amounts of waste fluid byproducts of oil and gas production, scientists write in a new paper published Thursday.
Two burly ben armed with sledgehammers take turns bashing a khaki-colored steel flange fastened to a pipe in the middle of a soggy, gravely lot near Wakita in northwestern Oklahoma.
The tangle of valves and fittings, called the Christmas tree, has to come off before Jay Storm’s crew can start their work in earnest.
“Everything is a little seized up this morning, so we’re having to manually try to get a couple different components separated by hand,” says Storm, completions supervisor for Tulsa-based Eagle Energy Exploration.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey on April 21 acknowledged Oklahoma’s ongoing earthquake surge is “very likely” triggered by wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, a formal recognition that comes after years of scientific research that reached similar conclusions.