27 Jul Oklahoma Expands Oil, Gas Drilling Regulations to Prevent Earthquakes
Oklahoma is revising and expanding its oil and gas regulations in response to a sharp rise in earthquakes across the state which has damaged homes and spurred concerns regarding the state’s energy industry.
However, the broadened rules fall short of the more drastic measures that had been expected after last month brought an influx of significant earthquakes.
According to a July 17 Reuters report, Oklahoma is one of several states in the central U.S. to have seen a sharp increase in the number of earthquakes it has seen since 2009. Scientists have attributed the increase to the injection of briny waste water — a byproduct of oil and gas production — into the ground.
Today, Oklahoma sees approximately two earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 per day. Before 2009, there were about two of these earthquakes per year.
Contrary to popular belief, however, the earthquakes are not a result of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” even though about 95% of new wells being drilled are hydraulically fractured. Instead, researchers say they believe the quakes stem from the re-injection of the briny waste-water created during oil and natural gas production.
As part of its new regulations, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has expanded its “Areas of Interest,” or regions of the state hardest-hit by these earthquakes, and has added a series of restrictions for 211 disposal wells.
Drilling rig operators in the affected areas will now be required to display proof that they aren’t injecting water below the state’s deepest rock formation. Other well operators will be required to inject water at a shallower depth, as well.
With global proved oil reserves growing by approximately 27% over the last 10 years, giving enough supply to meet another 53.3 years of worldwide production, Oklahoma’s revised rules are an important step to making sure the oil and gas industry can thrive without threatening others’ safety.
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