Morrissette: Fallin Should Halt Injection Wells

The magnitude-4.3 earthquake that struck near Edmond early Tuesday morning was the 29th temblor of magnitude-4.0 or greater to shake this state this year, Oklahoma Geological Survey records reflect. So far as state Rep. Richard Morrissette is concerned, enough is enough.

Despite Governor Fallin’s claims that she acknowledges a direct correlation between seismic activity and disposal wells, Morrissette contends “there is much more that she could and should be doing before someone is seriously injured.”

The governor “has control of the drill bit here,” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “She has the executive authority to order a complete halt to ‘produced water’ being pumped into any more wells that inject into the Arbuckle formation, not simply a reduction in the amount injected into wells near areas that have previously experienced a quake.”

Although the Fallin administration says several steps have been taken to address the disposal well problem, “Those steps are not having any significant impact,” Morrissette charged. “Back in March, operators of 347 wells were ordered to reduce injection outputs. In July, another 211 wells were ordered to do the same. Have we seen a reduction in ’quakes? I think today’s earthquakes prove my point, and no order to cease operations has come from Fallin’s office.”

The U.S. Geological Survey logged a magnitude-4.3 earthquake at 5:39 a.m. Tuesday approximately five miles east northeast of Edmond, and a magnitude-3.4 aftershock centered nearby was recorded 10 minutes later. In addition, a 2.9-magnitude ’quake occurred at 6:48 a.m. Tuesday 17.4 miles northwest of Fairview.

Link Established

            In June, two Stanford geophysicists, Professor Mark Zoback and Ph.D. student Rall Walsh, completed their research into Oklahoma earthquakes and the link to oil and gas drilling. In Phys.Org’s Earth Sciences report, the pair say that the primary source of the quake-triggering wastewater is not so-called “flow back water” generated after hydraulic fracturing operations. Instead, they say, the culprit is “produced water,” the brackish water that coexists with oil and gas within the Earth.

Oil wells in Oklahoma generate an average of about 10 barrels of produced water for every barrel of crude oil. However, some of the wells in this state’s seismically active areas generate as much as 50 barrels of wastewater for every barrel of oil that’s recovered, research shows.

Zoback is a Benjamin M. Page Professor in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and director of the university’s recently launched Natural Gas Initiative.

Zoback and Walsh looked at three study areas centered around the Oklahoma towns of Cherokee, Perry and Jones, which have experienced a large number of earthquakes in recent years. All three areas showed clear increases in quakes following increases in wastewater disposal Three areas that did not have much wastewater disposal did not experience increases in the number of quakes.

“The scientists from Stanford have come up with a solution but Governor Fallin refuses to listen,” Morrissette said. “Cease injection of produced water into the subterranean Arbuckle formation entirely in those counties where seismicity is extraordinarily high.”

Disposal Well Volumes

            Approximately 1,000 disposal wells across the state inject produced water into the Arbuckle, Oklahoma Corporation Commission records indicate.

“We have to cease this practice now,” Morrissette asserted. “They’ve already injected so much water that the pressure is still spreading throughout the Arbuckle formation. The earthquakes won’t stop overnight but we have to be pro-active”

In 1997, about 20 million barrels of produced water were injected in the three areas of concentrated seismicity, records show. In comparison, 400 million barrels of wastewater � 16.8 billion gallons � were injected in 2013, “speeding up the activity significantly,” Morrissette related.

Earthquakes Increase

            Records reflect a steady increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years. There were 585 earthquakes of magnitude-3 or greater last year � “three times more than California had,” Morrissette noted. That number had soared to 878 magnitude-3≥ earthquakes through noon Tuesday, Oklahoma Geological Survey records show.

Oklahoma experienced 5,646 earthquakes � ranging in magnitude from 1.3 to 4.7 � through noon Tuesday. Of those temblors, 29 were of magnitude-4.0≥, and 850 of them were of m-3.0 to m-3.9.

U.S. Geological Survey data reflect that Oklahoma experienced an average of fewer than two magnitude-3 temblors per year for 30 years, from 1978 through 2008. That statewide average shot up to 247 per year over the past seven years.

§ Oklahoma County has had 134 ‘quakes this year, in magnitudes that varied from 1.3 to 4.3. Nineteen were recorded at m-3.0 to m-3.7.

§ Payne County has had 449 earthquakes, extending in magnitude from 1.6. Two were of m-4.0≥ and 65 were of m-3.0 to m-3.8.

§ Logan County has had 814 earthquakes this year. Seven were logged at m-4.0≥ and 137 others were recorded at m-3.0 to m-3.9.

§ Grant County has been shaken, rattled and rolled by almost 1,500 earthquakes this year. Nine were of magnitude 4.0≥ and 218 were recorded at m-3.0 to m-3.9.

§ Noble County: 618 earthquakes, including one at magnitude-4.2 and 67 of m-3.0 to m-3.9.

§ Garfield County: 533 tremors, ranging in magnitude from 1.3. Two were recorded at m-4.0≥ and 94 were registered at m-3.0 to m-3.9.

§ Alfalfa County: 675 ’quakes this year, five of m-4.0≥ and 112 of m-3.0≥.

§ Lincoln County: 144 earthquakes this year, including one of magnitude-4.4 and 27 of m-3.0 to m-3.8.

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