Oklahoma orders shut down of disposal well after multiple earthquakes

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (Commission) ordered the temporary shut down of a disposal well near Cushing. Cushing has reported several earthquakes in October. Two earthquakes with a 3.2 and 4.0 magnitude, respectively, occurred on October 7th, and a 4.3 magnitude earthquake occurred three days later. There was also a 2.7 magnitude earthquake later in the month. Despite these events, no major damage has been reported.

Officials caution, however, that people should not draw any correlation between the well and the recent earthquakes afflicting the nearby area. The well may simply have been drilled too deep. The commission stated that operators have never had permission to drill into the granite bedrock zone.

The Commission has ordered the temporary shut down of several wells. The wells cannot be operated again until they are plugged back to make the injections shallower. A number of operators have also volunteered to shut down their wells and make their injections shallower.

In addition, the Commission has enacted the “traffic light” program to combat the heightened seismic activity in the state. Under the program, any disposal well located within six miles of an earthquake with a 4.0 magnitude or higher is placed in the “yellow light” category. All wells in the yellow light category receive heightened scrutiny.

The Commission’s response to increasedseismic activity in the state.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713 651 3662) and Johnjerica Hodge (johnjerica.hodge@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713 651 5698) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.