EARTHQUAKES IN OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) is the state’s regulatory agency charged with overseeing Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry.

Latest Developments

OCC has taken numerous actions related to disposal wells in specific zones around the state based on seismic events, under its statutory authority to oversee oil and gas operations in the state. Oklahoma statutes grant the OCC “exclusive jurisdiction” to regulate Class II underground injection wells.

OCC regularly updates its website “Hot Topics” with developments in its seismicity response.

A summary of Oklahoma Corporation  earthquake actions thru February 24, 2017 can be found here.  

See the links below for a chronological listing of OCC actions related to seismicity:

2017

  • February 24, 2017 news release, “Looking Ahead” New Earthquake Directive Takes Aim at Future Disposal Rates
  • March 1, 2017   joint Oklahoma Corporation Commission Oil and Gas Division and Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) Statement on 2017 USGS assessment of continued seismic hazard in Oklahoma
  • June 27, 2017 news release, “Managing Risk Oklahoma Geological Survey, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Industry Collaboration Bears Fruit
  • July 14, 2017 Oklahoma Corporation Commission Earthquake Advisory

2016 

2015

Traffic Light System

The Commission has adopted a “traffic light” system for disposal well operators, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, which directs staff to review disposal well permits for proximity to faults, seismicity in the area and other factors. All proposed disposal wells, regardless of location, now undergo a seismicity review.

As the science around disposal wells continues to evolve, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will also evolve the application of the “traffic light” system.  The “yellow light” permitting system is in place for proposed disposal wells that do not meet automatic “red light” criteria, but for which there are still concerns regarding seismicity.  Yellow light permit requirements may include the following:

  • Any permit granted under “yellow light” is temporary (6 months)
  • Permit criteria is based on induced seismicity concerns
  • Wells must shut down every 60 days and take bottom hole pressure readings
  • The language governing the permit can be made more stringent at any time
  • The operator must monitor for background seismicity
  • Permit criteria includes mandatory shut down in the event of defined seismic activity
  • Permit process is done through public court process (rather than administrative approval)

Disposal Well Monitoring and Reporting

The Corporation Commission also adopted new rules, which Governor Fallin approved and were effective September 2014.  The rules increase from monthly to daily the required recording of well pressure and volume of disposal wells that dispose into the Arbuckle formation.  The rules also require all disposal wells permitted for 20,000 barrels/day to conduct Mechanical Integrity Tests.

All disposal wells with an Area of Interest, regardless of size or formation, must record volume and pressure daily and report weekly to the Commission. The information is then placed on an FTP site that allows researchers access to the data.