Sandridge Energy has agreed to a plan from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OGCD) that will both reduce the volume of wastewater being injected in the Medford and Cherokee/Byron areas, and convert some wells from disposal to research operations, the OCC announced.
The number of quakes magnitude 3.0 in Oklahoma has risen from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 720 by the end of December 2015. The uptick in earthquakes have been linked to the injection wells that pump salty wastewater from drilling operations into the earth.
The OCC has been ordering volume reductions or shutting down disposal wells in response.
Oklahoma City-based Sandridge Energy Inc., previously had refused to cut back volumes at its Medford/Cherokee area wells or comply with a directive issued by the OCC in early December.
OGCD Director Tim Baker says the new plan allows for quick action now in areas that are seismically active, while at the same time opening the door toward gaining the knowledge needed to develop more proactive approaches to the earthquake issue.
“Under the plan, Sandridge has agreed to remove 7 wells from disposal operations, and cut back its total volume for the areas in question by 40 percent, or approximately 191 thousand barrels a day,” Baker explained. “Of the 7 wells that will stop disposal, 3 will cease operation entirely, while the remaining four will be used as monitoring wells in an Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) research project. Also, a well that has been unused will be given to researchers, making for a total of five wells dedicated to research.”
Baker said officials have high hopes for the project.
“For the first time, researchers will have data that shows what is happening underground in real-time when it comes to disposal and seismicity,” Baker said. “This OGS project will be in the forefront of the effort to learn not only more about what can be done about the current earthquake issue, but also what can be done to better identify and manage future risk.”
The agreement puts an end to a looming court battle between the OGCD and Sandridge, which had previously refused the OCC’s order to reduce wastewater volumes.
“We had prepared and were about to file a case to force compliance to the two plans we had issued for the areas in December,” Baker said. “Sandridge was willing to try and work out an agreement. I think the result is superior to the plans originally issued. There is still a very significant cutback in volume, and the company has agreed to provide resources for this critically needed OGS research program.”
Source: OCC; Associated Press