Oklahoma regulators target more disposal wells following Cushing quake

November 8, 2016 6:50 PM EST

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By Liz Hampton

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) on Tuesday said it was implementing an action plan that shuts or reduces volumes from 58 wastewater disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation of Oklahoma following Sunday's magnitude 5.0 earthquake.

In a statement, the state's oil and gas regulator said that under the new directive, it will require seven wells to shut by Nov. 14 with an additional 47 more to reduce volume by Nov. 21.

Four wells in the impacted area have already been shut as part of an October directive. The 47 wells that must reduce volume had already made a 40 percent reduction following an earlier directive.

Wastewater injection wells have been tied to a massive increase in seismic activity in the oil and gas producing state, which has naturally occurring fault lines.

The wells are needed to dispose of saltwater, a normal byproduct of drilling.

According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), the state has been recording 2-1/2 earthquakes daily of magnitude 3 or greater, a seismicity rate 600 times greater than before 2008.

The regulator said that Tuesday's plan was only an initial response, and that a broader plan is underway that will encompass more disposal wells in the Arbuckle. The current plan focuses on areas six, 10 and 15 miles (9.5, 16 and 24 km) from the location of the quake.

The latest earthquake occurred just two miles (3.2 km) west of Cushing, Oklahoma, a small city of 8,000 people that is also the largest oil hub in the United States. It came just two months after a 5.6 quake, the strongest on record in the state.

The increased frequency of earthquakes in the state has raised concerns about the safety of hub's pipelines and tanks, which holds some 60 million barrels of oil and is the delivery point for the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures contract, making it a crucial fixture of the U.S. oil market.

Some terminal operators, including Enterprise Products Partners and Magellan Midstream Partners, briefly suspended operations following Sunday's tremor but were up and running normally by Monday and reported no damage.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)



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