The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has fallen dramatically so far this year.
Now regulators are taking steps to prevent the number of earthquakes from rising again in the future.
The number of earthquakes has fallen by about 80 percent, from about five earthquakes per today in 2015 to about one per day now. There were 73 earthquakes in Oklahoma during January and February with a magnitude 2.7 or greater in 2017. That’s down from 374 earthquakes during those two months in 2015 and 288 in 2016.
“The continued drop in earthquakes, as well as new data and input from the Oklahoma Geological Survey have caused a change in our orientation from focusing on current disposal volumes ... to looking ahead to try and ensure there isn’t a sudden, surprise jump in those disposal volumes,” stated Tim Baker, the director of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division, in a news release.
Oklahoma has now decided to limit the future injections of wastewater in more than 650 wells. Although those wells don’t currently have a lot of earthquake activity and are currently injecting much less than their previous limits allowed, regulators are acting now to set limits at those wells to prevent future possible earthquakes.
The new regulations would prevent as much as 1.75 million barrels a day of future wastewater disposal from being injected into Oklahoma wells.
At the same time, some oil companies will be allowed to increase their wastewater injections in some wells, if they decrease their injections in others, to maintain a total injection rate that doesn’t exceed their limits, according to the news release.
The new rules do not impact the limits that have already been placed on thousands of wells across Oklahoma by regulators.
“The amount and quality of the data now available to us is far ahead of where we were a year ago,” Baker said. “We can make decisions on a much timelier basis. Given that, operators need to be aware that we will take action if that data indicates further volume reductions should be put in place. The earthquake rate is headed in the right direction, but this remains our most critical issue.”