The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is considering new rules that would require wastewater disposal well operators to provide regulators with more information.
One of the proposed rules would require operators to record injection volume and well pressure on a daily basis.
“A great many operators do this now,” commission spokesman Matt Skinner said. “For many operators, this is not any change.”
Another proposal would require mechanical integrity tests on all disposal or injection wells within six months of completion.
Skinner said the proposals arise from ongoing discussions about best practices for oil and natural gas exploration in Oklahoma.
“The rule-making process is, in a sense, always ongoing,” he said, due to new technology and techniques being applied by the industry. “We work carefully with all the stakeholders.”
Michael Teague, Oklahoma's energy and environment secretary, said the expertise shared by operators will help regulators craft good rules that are not too onerous.
“We certainly appreciate them being involved,” he said.
Skinner said the proposed rules would require additional record-keeping by disposal well operators in the Arbuckle formation, which lies deep below much of the state.
The additional data could help researchers looking at possible links between disposal wells and a spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Nearly 4,500 disposal wells were operational in the state in 2012.
Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the proposed rule change makes sense.
“The additional monitoring for wells in the Arbuckle will provide a more consistent measure for the commonly reported monthly values and, in addition, will also allow regulators and researchers more tools to examine possible cases of induced seismicity when they may occur,” Holland said.
“As a researcher, more data is always better, and this is no exception.”
SandRidge Energy Inc. CEO James Bennett said he is supportive of the proposed rule change. The company operates more than 130 disposal wells in the Mississippian formation, which includes parts of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
“The nature of our business provides unique geological access and insights, and SandRidge is committed to supporting industry partners like the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in gathering data that furthers understanding and knowledge of seismic activity,” he said.
The proposed rule changes will be discussed in two upcoming technical conferences, which are set for Jan. 29 and Feb. 14.
Feedback at those conferences will determine what proposals will be passed along for the consideration of the three elected commissioners. Any new rules also must be approved by the state legislature.
Adam Wilmoth, Energy Editor