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Scientists, oil industry still probing earthquake link

NewsOK energy reporters chatted with readers Tuesday morning about the oil industry and earthquakes. Read the complete chat transcript below.

by Adam Wilmoth and Paul Monies Modified: April 8, 2014 at 11:03 am •  Published: April 8, 2014

NewsOK energy reporters chatted with readers Tuesday morning about the oil industry and earthquakes. Read the complete chat transcript below.

NewsOK 9:22 a.m. Good morning. Our energy team will be logging in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Jenni Carlson 10:00 a.m. Hello everyone. Let's get started here in a minute. I'm your moderator, Paul Monies.
Jenni Carlson 10:00 a.m. Not Jenni. Hang on a second.
Paul Monies 10:00 a.m. Testing.
Paul Monies 10:01 a.m. We've already got a few questions ready in the queue.
Harry S. 10:01 a.m. I see a lot of stuff about Chesapeake Energy in Ohio. Why are they there and how could it impact the country?
Jay F. Marks 10:03 a.m. Chesapeake discovered the Utica Shale there several years ago.
Jay F. Marks 10:03 a.m. That has led to a number of drillers establishing operations in the state in search of oil and natural gas
Jay F. Marks 10:04 a.m. CHK remains the largest and most experienced operator in the play, drilling more than 450 wells.
Jay F. Marks 10:05 a.m. The impact is in the eye of the beholder. Some folks will make money from leases or new industry jobs, while others will complain about the increased industrial activity.
stacie 10:06 a.m. Why don't you stop injecting waste water now? You are putting Oklahoman's at risk.
Adam Wilmoth 10:07 a.m. Companies have been injecting waste water since the industry began. The average oil well in Oklahoma produces 10 times more water than oil, and the water tends to be three to five times saltier than the ocean.
Jay F. Marks 10:08 a.m. I assume you are talking about earthquakes putting us at risk, but I am not aware of any injuries caused by the state's increased seismic activity.
Jay F. Marks 10:10 a.m. If companies stop using injection wells, they will probably have to turn to more expensive procedures to clean up the water so it can be re-used. That would probably drive up the cost of oil and natural gas, making things tougher for consumers.
Adam Wilmoth 10:10 a.m. There have been a few studies connecting saltwater injection wells with earthquakes in Ohio and one study that connected an injection well to the 5.3 earthquake two years ago. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey and others say they cannot yet make that connection.
Paul Monies 10:10 a.m. Here's Adam's stories from a few weeks ago on water and earthquakes:
stacie 10:11 a.m. Are you waiting until people get hurt or die? We just broke a record for earthquakes and they are getting stronger. There is a link between injection wells and quakes.
Aubrey 10:11 a.m. there may not be any injuries, but are they causing any damages, or what happens when the first earthquake does cause an injury or a death?
Adam Wilmoth 10:12 a.m. Oklahoma has more than 10,000 injection wells throughout the state. Injection wells have been active in the state since before statehood. While injection volumes have ramped up over the past few years, operators are still injecting less water now than they did in the 1980s or 1930s.
KYLE 10:12 a.m. Fracking/ Earthquake Question: Haven't we been fracking for 70+ years? And most of the earthquakes start 3-6 miles deep, no wells are being drilled that deep??
Adam Wilmoth 10:14 a.m. Having said all that, operators are injecting larger volumes in a few new area, including the Mississippi Lime in northern Oklahoma. Some of those wells are producing 20 times more water than oil. SandRidge has built the largest saltwater disposal system in the country. The company is working with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to find the best site and pressure for each well.
Jay F. Marks 10:14 a.m. The industry has been working with regulators/scientists to determine if there is a definitive link. If that is proven, I'd imagine new regulations will be created to reduce the risk of triggering seismic activity.
Adam Wilmoth 10:15 a.m. The OGS also has installed seismic monitors throughout the state to help better determine whether injection wells are contributing to or causing the earthquakes.
Paul Monies 10:15 a.m. Regulators also effectively told an operator in southern Oklahoma that continuing to inject in that area could lead to earthquakes.
Aubrey 10:17 a.m. speaking of waste water injection wells.....who is leading the way as far as new innovations for disposing of waste water without injection wells...where do you see this issue in 5 yrs?
Adam Wilmoth 10:20 a.m. Several of the larger companies are looking at ways to reuse the saltwater in fracking. The companies can remove some of the salt and use it, but the process is expensive. I think you'll see more recycling and reuse of water in the future, but at 10 to 1 or up to 20 to 1, there will still be a need for disposal.
stacie 10:20 a.m. You know there is a connection and so does OGS. Be responsible and stop injecting waste water before it is to late and people get hurt.
KYLE 10:20 a.m. I would also have to say that Hydraulic Fracking has done a lot more good for Oklahoma as well as the USA than a couple pictures falling off the wall.
stacie 10:20 a.m. Why don't you spend more money and clean the waste water? It would be less expense to clean the waste water then having to pay for all the damage from a devastating earthquake.
jim 10:21 a.m. Out of curiosity, I'd be interested in seeing a map overlay of where the earthquakes are occurring with where the waste water injection sites are. It would be an interesting graphic, and may/may not illustrate a correlation.
Adam Wilmoth 10:22 a.m. The state has more than 10,000 injection wells that cover everywhere except a few counties in the southeast corner of the state.
Adam Wilmoth 10:24 a.m. Many of the recent earthquakes have been centered around Oklahoma, Logan and Payne counties.
Paul Monies 10:24 a.m. Any more questions on earthquakes, disposal wells before we move on?
Dan 10:25 a.m. Why have these methods been disallowed in other states and yet Oklahoma continues? Did they just arbitrarily regulate this or are we ignoring their data and reasoning?
Adam Wilmoth 10:25 a.m. Disposal wells are a common practice throughout the country.
Jay F. Marks 10:25 a.m. Nothing has been disallowed in other states, other than a few isolated communities in Colorado that banned fracking.
Jay F. Marks 10:26 a.m. Operators routinely rely on disposal wells to put flowback water back into the ground.
Adam Wilmoth 10:26 a.m. At least one well was shut down in Ohio when it was connected to earthquakes. The well in Oklahoma that is being studied for a possible connection also has been shut in.
Suzie 10:27 a.m. How much of the oil and gas produced in Oklahoma is used in Oklahoma or surrounding states?
Jay F. Marks 10:27 a.m. Last I heard, most of Oklahoma's natural gas was used outside of the state.
Jay F. Marks 10:28 a.m. Oklahoma is not a large oil-producing state.
Adam Wilmoth 10:28 a.m. Most of it is exported. That's part of the reason why state and industry leaders have made such a push in recent years for increasing the use of compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
Paul Monies 10:29 a.m. According to the Energy Information Administration, Oklahoma ranks No. 11 for energy consumption per capita.
Adam Wilmoth 10:29 a.m. Oklahoma has four oil refineries, but much of the oil is sent to the larger refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Paul Monies 10:30 a.m. We're No. 5 in crude oil production and No. 4 in natural gas production. More here:
Patrick 10:31 a.m. Can anyone comment on plays in southwestern oklahoma (Hollis Basin), See actiivity by GLB Exploration, Tilford Pinson, Panther, Comanche etc.
Paul Monies 10:32 a.m. [We've got a few questions in the queue. Please be patient, we'll try to get to them.]
Adam Wilmoth 10:34 a.m. There is active drilling in the area, but much of it has been overshadowed by the success others have had in nearby areas, including the Anadarko Basin in western Oklahoma and the SCOOP and STACK in south central Oklahoma.
Jay F. Marks 10:36 a.m. I'm not too familiar with that region, in extreme southwest Oklahoma, but in 2009 the Oklahoma Geological Society noted that GLB Exploration was testing the state's first horizontal well in the Barnett Shale in Jackson County.
Jay F. Marks 10:36 a.m. I guess the results weren't as economic as hoped because that area hasn't been talked about by major players as other parts of the state.
shad 10:37 a.m. Any news on midstream infrastructure ramping up in the state. If so who are the players and where will these projects be built?
Jay F. Marks 10:37 a.m. Oklahoma's infrastructure needs aren't as great as in some other states because of its history with the industry.
Adam Wilmoth 10:37 a.m. Anywhere there is new or expanded drilling, midstream infrastructure is needed to support it.
Jay F. Marks 10:39 a.m. There are some additional pipelines being built or augmented to help get more oil to Cushing, which is finally seeing its glut of crude disperse thanks to the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Adam Wilmoth 10:40 a.m. Several Oklahoma produces recently have spun off their midstream businesses into separate companies, and several other master limited partnerships are active throughout the state.
Jay F. Marks 10:40 a.m. The biggest new line coming into Cushing is Enbridge's Flanagan South pipeline, which will move 600,000 barrels a day from Pontiac, Ill.
Mike 10:41 a.m. Can you talk about job opportunities in the energy industry? What positions should people with business based degrees look for? What job opportunities exist for people without college degrees? I often here about people from other states moving here to become division order analyst, wire line operators, landmen etc but most energy companies say experience required. Are there companies that routinely hire people without experience.
Jay F. Marks 10:42 a.m. The industry offers a wealth of opportunities, but I think the options for those without degrees are likely limited.
Adam Wilmoth 10:42 a.m. Energy companies are still looking to fill jobs throughout their operations.
Jay F. Marks 10:42 a.m. So much of the industry is getting mechanized that muscle is no longer the only prerequisite for field workers.
Jay F. Marks 10:43 a.m. I had a drilling company executive tell me that such workers used to be hired based on their attributes from the neck down, i.e. their ability to handle the physical demands of the job. Now they're looking from the neck up, for people with the intellectual ability to understand and operate complex machinery.
Adam Wilmoth 10:44 a.m. My understanding is that companies are still desperate for workers in the field. In some parts of the state, almost anyone who can pass a drug test can get a job in the energy industry.
Jay F. Marks 10:45 a.m. There also are opportunities for people with degrees in various roles in the industry, as companies deal with the business side of producing, transporting and processing their products.
Robert 10:46 a.m. What's the status on Keystone, and how are things going on our end here in Oklahoma?
Jay F. Marks 10:46 a.m. Keystone XL is still in limbo, awaiting a decision from the Obama administration.
Jay F. Marks 10:46 a.m. The Oklahoma part of the project, and its predecessor, is already up and running.
Jay F. Marks 10:47 a.m. The only thing that would change here if KXL is approved is the construction of some additional pump stations to help move oil across the country.
Harry S. 10:48 a.m. With all the different oil and gas fields in the U.S., is Oklahoma's fields at risk for being left in the dust? The Northeast, Louisiana, Midwest …
Jay F. Marks 10:48 a.m. I think that is unlikely.
Jay F. Marks 10:49 a.m. Companies that are active in Oklahoma are looking to reduce costs to keep state fields in operation.
Adam Wilmoth 10:49 a.m. The leading fields today are the Bakken in North Dakota, the Eagle Ford and Permian in Texas and the Marcellus in the Pennsylvania area. Oklahoma's fields are not as big as those, but the state is still important in the industry.
Adam Wilmoth 10:51 a.m. For example, SandRidge is drilling wells in the Mississippian for less than $3 million a well, while wells in other parts of the country easily top $10 million. At that rate, the well doesn't have to be as big as a Bakken well to be profitable.
Paul Monies 10:51 a.m. Programming note: We've got about 10 minutes left. Last chance to get your questions in.
Jay F. Marks 10:51 a.m. Oklahoma's infrastructure probably will continue to attract producers, as well.
Adam Wilmoth 10:52 a.m. Producers in Oklahoma also benefit from existing infrastructure and leasehold.
jim 10:52 a.m. new topic- Can you elaborate more on Tom Ward's new venture and offices?
Jay F. Marks 10:52 a.m. I don't know think anyone knows more than what Steve Lackmeyer reported on Friday:
Jay F. Marks 10:53 a.m. Tapstone has agreed to acquire Shell's assets in Kansas, an area Tom Ward knows well from his time at SandRidge.
Jay F. Marks 10:54 a.m. Ward on occasion compared the Mississippian to the Bakken Shale, so he is obviously bullish on the play's prospects.
Rebecca 10:56 a.m. Oklahomans deserve answers regarding the many earth quakes. How is the industry proactively prticipating in finding answere? Why isn't fracking better regulated?
Jay F. Marks 10:56 a.m. Fracking is not the issue.
Jay F. Marks 10:57 a.m. The process of breaking up tight rocks formations to release oil and natural gas has not been linked to any earthquakes. It is the disposal of waste and flowback water that some have linked to the state's rise in seismic activity.
Jay F. Marks 10:58 a.m. As Adam noted earlier, companies have worked with regulators and the Oklahoma Geological Society to place disposal wells away from faults and other volatile areas.
Adam Wilmoth 10:58 a.m. The Corporation Commission recently proposed new rules that would require more monitoring and reporting of injection wells. Many of the larger operators, including SandRidge, have said they already meet the tougher reporting standards.
Paul Monies 10:58 a.m. Still, a lot of people out there use the term "fracking" as a catch-all term for all energy activity. There's certainly a disconnect between how the industry uses these terms and the general public.
Adam Wilmoth 10:59 a.m. The new rules would require injection well operators to monitor pressure and other information daily and report it to the corporation commission and Oklahoma Geological Survey as requested.
Jay F. Marks 11:00 a.m. Most companies already monitor their wells on a regular basis. The new rules would just change the reporting requirements.
Kyle 11:00 a.m. As far as job opportunities, there are countless Oil service companies in OKC. Baker Hughes is building their largest plant in NA land in north OKC.
Paul Monies 11:01 a.m. OK, I think we'll stop there.
Paul Monies 11:01 a.m. Thanks for joining us, everyone. We'll be back next month, at 10 a.m. May 13.
by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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