Fracking, Earthquake Debate Takes Center Stage In Tulsa

Tuesday, October 6th 2015, 6:04 pm
By: News On 6

The debate over earthquakes and fracking has taken center stage in Tulsa, as 750 petroleum geologists are in town this week, talking about oil and gas exploration.

Geologists know there's a link between waste water wells and an increase in earthquakes in parts of the state.

The said one way to slow down the quakes is to move the wells away from areas where naturally occurring faults already exist.

People from all over the state have felt earthquakes in recent years.

State geologists agree an increase in oil and gas exploration in central Oklahoma has contributed to the shakes.

In Tulsa, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists is meeting to find a solution.

Presenter Charles Wickstrom said, "We are having those conversations here; state geologists, petroleum geologists, regulators, we've had specific sessions on those issues, they're very important to us. We care."

Wickstrom said the exploration and production arm of the energy sector is also feeling the aftershocks of increased earthquakes.

"We had an entire session related to earthquake issues, and it creates problems,” he said. “There have been instances where wells have been lost because of these earthquakes shifting the ground and severing casing, so it's a significant problem.”

Geologists are hoping to use the data presented at the meetings in Tulsa to bore wastewater wells in safer areas away from faults.

Meeting chairman, Shane Matson said, “This was the meeting where you have hundreds of subsurface experts listening. From the technical data, from the people who have been investigating, from the geophysical aspects, science is an ongoing dialogue."

“We are still fracking wells and we do it in a very responsible manner, so it's all part of the business," Wickstrom said.

When asked about the oil and gas industry’s response to the earthquakes, Angela Spotts, who represents Stop Fracking Payne County, said she's not seeing much of a slowdown in earthquakes and still feels violent tremors in her home outside of Stillwater.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently ordered two wastewater disposal wells to shut down, and three others to reduce volume near Cushing because of earthquakes.