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StateImpact

State Regulators Expand Limits on Wells as Earthquakes Shake Near U.S. Oil Hub

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Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The oil hub in Cushing, Okla.

State oil and gas regulators on Friday expanded limits on disposal wells near Cushing, Oklahoma. The shutdowns and volume limits come amid renewed worry about earthquake activity near one of the country’s largest crude oil storage hubs.

Scientists have linked Oklahoma’s earthquake surge to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission in September restricted activity at five such wells near Cushing. On Friday, it expanded the limits, which now cover 13 disposal wells.

The new restrictions include directives to two operators to shut down three disposal wells.

The October actions are stricter for wells close to earthquake activity. The commission has ordered companies with disposal wells located within three miles of the concentrated quake activity to shut down the wells. Companies with disposal wells located within a three to six-mile radius have been ordered to reduce disposal well volumes by 25 percent.

The commission is telling operators of 13 additional disposal wells — operating in a radius of six to 10 miles from the Cushing quake activity — to prepare for possible cutbacks.

About 54 million barrels of crude oil was stored at the hub earlier this month, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Small earthquakes shook the area for weeks before a 4.5-magnitude temblor was recorded in the area on October 10.

Seismic activity has continued in the area, which has alarmed federal researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which suggest the state has experienced quakes large enough to “seriously damage” tanks at the strategically important oil hub.

“With the largest tank farm of its kind in America, in terms of where do we put our limited resources, right now, all attention is being focused on Cushing,” says Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner.

 

 

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