Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shale Law in the Spotlight: Update on Induced Seismicity Regulatory Activities in the United States

Written by Chloe Marie – Research Fellow

In this article, we will provide an update on induced seismicity regulatory developments in the United States. Our last article relating to this topic is dated June 14, 2017.

·       U.S. Geological Survey

On March 28, 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) published the 2018 One-Year Seismic Hazard Forecast for the Central and Eastern United States from Induced and Natural Earthquakes, available from the Seismological Research Letters.

USGS recorded a steady decline in M3 and higher magnitude earthquakes over the past three years and pointed out that these earthquakes occurred within the highest hazard regions of the 2017 forecast. USGS noted that “the short-term hazard for damaging ground shaking across much of Oklahoma remains at high levels due to continuing high rates of smaller earthquakes that are still hundreds of times higher than at any time in the State’s history.”

More information on short-term induced seismicity is available on the USGS website.  

·       Oklahoma

On June 27, 2017, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) stated in a News Release that “efforts to manage the potential risk of induced earthquakes not associated with wastewater injection wells are showing some positive results.” The agency pointed out, however, that earthquakes caused by wastewater disposal, not hydraulic fracturing operations, have proven to be more problematic. The News Release shows a summary of well completion seismicity protocol for anomalous seismic activity within 1.25 miles of hydraulic fracturing operations.

In another Press Release dated February 27, 2018, OCC announced the implementation of a new protocol to further address the issue of induced seismicity in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP) and the Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher counties (STACK) plays.

Acknowledging the increase of felt earthquakes triggered from well completion activity in the SCOOP and STACK play, the OCC’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division (OGCD) Director Tim Baker stated that “the data gathered over the past year indicates earlier action may be best.” Consequently, OCC now imposes on all operators the requirement to use a seismic array for real-time seismicity reading purposes and to take mitigating actions each time a M2 earthquake is felt. In addition, operators are required to halt their activities for a 6-hour period when M2.5 earthquakes are felt. OCC declared that “while important, the threat of induced earthquakes from well completion activity is much smaller than the threat linked to injection of oil and gas wastewater in the north-central area of the state, where the larger and more frequent earthquakes have occurred.” For further information on local directives and actions in the state of Oklahoma, please consult the Earthquakes in Oklahoma website operated by the Office of the Secretary of Energy and Environment.

·       Texas

On October 17, 2017, the University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geologic announced the availability of TexNet, a state-run seismic monitoring system. The TexNet Seismic Network’s creation was commissioned in June 2015 through House Bill 2 of the 84th Texas Legislature.

According to the University of Texas at Austin, TexNet includes 22 additional permanent monitoring stations as well as 40 portable seismic stations used for the purpose of increasing the density of stations in sensitive areas prone to seismic activity, such as in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, South Texas, and West Texas in the Delaware Basin and Snyder area.

The University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geologic had previously issued a Report on House Bill 2 (2016-17) Seismic Monitoring and Research in Texas on December 1, 2016, which provides further background on the TexNet initiative. 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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