Oil and Gas Group Skeptical of USGS Earthquake Maps—Calls it “Simplistic Approach”

While environmentalists applauded the new earthquake maps released by the U.S. Geological Survey because they showed potential areas caused by human inducement, the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association had other thoughts.

Kim Hatfield, chairman of the OIPA’s induced seismicity workgroup said he was concerned with the approach outlined by the USGS.

“The USGS study admits the complexity of the question of induced seismicity but then makes the flat assumption that any seismicity in the central U.S. in proximity of a wastewater well would be classified as an induced event,” said Hatfield. “This follows a statement that most injection wells are not associated with earthquakes. In a state like Oklahoma with more than 10,000 injection wells, it is difficult to find any phenomenon that is not in proximity to an injection well.”

Hatfield called it a simplistic approach that makes it difficult to arrive at robust solutions.

He said the oil and natural gas producers of the state have already spent $50 million to adjust well depths with the aim of reducing potential risk of contributing to seismic activity. Hatfield added that with increasing restrictions on disposal volumes in specific areas of interest in Oklahoma, the economic impact of limited production is far greater. He also said to date the industry has voluntarily contributed another $450 million of valuable seismic data that has been shared with regulators and researchers.

“Wastewater disposal wells have been used safely and effectively for more than 70 years with no prior record of induced seismicity in Oklahoma,” added Hatfield.”We are confident the collaborative effort between the oil and natural gas industry, researchers and regulators will lead to a resolution by which oil and natural gas production can be conducted in our state without heightened levels of seismicity.”