Sandstone bricks from the side of the historic Pawnee County Bank litter the sidewalk after an early morning natural disaster in Pawnee, Oklahoma, on Saturday, Sept. 3.
The magnitude 5.6 quake, which was felt from South Dakota to Texas, prompted the closure of some 35 wastewater disposal wells in the area, officials said. At that rate, the number of earthquakes would fall to less than 800 this year, still a far cry from only two in 2008.
As oil production surged in Oklahoma, with the Scoop and Stack areas among the most-sought new plays in the country, so did the disposal of wastewater from fracked fields.
"We have no data whatsoever on oil and gas activity in Osage County", Skinner said.
The commission, which regulates fuel, oil, gas, public utilities and transportation industries, is investigating to determine the epicenter of the quake that hit Pawnee, said commission spokesman Matt Skinner.
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Because the wells are on tribal land, Oklahoma regulators have no jurisdiction over oil- and gas-producing facilities in the region. They're also among the about 700 in a 15,000-square-mile "Area of Interest" created by the commission to address earthquakes in the area near Pawnee. PetroQuest was the only publicly traded USA company among the operators affected by the commission's measure.
Fluid injection is a controversial tactic tied to hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique known as "fracking" that has dramatically increased US oil and gas production by using water pressure to force oil out of underground pools.
The 17 wells are in a 211-square mile area within Osage County, near where a magnitude 5.6 temblor struck on Saturday about 7:02 a.m. "It's hard to believe Oklahoma would move to ban fracking, but I can see where they would say to people that they have to do something else with the wastewater, which is believed to be the source of the increase in earthquakes". "The Cushing terminal is now operating normally". Rural Pawnee County and the city of Pawnee had at least six buildings damaged, with one homeowner suffering minor injuries, Fallin said.
Oil and gas explorers that injected wastewater in the state include SandRidge Energy Inc., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Range Resources Corp. "The basement is above where the critical faults lie that shift and make earthquakes".