Ark. considers ban on injection wells (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)

An E&E Publishing Service

OIL AND GAS: Ark. considers ban on injection wells  (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)

State regulators recommended yesterday that the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission implement a permanent ban on deep wells that are used to dispose of natural gas drilling fluids in an area north of Little Rock that has seen a swarm of recent earthquakes.
Two wells were shut down in February under an agreement between the well owners and the commission. Two others will have to stop operating if the commission approves the regulation at a July 26 hearing.
The ban would not stop natural gas drilling in central Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale. Hydraulic fracturing can continue, but the millions of gallons of fracking fluid used in the 1,150-square-mile region would have to be trucked to injection wells elsewhere in Arkansas, or in Oklahoma or Texas, Commission Deputy Director Shane Khoury said.
Khoury said the commission worked with the Arkansas Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, before making the recommendation.
“This is similar to pending litigation — I can’t go into a lot of details. But based on our analysis … this is the correct and warranted regulatory response,” Khoury said.
Before the two wells stopped operating this spring, there were 85 earthquakes with a magnitude 2.5 or higher. Since then, there have been fewer quakes — 20 in the 18 days following the shutdown, according to the state Geological Survey.
Mickey Thompson, a partner in Clarita Operating LLC of Little Rock, said yesterday that earthquake swarms are a natural occurrence and that there is no reason to support the ban.
“We feel like the decision has been made and that we’ve been denied our due process,” said Thompson, whose oil and gas service company operates a well in the zone under the proposed ban. “We were believing there was actually going to be a scientific study and a scientific presentation, not a hunt for a political scapegoat.”
The commission will also recommend rules that would require setbacks from fault zones in other areas of the state, spacing between disposal wells, and the installation of seismic instruments near new or existing injection wells in the Fayetteville Shale region (Chuck Bartels, AP/FuelFix <> , June 22). — AS