Arkansas Suspends Drilling of Injection Wells after Earthquake Swarm

Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Injection Well (photo: KQEDQuest)
After months of earthquakes, including the largest felt in 35 years, the state of Arkansas has ordered a temporary moratorium on the drilling of new injection wells related to natural gas-related drilling, which some locals believe are causing the seismic activity. More than 700 small earthquakes have been recorded in north-central Arkansas in the last six months.
Although the earthquake swarm might be a natural occurrence, it is also possible that it has been a consequence of the natural gas drilling technique known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking.” The process entails injecting millions of gallons of chemicals, sand or fluids into a well to crack open the rocks and allow easier access to the natural gas. The problem in Arkansas appears to be related not to the drilling itself, but to the disposal of wastewater from the drilling by forcing it back into the earth into injection wells.
The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission imposed an emergency stoppage on the drilling of new injection wells in the central part of the state after a 4.7 quake shook the area near Greenbrier on February 27.
The order only halted work at sites that started in December of last year. Those in operation before then are still in use.
The moratorium will expire in July. In the meantime, researchers will search for evidence of whether the drilling is causing the earthquakes.
The four companies operating the injection wells are SEECO Inc., Chesapeake Operating Inc., Clarita Operating LLC and Deep-Six Water Disposal Services LLC.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Arkansas Quake Is Its Most Powerful in 35 Years (by Campbell Robertson, New York Times)
Ark. Cities Feel Unexplained Surge in Earthquakes (by Sarah Eddington, Associated Press)
A Dot on the Map, Until the Earth Started Shaking (by Campbell Robertson, New York Times)
Wyoming Town Warned to Use Fans While Showering to Avoid Chemical Explosions (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
See all 18 comments


Jack 12 years ago
makes one wonder what caused the quakes 35 years ago.
tyler 12 years ago
the people who hate the oil field are the oneswho dont get oil checks sour grapes.
Moto 13 years ago
I think this author needs to do some fact checking. There is nothing indicating that fracking has been banned in any of the official documents that I could find, and there is nothing to indicate that fracking has anything to do with the earthquakes. What I did find: Arkansas oil and gas commition did shut down two water injection wells that are used to dispose of waste water which probably has nothing to do will fracking. The wells appear to be produced water injection wells. The wells are probably also used for used frack water, but the wells have nothing to do with the fracking process. Also, the earthquakes really look like they are natural. Arkansas is a seismically active state, and earthquake swarms are not uncommon. I'm not saying it is impossible that the injections wells caused the earthquakes, but based on the epicenter depths I think the evidence looks circumstantial. (I don't know exactly how deep the water disposal wells are though) The jump to fracking in this case shows a lack of understanding the sourced documents.
Billy 13 years ago
Royalty checks come in handy when your six feet under, done in by environmental polution, from an industry who has been granted a liscence to steal, with the blessings of the ignorant.
Billy 13 years ago
Thanks for the insight, Kimberly. An education is a terrible thing to waste. What was your "almaMater" LOL
Kimberly 13 years ago
Come on guys! It bewilders me to think that uneducated, ignorant-sounding people actually think they know more than the experts. At least TRY to sound educated!! You are perpetuating the stereotype that Arkansans are barefoot and stupid. If you are going to make a statement, at least research it and have some facts to support that statement. You just sound like a bunch of old bitter codgers, mad because you are not receiving royalty checks.
Kimberly 13 years ago
Your article makes is sound like Injection Wells and Fracking are the same thing. They are NOT. The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission stated today that they have never associated oil and gas production or fracking with seismic activity. Your article actually contradicts itself!!
Billy 13 years ago
H2S is poison and will kill a person. Is is in some gas wells and commonly occurs when the industry introduces certain contaminants into the shale. When this occurs they are not required to notify nearby residents, or the public. They do whar the oil and gas comission(which they controll), requires. Buisiness as usual in the gas industry. I believe each geological structure and formation is unique unto itself. Just cause " it ain't happened before" doesent mean it won't happen. Also, the oil and gas industry has not kept our state solvent. The arkansas constitution has prevented those who would morgage our future by borrowing money from doing so.
Loyd 13 years ago
As far as I can tell Oklahoma and Texas aint setting on tha edge of a major fault wer is Youre common sense Mr Ron??? GOD bless You and all that You touch...
Ron Walsmith 13 years ago
Just read on you blog that someone is calling natural gas toxic. The truth is the the primary component of natural gas is methane and methane is not poisonous, has no odor, and is has not color. It is the cleanest burning of all fosil fuels. If it wasn't for the Arkansas Gas Industry, Arkansas would not be one of the few states avoids a bankrupt type of situation. If drilling for and producing natural caused earthquakes then Oklahoma and Texas would have more earthquakes than any other states because they have producedd a lot more natural gas per square mile than Arkansas. I am amazed at how Arkansans had lost their common sense with earthquake paranoia.

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