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Recent Oklahoma earthquakes renew concern about oil, gas activity

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2024 | Oil & Gas Law

Oklahoma has been experiencing some seismic activity normally associated with other parts of the country and the world. One of them, registered at a 5.1 magnitude, was felt in four states besides Oklahoma earlier this month. The epicenter was determined to be near Prague. Others last month, registering 4.4, were centered in Edmonton.

Unlike in other areas that experience earthquakes, an immediate question was whether the recent quakes were caused by oil and gas activity in the area – particularly because many of them haven’t been too far below the ground. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), however, ruled that out – at least for the January quakes. 

A spokesman for the OCC said that they found “no evidence” of a connection and said that there has been “no drilling or wastewater disposal in the area for years.” In 2016, Oklahoma had more than 900 earthquakes that were attributed to oil and gas industry activity – specifically to wastewater disposal wells that send water into the Arbuckle formation

After the 5.1 quake early this month, the OCC shut down some oil and gas wastewater disposal wells. This was to help avoid sudden changes in pressure that could trigger more seismic activity. The OCC said to expect further action in the near future. The fault line where this quake occurred experienced a 5.7 magnitude quake in 2011 that caused injuries and serious damage to homes and other property. 

What the OCC has to say

While a lot has changed since that quake over a dozen years ago, it’s critical for oil and gas companies to be aware of the continued potential for liability. Companies have been held liable in the past for injuries and damages caused by earthquakes determined to have resulted from oil and gas activity. Having sound legal guidance before you’re facing litigation is crucial.