Friday, April 8, 2016

USGS head warns Senate on earthquake risk around oil and gas activity

A professor at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Colorado opens a device used to measure earthquakes, including those caused by injection wells at petroleum extraction sites. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
The head of the U.S. Geological Survey told senators Thursday that her agency would work with federal regulators on developing new rules around oil and gas activity tied to a surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma, Texas and other states.
Director Suzette Kimball appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources a week after her agency released a report showing the risk of damage from seismic activity in areas including Oklahoma City and Dallas is now as high as that in California.
The sudden jump in earthquakes has been tied not to oil and gas drilling itself but rather the underground injection wells used to store the vast volumes of waste water associated with drilling.
“Our work on induced seismicity leads us to believe it is most often associated with deep wastewater injection wells and depending on how those wells are constructed and how the operations take place can affect that,” Kimball said.
The threat of greater federal regulation around injection wells, an activity largely governed by states, has worried many around the country’s oil and gas regions.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed concern the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might come in and shut down injection well activity all together.
“Like it or not there’s a proper way to do things rather than coming in and stopping it all together,” he said. “People will just come in and shut it down for the sake of shutting it down. And we need this energy and we’re looking for the proper ways.”
The USGS is already increasing seismic monitoring in areas where injection wells are abundant, and its scientists are continuing to study the geologic conditions that allow injection wells to cause earthquakes, Kimball said.
But the director demurred from offering any recommendation on how injection wells should be regulated to decrease the risk of earthquake activity.
“That’s not in our missions purview. However I can commit to you our scientists would be happy to have discussions on their observations about what triggered these events,” Kimball told the senate committee.

You may also like:

No comments :

Post a Comment