ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma Corporation Commission is preparing court action against SandRidge Energy regarding several injection wells the company has not shut down per OCC’s request.
“I can confirm that the Oil and Gas Division’s attorneys are preparing court action (in the OCC courts) to have the permits for the wells in question changed to what is in the OCC plan,” Matt Skinner, Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman, said in a written statement. “Because this is a pending legal action, I can’t make further comment.”
According to Oklahoma statute, OCC has exclusive jurisdiction, power and authority to make and enforce rules and orders, governing and regulating items "within its state as are reasonable and necessary for the purpose of preventing the pollution of the surface and subsurface waters in the state." OCC's jurisdiction and authority pertains to Class II wells, injection wells.
"The companies have always been told that if they did not comply, court action would follow to get compliance," Skinner said in a written statement. "The Oil and Gas Division cannot mandate a change in operations without due process, which includes court if the operator decides not to comply."
Skinner said the issues involves wells listed in a Dec. 3 bulletin in which OCC issued an advisory in response to earthquakes in the Medford, Cherokee and Byron areas.
SandRidge was requested to close four wells in the Medford area and two wells in the Byron area before Dec. 9. All six wells remain in operation.
OCC also requested SandRidge decrease volume at more than 40 of its wells by 25 to 50 percent.
SandRidge Director of Communications David Kimmel said the company continues to work closely with OCC.
The Dec. 3 bulletin issued by OCC stated, “As part of a joint effort to decrease the risk of induced seismicity, you will need to complete reduction of disposal volumes in accordance with the following schedule and as indicated for the wells below. All disposal well volumes shall be calculated on a daily basis.”
Tim Baker, OGCD director, issued the bulletin, stating the commission was expanding its efforts to reduce the risk of earthquakes triggered by saltwater disposal wells.
“We look forward to addressing this issue through OCC’s established rules and procedures, which will ensure decisions are based on scientific analysis,” Kimmel said in a written statement. “This is a complex issue, and science must be our guide as we work together to address it.”
Kimmel said the energy company will continue to be a “reliable corporate citizen, community partner and employer” while placing a priority on safety.
The Journal Record reported in November that most of SandRidge’s important assets were at the epicenter of Oklahoma’s seismicity problem.
“The driller’s precarious financial position, combined with the risk it faces from temblor swarms near its wastewater injection wells, could cause the company to become insolvent if regulators shut down its disposal wells,” according to the article written by Sarah Terry-Cobo.
The article stated SandRidge spent more than $200 million in infrastructure to ship wastewater from petroleum wells to disposal wells.
“One in six wells the OCC put under a microscope belongs to SandRidge, accounting for nearly 85 percent of the company’s 125 active disposal sites,” according to the article.
OCC’s response in December came after a 4.7 magnitude temblor was recorded in Alfalfa County on Nov. 19, according to U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered at Carmen, 8 miles southwest of Cherokee and 36 miles west-northwest of Enid, and was 4 miles deep.
A 4.0 quake shook Alfalfa County again Nov. 24. It was centered 8 miles northeast of Cherokee, or 34 miles northwest of Enid. It was about 3.1 miles deep.
On Nov. 30, another 4.7 temblor shook the area. The epicenter was 16 miles west-southwest of Medford, or 24 miles northwest of Enid. It was 3.2 miles deep.
This year, more than 750 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or greater, including 26 measuring magnitude 4.0 or greater, have been recorded in the state. In 2014, there were 585 quakes magnitude of 3.0 or greater, including 15 measuring magnitude 4.0 or greater.
In November, Skinner said Oklahoma was the No. 1 earthquake area in the world.