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Permanent disposal-well moratorium issued

Commission decision affects northern Faulkner County seismic hot spot

By Caroline Zilk

This article was published July 31, 2011 at 3:22 a.m.

— At least one opponent of natural-gas drilling in the Fayetteville Shale formation breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday when the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission decided to shut down four natural-gas-drilling disposal wells and to ban others from being drilled in northern Faulkner County, where seismic activity has become commonplace.

Sam Lane of Greenbrier has filed a suit against several natural-gas companies drilling in the Fayetteville Shale formation that own the disposal wells, also known as injection wells, that many believe are linked to the earthquakes.

“I’m happy that the AOGC did the right thing and put the public’s safety first,” Lane said Wednesday.

A temporary moratorium on the operation of injection wells was put into place in March when a magnitude-4.7earthquake rattled the area. The quake was the largest the state had experienced in 35 years.

A study headed by Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey, showed a severe drop in the number of seismic events in the area shortly after the temporarymoratorium was put in place March 4. In the 18 days prior to the temporary shutdown of the wells, there were 85 events of 2.5 magnitude or greater, but only 20 in the 18 days after March 4, about a 75 percent drop, he said.

Larry Bengal, director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, announced earlier this month that he would propose the permanent moratorium on injection wells throughout Faulkner and Cleburne counties.

“As director, it is not my desire to permit another Guy-Greenbrier swarm to occur,” Bengal said at the time. “I have made my recommendation on a proactive effort in the case of Deep Six that that not be allowed to occur.”

The commission voted 6-0 to close a well owned by Deep Six Water Disposal Services of Oklahoma City between Greenbrier and Enola, and then 7-0 to close the other three wells and establish a moratorium on future disposal wells in a 1,150-squaremile area mostly north of Conway, including near Greenbrier, Guy and Enola. The other wells are owned by BHP Billiton Limited of Australia and Clarita Operating LLC of Oklahoma City.

Lane said he is still concerned about the vicinity outside the moratorium area.

“Injection wells outsidethe moratorium area may be causing similar earthquake swarms, and I am still exploring the possibility that production wells can cause earthquakes in the same way injection wells do,” he said. “Our organization (stoparkansasfracking.org) willcontinue to monitor this issue.”

Staff writer Caroline Zilk can be reached at (501) 244-4326 or czilk@arkansasonline.com.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 147 on 07/31/2011

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