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Quakes spur proposed permanent shutdown of disposal wells

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published June 21, 2011 at 1:03 p.m. Updated June 21, 2011 at 2:05 p.m.

A map provided by the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission shows in yellow a proposed moratorium area for disposal wells.

— The director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission is seeking to permanently shut down disposal wells in a large swath of central Arkansas where more than 1,000 minor earthquakes have been felt in the last year.

Director Lawrence Bengal at the commission's July meeting will propose a permanent moratorium barring new disposal wells from being added and requiring existing ones be plugged, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

Deputy director Shane E. Khoury said studies of the earthquakes did not definitively link the shaking to the disposal wells, but that the work did provide enough information to spur the director to take action. He said he could not discuss the specifics of the data prior to the July hearing.

"The director felt there is enough analysis there to support and warrant a regulatory action," Khoury said. "I think as the director, he's always going to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to public safety."

The 1,150-square mile moratorium area would include Conway, Enola, Greenbrier, Heber Springs, Vilonia and portions of Greers Ferry Lake.

The region between Guy and Greenbrier in Faulkner County has been the epicenter of hundreds of small earthquakes since last September, including a 4.7 tremor on Feb. 27 that was felt across Arkansas and in neighboring states. No serious damage or injuries have been reported in any of the temblors.

Two drilling companies earlier this year agreed to a temporary halt of drilling operations at injection wells in the vicinity of the quakes after staff with the Oil and Gas Commission suggested there might be a correlation between the work and the shaking. Pressurized liquid is injected into the ground as part of the drilling process.

Investigations into the correlation have continued as the two companies agreed to temporarily cease operations.

According to the statement released Tuesday, research by the Arkansas Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information "reached a point to support the recommendation of a regulatory response" with regard to the disposal wells.

The statement said Gov. Mike Beebe was advised of and agrees with the move.

There are four active disposal wells in the proposed moratorium area.


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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 total comments

trouble06 says... June 21, 2011 at 3:06 p.m.

AOGC wants to shut down disposal wells because they supposedly cause earthquakes but won't carbon sequestration reservoirs do the same thing?

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travelertoo says... June 21, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.

Lets see, no earthquake activity before drilling yet hundreds of quakes when drilling began. Drilling stops, quakes stop..........they THINK it may be related.

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trouble06 says... June 21, 2011 at 10:50 p.m.

I thought the injection wells were what caused the earthquakes, not drilling. That's why they were shut down for how many months? Still,there were earthquakes. If you environutjobs are worried about earthquakes and disposal wells why aren't you worried about the carbon sequestration reservoirs that will take the place of disposal wells. Aren't there studies being done at this very moment on the use of CSR in Arkansas?

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trouble06 says... June 21, 2011 at 11:07 p.m.

There has been earthquakes in the areas drilling is in for many years. If drilling is the cause of the earthquakes then why have there been quakes in places where there is no drilling? You claim doesn't hold water. You're trying to shut down a sector that has, is providing good paying jobs and has been an economic boon for many small communities.

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trouble06 says... June 21, 2011 at 11:12 p.m.

Since AOGC is looking into the carbon reservoirs ya think maybe they might be seeing dollar signs?

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kk1kk1kk1_yahoo_com says... June 22, 2011 at 3:47 a.m.

That 80 inches of rain last year is more likely contributing to quakes,45 inches in 09.GO FIGURE~

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