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Chesapeake Operating Inc. and Clarita Operating LLC both said before a hearing Friday in Little Rock by the state Oil and Gas Commission that they will comply with an emergency request to stop injections of used natural-gas drilling fluid in the two wells in Faulkner County.

The drillers made the announcement in a pre-meeting notice. Still, the commission voted 8-0 to approve an emergency order ceasing operations at that the two injection wells. Commission staff suspects that the wells may be linked to an outbreak of hundreds of small earthquakes in the Faulkner County area.

Two companies agreed Friday to shut down two injection wells possible linked to earthquakes in Faulkner County. An emergency order officially ceasing the work until March 29 was then quickly passed by the Oil and Gas Commission.

Injection drilling to stop temporarily

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Commission Director Lawrence Bengal said both companies agreed ahead of the hearing to to cease operations until the next commission meeting, which is scheduled for March 29. He said evidence will be presented at that hearing from the staff of the commission, who believe there is a possible correlation, and the drilling companies, who argue no correlation exists.

Bengal said after the meeting that he requested the emergency order because data received from the drilling companies suggested there might be a link between injection operations and seismic activity.

"We may never be able to make a definitive determination, but the indications are it's a possibility," he said. "So we felt it prudent to ask these wells to shut down to prevent the potential for future earthquakes."

It will take an undetermined amount of time for the ground in the area to equalize its pressure, Bengal said. That means there could still be seismic activity after the injections operations halted and it wouldn't necessarily disprove the correlation, he said. The drilling companies were scheduled to cease work at the two sites on Friday morning.

In agreeing to do so, the companies did not admit any culpability.

There was no testimony at the short hearing. Several opponents of natural gas drilling attended the meeting, including one woman who loudly confronted an official with Chesapeake Operating as he walked out.

The earthquakes - mostly centered between Greenbrier and Guy - number about 800 since last September. The strongest of them was a 4.7-magnitude quake felt Sunday night throughout Arkansas and in neighboring states.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Information for this article was contributed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Arkansas Online staff.

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  • LevitiCuss
    March 4, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.

    I doubt it has anything to do with seismic activity, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that injecting massive quantities of poisonous liquids into the same ground your drinking water comes out of probably isn't a good idea.

  • rockITscientist
    March 4, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.

    In reply to LevitiCuss: sadly your notion that it is the "same ground" points out an obvious lack of understanding as to what exactly happens when disposal fluid is pumped into the ground via a wellbore. In fact, it is NOT the same "ground" our drinking water comes from, but rather "ground" that is much, much deeper than the fresh water "ground." The two "grounds" are literally separated by thousands of feet of rock layers. Additionally, the fresh water "ground" is protected from the injected disoposal fluid by steel casing that is cemented in place as regulated by the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission. Sitting down with a geological textbook and gaining an understanding of wellbore engineering practices would prove extremely beneficial and provide you with much needed insight and understanding of the "problem."

  • jamboa
    March 4, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.

    rockITscientist that was a well said reply to Leviticuss.
    It is the same ground as in the same Earth that holds all kinds of nasty stuff under us(Methane,Hydrogen Sulfide etc.) at different depths so we can breathe safely up here.
    It is a pipe dream to think we are getting off petro chemicals any time soon. The Obama administration is hurting Louisiana with their extended deep water moratorium.

  • trouble06
    March 4, 2011 at 8:12 p.m.

    rockITscientist, you are spinning your wheels because the objective for these people is to shut down all oil and gas drilling. The environuts don't care that drilling now is totally different from years ago. The Arkansas Public Policy Panel came out with a report that is absolutely biased against the oil and gas industry. They are a progressive org. Maybe they will be satisfied when it takes their whole paycheck to put gas in their tank. When they can't afford to pay their utilitiy bills and buy food.

  • gothickid2006
    March 4, 2011 at 8:53 p.m.

    I live in pulaski county, and go see my family in faulkner county every other week.

    I haven't felt any earthquakes, so how did everybody else feel them... even people in neighboring states?

  • LR1955
    March 4, 2011 at 8:57 p.m.

    So this earthquake activity is just a coincidence ?

  • Morgancub
    March 4, 2011 at 10:19 p.m.

    They also pump radioactive contaminants into formations deep in the earth.. they have been doing so for 30yrs or more.. It's perfectly safe.
    As far as the earthquakes go.. Who knows ?? no one knows for sure... earthquakes have been around an awful long time.. My self, i believe the earth is slightly off of it's axis, creating weather problems all over the planet.. Places that never had flooding problems before, completely decimated.. Mudslides, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes..
    Maybe the fracking is causing some of it .. who know??

  • LR1955
    March 4, 2011 at 10:48 p.m.

    We may be unsure of the cause of the quakes, but couldn't these tremors could be cracking well casings - allowing poisonous chemicals from fracking and drilling to seep into the water ?

  • Morgancub
    March 5, 2011 at 3:44 a.m.

    Casing failure is certainly a possible hazzard !!

  • Reason
    March 5, 2011 at 12:47 p.m.

    Who is going to halt Chesapeake from selling these wells to China?