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Oklahoma Waste Injection Cutback Stymies Producing Wells, Operator Says

A technical conference is to be held with Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff and Tulsa-based Marjo Operating Co. Inc., which is contesting the commission's curtailment last summer of wastewater injections into disposal wells.

In August, Oklahoma regulators reduced the volume of drilling wastewater that operators may inject into disposal wells in two counties as a continued "progressive" response to induced seismicity that has been blamed on such wells (see Shale DailyAug. 4). Marjo said the action threatens to cripple producing wells because there is nowhere to send the waste.

"This commission, without any hearing or consideration of the impact on producing wells, sent a letter dated Aug. 3, 2015 to applicant, stating that the injection should be curtailed by 38% over a three-month period," Marjo said in a September filing at the commission.

"Such a reduction in disposal capacity will result in the curtailment of the producing wells. This curtailment will allow water influx to the pressure sink and producing channels, thereby causing premature abandonment of the producing wells and potentially the field, resulting in an economic loss to applicant. Once the producing channels are flooded and the movement of hydrocarbons is halted, it is near impossible to reestablish these producing channels and movement of hydrocarbons."

Marjo asked the commission to allow injection into its disposal well at the permitted rate. The technical conference is to be held by Oct. 27 to address technical but not legal issues, commission spokesman Matt Skinner told NGI's Shale Daily. If the matter can't be settled, it would be scheduled for a hearing.

The move last summer to curtail injections falls under the commission's "traffic light system," which was established in 2013 in response to seismicity and wastewater disposal wells. Saltwater disposal into the Arbuckle formation is believed to be responsible for a dramatic increase in seismic activity.

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