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Oklahoma orders MM Energy to cut disposal well volumes following quakes

Staff Writer |
Oklahoma regulators forced an oil and gas producer to reduce operations on a well used for disposing saltwater following a large earthquake over the weekend that set off a series of seismic activity in the state, Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), said on Monday.

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The temblors occurred near Perry, Oklahoma, in the northwestern part of the state, within an area singled out by regulators for the frequency of earthquakes from oil and gas production activities.

The first quake occurred on Saturday, registering at magnitude 4.6, and was followed by several others, including a magnitude 4.5 earthquake that hit near Perry early Monday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The OCC forced MM Energy to reduce operations on Saturday on a disposal well in the area from 17,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 5,000 bpd, Skinner said.

"This is an ongoing situation, and further actions are possible," the OCC wrote in a notice issued midday Monday.

Disposal wells have been blamed for an uptick in earthquakes across the state in recent years, which topped out at 903 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes in 2015 versus just 35 quakes per year in 2012, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has since issued tougher regulations on oil and gas operators in affected areas in a bid to curb the quakes. The frequency of magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes fell to just over 300 last year.

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