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Work on system to gather purged saltwater about complete, agency says


OMEGA — Work to build a system to collect saltwater coming from the ground as part of a purge is about done.

Meanwhile, regulators have observed that the maximum flow rate for the purge has eased since mid-December, providing another indication that underground formation pressures may be declining.

Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said Monday field personnel have seen a decline in a maximum flow from the purge from more than 13 gallons per minute to about 7 gallons per minute.

“Right now, it is a situation where it is, ‘So far, so good,’” Skinner said. “This purge did not start overnight, and the process to stop it is going to take some time.”

As for the addition of the collection system to handle water flowing from the purge, that work was paid for using dollars contributed by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.

Improvements included the construction of a pump-fed line to carry the water from the purge into nearby tanks and a line from those tanks to a nearby site where the water can be offloaded to trucks for transport to an appropriate disposal well.

Contractors working on the project also built fencing that aims to keep people and livestock away from the potential hazard.

The OERB, a nonprofit created by Oklahoma’s Legislature to remediate abandoned well site surfaces and to provide education to the public about the oil and gas industry, provided $200,000 for the work.

The site still awaits electricity to become fully functional, but Skinner said the commission expects that will be accomplished before the end of this week.

The purge, first reported to the commission on July 1, continues to push saltwater to the surface at a location north of State Highway 3 south of Omega, between Watonga and Kingfisher.

Skinner previously had said test results were showing that sequential directives issued by the agency’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division since the purge was discovered appeared to have lowered formation pressures underground.

Those directives, which will remain in place for now, have included shutting in eight disposal wells near the purge and limiting injection rates at nearly a dozen others located farther away.

The division also slightly expanded the size of a larger area of western Oklahoma where it temporarily is no longer permitting disposal wells that seek to use the Permian group of formations as a place to put saltwater.

The area of about 15,000 square miles covers parts or all of 17 counties between the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and the Oklahoma-Texas state line.

Much of that temporary exclusionary zone is inside a previously declared area of interest the agency created in 2015 that prohibited any future saltwater disposal wells drilled there from using the Arbuckle formation as a place to get rid of the water.

Skinner stressed Monday that the commission and consultants continue to evaluate the situation, including investigating how it was caused. If an oil and gas operator were identified as being responsible, it would be liable to pay for costs the agency incurred to contain and remediate the purge.

“Operators are still conducting further testing at our requests, and further actions may be necessary, depending on the data,” he said.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›