The state Oil and Gas Commission proposes to end waste disposal wells in a 1,150-square-mile earthquake-prone area in the Fayetteville Shale gas zone in Faulkner and surrounding counties. The rule would call for plugging old wells and allowing no new ones.
The wells pump underground the waste liquid produced by the search for gas through hydraulic fracturing. Concerns have been raised that the process can encourage tremors. Minor earthquake swarms have been reported in the area where injection wells have been drilled. Gas companies have tended to discount any correlation, but they agreed to stop injection well operations in the area of the quakes while the Geological Survey and state officials studied the issue.
The proposal will be discussed at a July meeting, according to a statement released today, and is supported by Gov. Mike Beebe. The prohibition would cover territory ranging from Conway to Heber Springs and a part of Greers Ferry Lake. Here’s a map of the affected area.
Significantly, the commission has found no correlation between earthquake activity and production wells, but decided action was warranted on the waste injection wells.
Additionally, in areas outside this zone, the Commission proposes to set new requirements for disposal wells, including seismic data to identify fault zones, setbacks from fault zones and spacing between disposal wells.