A week ago, an earth quake with a 4.5 magnitude struck Texas in the most prolific shale play in the country—the Permian. Days later, another quake shook America’s oil heartland. And seismic activity might eventually force drillers to curb production.
The December 27 quake was the strongest in Texas for the last ten years, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported at the time. It happened at a depth of 4.3 miles near Stanton. And it followed a series of earlier quakes in December.
In the middle of December, the U.S. Geological Survey reported four earthquakes in the vicinity of Midland that occurred within 24 hours. The magnitude of these quakes ranged from 2.9 to 3.7, which is not a whole lot, but the number was concerning, especially since it came after more tremors were detected by the University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology earlier in the year. And after the stronger quake, regulators have stepped in.
The Texas Railroad Commission banned the injection of wastewater from well drilling into deep wells just before the big quake. After the big quake, the commission sent out inspectors to the field as the quake had occurred in an area already under investigation for wastewater disposal in deep wells.
According to Reuters, if the inspection results in a halt of wastewater disposal in the area, this could lead to the shutdown of some 18 disposal wells that pump a combined 9,600 barrels of wastewater. And if drillers cannot dispose of wastewater, then they cannot really drill.
That hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, causes increased seismic activity has been one of the main weapons in the arsenal of anti-fracking activists. Indeed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the practice of splitting shale rock formation to extract the oil contained in it does cause increased seismic activity. Only it’s not the fracking itself. It’s the wastewater.
Fracking requires enormous amounts of liquid, and this liquid, called wastewater but in fact, a mixture of water and chemicals, needs to be disposed of. Disposal usually takes place in disposal wells, some of them quite deep to hold more wastewater. It is these underground wastewater reservoirs that have been linked to increased seismic activity in some oil regions.
Five years ago, for instance, Oklahoma drew media attention because of the significantly increased frequency of earthquakes since the start of the shale boom. The state, one of the big oil producers in the U.S., had negligible seismic activity before 2009 when fracking really took off. By 2016, Oklahoma was recording an average of two quakes a day, what was earlier the average for a year. To date, quakes are just as frequent.
According to website Earthquake Tracker, there have been 10 earthquakes in Oklahoma in the last seven days, 68 quakes in the past 30 days, and 2,063 quakes in the past year. Of course, most of these are minor, but due to their increased frequency, they can still cause and have caused material damage. The issue even led to litigation seeking insurance coverage against the effects of wastewater disposal from oil wells. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs in this case, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma this month ruled that no insurance coverage exists for bodily injury or property damage caused by wastewater disposal-related seismic activity.
Interestingly enough, there used to be insurance coverage for such damages until a few years ago. As seismic activity grew, Oklahoma insurers started getting increasingly aware of the fact that upping the premiums for earthquake coverage (by 200% in some cases) was not sufficient to avoid substantial losses at this rate of seismic activity. So they began removing this coverage from their service offering and rejecting claims for quake-caused damage, attributing it instead to houses settling or just being plain too old.
The Permian is a bigger producer of oil than Oklahoma. It is the biggest producing oil region in the United States and the driver of its production growth, seen as substantial this year as prices remain comfortably high. But unless producers can find an alternative to injecting wastewater into deep wells, some of that production growth might never happen in order to avoid turning Texas into the second earthquake capital of the U.S. after Oklahoma.
The alternatives include trucking the wastewater away and disposing of it elsewhere, therefore distributing the burden of tons of water that, if dumped into an underground well, could cause heightened seismic activity. Another alternative is to recycle the water, and it might be worth motivating drillers to consider it as the amounts of water used in shale wells drilling are not going any smaller: according to the Groundwater Protection Council, a single horizontal well requires 45 million liters of water.
The U.S. oil and gas industry generates hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater every year. This water’s disposal can and does cause increased seismic activity in some places. Shutting down disposal wells cannot be a permanent decision, not for an industry that is just tentatively returning to growth.
By: Irina Slav
Slav reports for Oilprice.com
OML40 Host Community Threatens Shut Down NPDC Elerest Operations
Tsekelewu Community, host to Opuama flow station operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC/Elcrest Joint Venture in Egbeama, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, has vowed to shutdown the company’s operations next week, if the company fails to heed their demand.
The community is asking the company to stop its dredging activities in the area, saying it was facing an imminent physical blockade as a result of artificial siltation and drying up of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community waterways by the dredging activities.
President-General of Tsekelewu Community, Engr. Bright Abulu, lamented that the dredging activities if not stopped immediately, will cut off the community from the rest of the world.
Abulu explained that the company has continually ignored the community, despite series of letters sent to the company for a meeting to address the hazardous effects of its dredging operations on the community’s access waterways.
He said despite three of its letters being acknowledged by the Managing Director of NPDC, there has been no response from the company regarding holding meeting to address the issue.
He warned that the community will have no other option but to shutdown the company’s operations in the area.
Abulu said: “Regrettably, NPDC/Elcrest have refused to honor Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community invitations to a meeting intended to proffer solutions to the negative impact of the dredging of the main waterways on mobility and economic activities of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community.
“Yet the dredging project is going on unabated to the extent that an oil well drilling rig has been moved into our territory to carry out extensive drilling operations.
“Consequent upon the inexplicable silence of the company, it has become imperative to alert the Management of NPDC, Delta State Government, Federal Government and the International Community of the danger our people are facing and the imminent physical blockade of the community’s waterways as a result of artificial siltation and drying up of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community waterways by NPDC/Elcrest past and ongoing dredging activities, which is about to cut us off from the rest of the world.
“As you all know, our transportation system is by waterways; and, now that we are practically grounded as a result of the operations of NPDC/Elcrest, we can no longer remain silent.
“As a peaceful and law-abiding people, we hereby demand for NPDC to respect the right of the community to exist and carry out its traditional and economic activities.
“Within seven days from now, the management of NPDC should invite the leadership of the Polobubo (Tsekelewu) Community National Executive Council to a meeting to amicably resolve this issue. We believe that the company will appreciate this peaceful gesture by doing the needful without further delay.
“The nation and international community is, therefore put on notice, that at the expiration of the seven day ultimatum on January 26, 2022 and the issues remain unresolved, we will be left with no other alternative but to shut down the NPDC/Elcrest operations within our God-given territory in OML 40.”
Nigeria’s Largest LPG Storage Facility Gets Dec Completion Date
A subsidiary of Ardova PLC, AP LPG terminal, has commenced the construction of a 20,000 metric tonne Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage terminal in Lagos.
This signifies the official commencement of construction activities which is expected to be completed in December 2022.
Upon completion, the project will be the largest LPG storage facility in the nation, and will ease some of the existing bottlenecks in the value chain for the supply of cleaner and more efficient energy for domestic use (cooking gas) in Nigeria, amongst other strategic benefits.
Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ardova Olumide Adeosun, expressed his appreciation to Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund for its commitment to the project.
He noted that the importance of having formidable partners for project development, planning, execution, and investment support cannot be over-emphasised.
“We are pleased to have the support of the Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund for its pioneering role in a transformational project within the LPG value chain, which will undoubtedly accelerate the various energy transition initiatives currently underway at Ardova,” he said.
He added that “this support has helped us commence construction of this 20,000 metric tonne LPG storage terminal, which is expected to bring efficiency and reliability of LPG supply to Nigerian consumers as well as create long term value for our shareholders.”
He noted further that “beyond the cleaner energy premise, approximately 600 direct jobs will be created during the construction of the project and there is a multiplier effect of about additional 1,400 indirect jobs that will be created during the construction period after which it settles to about 250 to 300 jobs once the project becomes operational.”
The Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Asset Management, Oladele Sotubo, on his part, stated that “across the globe, cleaner energy investments have continued to be the focus.
“Given the environmental sustainability benefits of this project, Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Funds investment philosophy is properly aligned, hence the support for the 20,000 metric tonnes Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage facility terminal”, he said.
A portion of the First Tranche of the N100 billion Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund, which closed in August 2021, was used to part-finance the LPG storage terminal.
Sotubo went on to express his gratitude to Ardova for partnering with Stanbic IBTC Infrastructure Fund, commending all the Tranche one investors, including institutional investors and other High Networth Individuals (HNIs), for the confidence reposed in the fund.
He pointed out the impact their investment is making in terms of solving some of Nigeria’s infrastructure bottlenecks, creating jobs while earning returns, saying, “as an organisation, we remain committed to bridging Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit through the provision of investment capital needed to develop projects.”
Taskforce Destroys 39 Artisanal Refineries …Recovers 950,000 Litres Of Stolen Crude
The Joint Taskforce operating in the Niger Delta region, codenamed Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), says it has discovered and immobilised 39 illegal refining sites, 91 cooking ovens, 24 reservoirs, 17 large dugout pits and 96 storage tanks in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States in the last two weeks.
OPDS also recovered a total of 637,500 litres of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil and 950,000 litres of stolen crude oil during the course of the operations.
Acting Director, Defence Media Operations, Major-General Bernard Onyeuko, disclosed that 10 suspects associated with pipeline vandalism, piracy, illegal oil bunkering and armed robbery were arrested within the period under review.
Onyeuko said troops of OPDS conducted these operations at different locations in villages, creeks and towns in Emohua, Ikwerre, Port Harcourt and Ahoada Local Government Areas of Rivers State.
Other locations, according to him, are villages, towns and creeks in Warri South, Warri South-West and Warri North LGAs of Delta State as well as in Ekeremor, Brass and Southern Ijaw LGAs of Bayelsa State.
“Also, troops recovered 3 assorted arms, 48 rounds of different calibre of ammunitions, two AK-47 rifle magazines as well as 17 pieces of galvanized pipes and 23 wooden boats among other items used for illegal oil bunkering activities in the course of the operations.
“All the arrested criminals and recovered items have been handed over to relevant security agencies for further action.”
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