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RBDMS Seismic/UIC Application: Real-Time Data to Make Real-Time Decisions

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Oklahoma Earthquakes on the Rise

In 2013, the state of Oklahoma experienced 109-magnitude 3+ earthquakes. In 2015, that number had increased by 732 percent to 907-magnitude 3+ earthquakes.  Oklahoma has historically experienced some level of seismicity, but nothing to this extent.  This dramatic increase was national news and citizens were vocal about their concerns for their homes and their safety.  It was soon discovered that the rise in earthquakes could not be entirely attributed to natural causes.  Seismologists documented the relationship between wastewater disposal and triggered seismic activity.  The Oklahoma Geological Survey determined that the majority of recent earthquakes in central and north central Oklahoma were very likely triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells.

Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity

In September 2014, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin formed the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity with the charge to organize state resources and activities related to the state’s recent increase in seismic activity. The Council identified that Oklahoma’s current system for collecting disposal well data needed to be modernized.  They asked the GWPC to lead development of an application that would visualize data and interact with injection wells and earthquakes on a map as well as isolate target wells and locations for analysis.

Prior to the development of the application, Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) staff collected underground injection control (UIC) data from producers on an excel spreadsheet.  A great deal of staff time was utilized to combine all of the spreadsheets and then compare information to a separate database on seismic activity.  Pulling this data into a standard Geographic Information System (GIS) was a time-consuming process with limited utility. Now with the OCC-developed eForm and the Seismic/UIC Application, staff have access to near real-time data. Work taking 3-6 days now takes minutes, and the application serves as an essential tool for initial analysis of seismic concerns.

Innovative Solution

“This is a state-of-the-art, cutting edge tool and it will help us do our jobs better.  Innovation like this is exciting.” said Bob Griffith, Information Systems Service Coordinator for the OCC’s Oil and Gas Division.

By reducing the amount of staff time necessary to analyze data, OCC now has additional time for deeper analysis of present day and historical seismic/production data, which helps to shape proactive and sound regulatory action if necessary, as well as to more easily verify operator compliance.  Additionally, the application is now available to other select researchers through the OCC, allowing for easier collaboration between the OCC and other local and national experts.

As part of the RBDMS suite of products, the Seismic/UIC Application is expanding its impact nationally. State regulatory agencies nationwide have the opportunity to piggyback on Oklahoma’s success by implementing the application in their programs. Although it can be customized to the needs of each state, the collaborative nature of RBDMS allows them to do so at a reduced cost, thereby saving valuable taxpayer dollars.

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