Flurry of earthquakes in Salina region raises new questions about sewage injection


TOPEKA – The 4.3 magnitude earthquake south of Salina in the first week of December affected enough hundreds of people who contacted authorities to report the earthquake.

It turned out to be the precursor to more than a dozen earthquakes in the region, including a 4.0 in Gypsum and 3.5 in Assaria on December 15, Christmas surprise 2.0 in Marion on 3, 9 near Lindsborg and 3.3 at Salina on Sunday, and a triple header Monday morning going from 2.5 to 2.8 on the perimeter of Salina.

This increase in earthquakes has caught the attention of the Kansas Corporation Commission, which is responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry. Earthquakes have also been noted by skeptics of waste fluid injection and hydraulic fracturing, which is a technique for expanding energy production by using wells to force pressurized fluids into formations. rocky.

Linda Berry, a spokesperson for KCC, said commission staff were working with the Kansas Geological Survey and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to investigate potential links between the latest earthquakes in Saline County and the drilling or injection activities.

She said there had been no drilling in the past three months alongside the earthquakes south of Salina in central Kansas. This serves to rule out the theories of hydraulic fracturing that directly induced the earthquakes, she said.

There are no KDHE-regulated Class I sewage disposal wells within 15 miles of earthquakes, Berry said. There are approximately 38 KCC-regulated Class II Arbuckle disposal wells in the 15-mile investigation area, she said.

“KCC staff compiled injection data for these wells going back to 2015 and shared it with KGS and KDHE,” Berry said. “As we analyze this data, we will look for any patterns or trends that could lead to the increase in the number of earthquakes. “

She said KCC had the power to request more detailed injection data from the operators of the 38 wells and could take action to reduce or eliminate the disposal of some wells.

Joe Spease, CEO of WindSoHy, an Overland Park company involved in the development of wind, hydrogen and power storage projects, said that the disposal of liquid waste near Salina elsewhere in the Kansas or other states could explain a wave of earthquakes in Saline County. .

“It all has the same IDs that are associated with what I call ‘frackquakes’,” Spease said.

He said Kansas regulators were at a disadvantage because they relied on companies to voluntarily report the amounts and locations of fluids pumped underground through wells.

The earthquakes in Hutchinson, Hays and Salina prompt the urgency to question whether the KCC should expand the limitations on sewage injection and hydraulic fracturing, Spease said.

The Kansas Geological Survey reported links between induced seismicity and the disposal of wastewater through injection wells. Research indicated that fluids deposited at depth increased pressure along faults to a point where they exceeded frictional forces and triggered earthquakes.

In 2014, a 4.8 magnitude earthquake rocked parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. The US Geological Survey said the epicenter was near Conway Springs, about 25 miles southwest of Wichita. The KCC responded in 2015 with an order limiting the volume of waste fluid injection in the hardest-hit counties of south-central Kansas. Regulatory action has reduced the incidence of earthquakes in this part of the state.


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