We actively support the advancement of scientific understanding of any links between seismicity and oil and gas activity, as well as robust regulatory oversight and information sharing to prevent and mitigate seismic activity potentially connected to our operations.
To achieve this, Marathon Oil is a founding and continuing supporter of the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity. The center’s mission is to conduct fundamental research on the physical processes responsible for induced and triggered seismicity, and to develop a scientifically based framework for seismic risk assessment and risk management. We also sponsor the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Network and its research arm, the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research at The University of Texas at Austin. TexNet collects high-quality data on earthquakes in Texas, and conducts fundamental and applied research to better understand naturally occurring and potentially induced earthquakes and associated risks.
Marathon Oil co-founded the largest private seismic monitoring array in the world. This array of seismometers located strategically across the STACK/SCOOP plays in Oklahoma allows us to constantly monitor operations and implement protocols to mitigate any seismicity that may occur as a result of our operations.
In addition to helping advance the science of seismicity, Marathon Oil is a leader in working cooperatively with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) in its efforts to make robust guidance available for all operators to address seismicity concerns within the state. We support regulatory oversight of our operations in Oklahoma and other states, and require our contractors and employees to follow applicable seismicity guidelines in all areas where we operate.
Marathon Oil also participates in a technical subcommittee of Oklahoma’s Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity. Formed by the Oklahoma governor in 2014, this council organizes state resources and activities to address seismicity. As part of the subcommittee’s work, in January 2019 Marathon Oil employees joined with industry experts to share best practices for mitigating seismic activity from pre-drilling through active operations, based on lessons learned from the state’s most active operators in the STACK/SCOOP.
Preventing Seismic Activity
Most injection wells are not associated with felt earthquakes, according to the USGS, which has found that a combination of many factors is necessary for injection to contribute to earthquakes that can be felt. In Oklahoma, the OCC has designated Areas of Concern where injection is restricted due to seismic activity.
Marathon Oil currently does not own or operate any injection wells for wastewater disposal in targeted formations that have been linked to seismic activity in Oklahoma, and does not operate in any areas with similar restrictions. We take precautions to prevent disposal of produced water from our sites into formations that have been linked to seismic activity. Precautions include contracting with vetted third-party water haulers to dispose of produced water in approved disposal sites that don’t inject into targeted formations.
While seismicity associated with completion activity is rare, Marathon Oil monitors seismicity at our completions sites in Oklahoma and cooperates with industry to mitigate seismic activity. Initiating mitigation activities promptly can significantly reduce or eliminate the likelihood of felt earthquakes that may be associated with well stimulation.
We follow the OCC’s Well Completion Seismicity Protocol, which requires operators to develop and implement a mitigation plan prior to completing any wells and to take actions for seismic events greater than or equal to 2.0 magnitude within 5 kilometers of the well, with requirements increasing as event magnitude increases. Under Marathon Oil’s mitigation plan, which is more stringent than the requirements in the OCC protocol, we:
- Conduct risk analysis as part of our pre-spud and pre-stimulation planning.
- Actively monitor seismic activity before, during and after well stimulation using the private array of seismometers and publicly available data to accurately detect events.
- Maintain and exercise appropriate mitigation plans based on real-time monitoring of seismic activity, with immediate response and validation 24/7.
- Take early operational actions to mitigate pressure buildup.
- Respond following seismic activity within 5 kilometers of our hydraulic fracturing operations, whether the activity may be related to our operations or those of other operators.
- Notify OCC’s Induced Seismicity Department and confer with its staff members regarding any pause, suspension or resumption of fracturing.
As a result of Marathon Oil’s collaborative efforts with the OCC and our industry peers, there were zero seismic events greater than 2.5 magnitude in the vicinity of Marathon Oil’s operations that triggered the OCC guidelines in 2018. We’re proud of the progress our industry has made, and we continue to work to prevent seismic activity in our operating areas.
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