Michael Teague, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, spoke about water and earthquakes at Enid Regional Development Alliance’s quarterly luncheon Thursday.

“The drought is not over,” he said. “I think it is for right now, but I do think a long-term problem that our state faces is how to increase our water, water we can use.”

Speaking at Oakwood Country Club, Teague said the conversation includes looking at re-use of wastewater produced through oil and gas exploration during a process known as hydraulic fracturing.

“This presentation is about water but for right now, that starts with earthquakes,” Teague said. “In 2013 we had about three dozen earthquakes above a 3.0; last year we had about 1,000. I really don’t go any place any more where I don’t talk about earthquakes.”

Last year Oklahoma placed 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater back into the ground, Teague said. That is water Oklahoma could be using elsewhere, he said.

“If you’re going to clean this produced water to drinking water standards, that’s a really high standard and really expensive and it takes a lot of power to clean water that far,” Teague said. “Our drinking water is not our biggest water user in the state. Agriculture is the biggest water user, municipal is the second and utilities is the third, which is commonly used cooling water for power plants.”

Teague said he consistently hears that earthquakes are the fault of the oil and gas industry.

“Everyone says it’s the oil and gas companies’ fault, but if they clean the water to the point where someone can use it, should they be a part of this process? Absolutely,” he said. “That’s why we have a working group. We need to talk about how we can use this water to all of our advantage.”

Gov. Mary Fallin announced the creation of Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group at a water conference in December. The group will discuss treating wastewater produced from oil and gas activities in north central Oklahoma. Fallin has not announced who will be on the working group.

“We have to put this (treating wastewater) in a regulatory framework that protects our environment, but if we make it so tight you can’t ever do this, we leave no space for innovation,” Teague said about the process. “We have to craft for innovation, create the space and at the same time wrap it around so it does not harm the environment and cause problems.”

Teague said the solution is a long-term one, not a politically charged one. Treating wastewater may not be Oklahoma’s earthquake solution, but it could help with the drought, he said.

“We have addressed volume and still had earthquakes,” he said. “We’ve been told by researchers that we’re not going out far enough. We focus on where the problem is. I hear all the time we should have a moratorium but we should focus where the earthquakes are and work with industry to correct the problem.”

Teague said faults already arecritically stressed, which is naturally occurring.

“We’re doing something to induce that,” he said. “It’s a pressure wave and as we put water, the pressure is communicating with those faults.”

Teague said the industry is asking questions about water benefits in regard to quakes.

“The cost for purifying water, if it started on the oil and gas side — it’s about $2 to $3 per barrel to dispose of wastewater,” Teague said. “It’s about $10 to $50 per barrel to purify wastewater. Is it more beneficial to pull water form the Ogallala (aquifer), maybe. Those are the questions we’re trying to get our hands around.”

ERDA’s next quarterly luncheon will be 11:30 a.m. April 21 at Oakwood Country Club.

Story by:  Enid News & Eagle