Earthquake dashboard streamlines Oklahoma regulatory response

(The Oklahoman) Earthquake rates may have declined in Oklahoma in recent months, but that doesn't mean regulators are resting on their laurels.

Instead, they are continuing to refine technology and data collection practices from researchers and oil and gas companies. Among those efforts is the evolution of a visual "dashboard" developed by the Groundwater Protection Council with the help of other organizations.

The software pulls in publicly available data from earthquake repositories, faults and up-to-date information on the amount of wastewater injected into deep disposal wells. It combines those data points with mapping software to give regulators a quick look at the factors that researchers have linked to the state's rise in earthquakes.

Although there's nothing secretive about the data behind the dashboard, it's only available to regulators and researchers, said Dan Yates, associate executive director of the Groundwater Protection Council.

"This is a 'first-look' tool," Yates said during a recent demonstration of the software at the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board in Oklahoma City. "It's to give them a real quick, top-of-mind look at what's going on. None of this is top-secret data; it's just data put together in a way to make their jobs easier."

The software took about three months to develop, with the $130,000 project cost shared by the Groundwater Protection Council, OERB, the Corporation Commission and the federal Energy Department. Yates managed the project, which also included contractors from Coordinate Solutions, a geographic information systems company.

Cuts response time

The dashboard has been in use for about a year, but really proved its worth last September, when a magnitude-5.8 earthquake rocked the Pawnee area.

"The bottom line is that it has enabled us to do in minutes what literally took us weeks," said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. "We can quickly customize the correlations between earthquake activity and the injection rates, all the vital information we'd used to have to chase down in paper filings."

The Pawnee earthquake hit on a Saturday morning. By afternoon, regulators had a plan ready to direct operators in the area to curtail their disposal well volumes.

"What was taking two or three staff two days to do, now takes five minutes," Yates said. "It's just saving them (regulators) an inordinate amount of time, and gives them the ability to jump and be responsive to the problem. It gets that data management out of the way."

Yates said the Groundwater Protection Council has had some preliminary discussions with regulators in other states about the dashboard, including some states that haven't been affected by induced seismicity. Parts of the underlying code are useful for related applications, such as well management.

"Data sharing between government entities and agencies is technologically simple and politically difficult, just because of the law and the bureaucracy," Yates said. "Parts of the code are getting incorporated into other projects we do. That's why the Department of Energy partly funded it — to cut down on the (software) development time."