CREDIT: AP/ Orlin Wagner
An acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman.
Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.
Skinner told ThinkProgress this is the largest frack-related spill he is aware of in the state’s history. He was unable to comment on the cause of the spill because it is currently under investigation, but said they “think they know the cause.”
“Our main concern is to get the area back to the way it was before the spill happened,” said Skinner. While there are no water wells in the immediate vicinity, there were concerns if not properly taken care of the acid could taint the nearby town of Hennessey’s water supply. A nearby creek flows into the town’s water system and a a rainstorm could result in contamination. However, Skinner said the area was bermed off and the remediation company was able to contain the chemicals through any rain so far. A berm is a small hill or wall or dirt or sand separating two areas.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is overseeing the cleanup of the well, which was operated by Blake Production, an independent oil and gas producer operating wells in four states. The company’s owner, Blake Vernon said the company will compensate the landowner for the next six years for the loss of his alfalfa crop. The landowners’ lawyer Matthew R. Oppel said this may not suffice.
“The spill occurred in the center of my client’s alfalfa field and while the property is currently used for agricultural purposes the Hawks hoped to build a home on their Turkey Creek property,” said Oppel. “Unfortunately the spill will not only affect the Hawks immediate use and enjoyment, but future development may be impossible.”
Recent studies have also revealed a probable link between the wastewater injection process of fracking, in which leftover water used during fracking is injected deep into the ground, and earthquakes. In Oklahoma, these so-called “frackquakes” may be linked to the more than 2,500 small earthquakes that have hit the state in the last five years.
Other nearby states including Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas have also seen a distinct rise in small- to medium-sized earthquakes over the last few years just as the fracking boom has escalated. As of early July, Oklahoma had experienced more than twice the number of earthquakes as California, making it the most seismically active state in the lower 48. Just ten years ago it was ranked 17th.
Oklahoma is also one of the top states in overall oil spills, having experienced 951 reported oil spills in 2013 — more than every other fossil-fuel producing state except North Dakota according to an EnergyWire investigation. However in North Dakota companies have to report any spill larger than one barrel, or 42 gallons, whereas in Oklahoma the threshold is 10 barrels.