Assessing Freshwater Threats From Oil and Gas Drilling On the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 8:20 AM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
Kimberly Ann Elkin , Freshwater Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Stonewall, OK
Bob Hamilton , Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Pawhuska, OK
The 40,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is located in Osage County, in northeastern Oklahoma.  All of the mineral rights for the 1.47M-acre Osage County are held in trust by the US Government for the Osage Nation, with mineral rights being superior to surface rights. The preserve is located in the upper reaches of the Sand Creek watershed which flows northwest to southeast across the preserve. Six additional streams are located on the preserve as well. In 2012, three oil wells were drilled vertically to a depth of 2,500 feet, and then drilled 3,000 feet horizontally. Increased road construction and traffic from drilling operations has the potential to affect streams. An estimated 1,920,000 to 2,560,000 gallons of water was used from groundwater located on the preserve to drill and then hydraulically fracture each well bore. A drilled disposal well was used to re-inject the salty-brine water underground at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so no recycling of water is occurring. Additional vertical and horizontal wells are being considered for drilling during the summer of 2013. The Nature Conservancy is assessing the possible impacts of oil and gas drilling and what the potential effects might be on the freshwater ecosystem.