WICHITA, Kansas – The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates energy in Kansas, has issued an order requiring those who operate saltwater disposal wells to reduce the amount of saltwater injected into certain areas of Harper and Sumner counties.

The Kansas Geological Survey identified areas of seismic concern in those counties, as part of a task force, started by Governor Sam Brownback, to investigate a possible correlation between fracking and earthquakes.RELATED LINK: Kansas Induced Seismicity Task Force

Saltwater disposal is a process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process uses a combination of water and chemicals, to release oil and gas from the ground. To deal with the water after the process, operators inject water into disposal wells.

The order requires those who operate disposal wells into specific areas of the Arbuckle formation to limit that disposal. It requires a limit of 16,000 barrels of saltwater per day, within 10 days of the order, 12,000 barrels per day within 55 days, 8,000 barrels per day within 100 days, for a total reduction of up to 60 percent over that time.RELATED LINK: Order from Kansas Corporation Commission

The order also sets a maximum daily injection permit limit of 25,000 barrels of saltwater on all Arbuckle injection wells in Harper and Sumner counties that aren’t in the areas specifically identified in the order.

There are more than 4,300 Arbuckle injection wells statewide, and this order impacts only a few of those wells. The order points out that “Arbuckle injection currently occurs in many areas throughout Kansas without any recorded seismic activity.”

The United States Geological Survey has recorded 51 earthquakes from January 1 to March 16 of this year. Last year the state had 127 earthquakes. That’s up from four in 2013, and 30 recorded between 1981 and 2010.

During the last few years, the area has seen a large increase in injection wells. The order lists 44 wells in Harper county in 2010, to 71 in 2013, with 18 new permit applications in 2014. During that same time, the number of barrels of saltwater injected increased five-fold, from 9.6 million barrels in 2010 to 51.8 million barrels in 2013.  In Sumner County, the order lists 52 wells in 2010 to 79 in 2013, with 17 new permit applications in 2014. The amount of saltwater injected increased from 9.7 million barrels in 2010 to 10.7 million barrels in 2013.

The penalty to abide by the restrictions or reporting requirements may result in a penalty of up to $10,000 per day of a continuing violation. Companies who may be affected by the order can request a hearing.