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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Environmental Geosciences (DEG)


Environmental Geosciences V. 12, No. 2 (June 2005), P. 89-99.

Copyright copy2005. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists/Division of Environmental Geosciences. All rights reserved.


Environmental releases from exploration and production operations in Oklahoma: Type, volume, causes, and prevention

J. Berton Fisher,1 Kerry L. Sublette2

1Center for Applied Biogeosciences, University of Tulsa, 600 South College Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104; [email protected]
2Center for Applied Biogeosciences, University of Tulsa, 600 South College Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104; [email protected]


J. Berton Fisher is an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Tulsa and president of Lithochimeia, Inc. Fisher is a geochemist with extensive experience in the applied biogeochemistry of organic and inorganic materials. His principal research interests are the application of biogeochemical knowledge to environmental issues and hydrocarbon exploration and production problems.

Kerry Sublette is a professor of chemical engineering and geosciences and Sarkeys Chair of Environmental Engineering at the University of Tulsa. He also serves as the director of the Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium, an Environmental Protection Agency research center. His research interests include the remediation of oil- and brine-contaminated sites and ecological indicators of the restoration of damaged soil ecosystems.


The authors thank the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) for access to the data reviewed in this paper. We also thank Mike Schmidt, formerly of the OCC, for having the foresight to initiate the OCC Complaint Database in 1992.


A total of 16,906 recent fluid releases were reported to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) during the 10-yr period from 1993 to 2003. Of these, 12,863 were identified as exploration- and production-related releases of oil or saltwater from identified geographic areas. The primary reported origins of oil and saltwater releases were leaks from lines, tanks, wellheads, surface equipment, and pits. Important reported causes of fluid releases range from common overflows (tank, pit, and dike), intentional dumping or other illegal activity, storms, fires or explosions, accidents (including the actions of livestock), and to occasional corrosion. Approximately 34% of all recent oil or saltwater releases resulted in reported injury to environmental receptors (surface water, crops or livestock, soil, fish, or wildlife). For the 10-yr period of record, 41% of all exploration and production complaints to OCC involved the release of oil or saltwater. On an annual basis, complaints involving the release of fluids decreased from 65.8% in 1993 to 46.1% in 2002. Releases specifically identified as involving oil or saltwater comprised 76.1% of all fluid releases. Quantified releases of oil had a median volume of 10 bbl, whereas quantified releases of saltwater had a median volume of 40 bbl. For those releases in which the volume of both oil and saltwater were quantified, the volume of saltwater spilled was approximately 76% of the total volume.

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