Concerns Over Fracking Earthquakes Spread To Texas

By Charles Kennedy,

The connection between wastewater injection wells and an alarming increase in the frequency of earthquakes is getting a lot more scrutiny these days.

First was Oklahoma, which has suddenly become the earthquake capital of the United States. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2014 in the state. The culprit? Scientists are becoming more confident that the injection of wastewater into disposal wells causes fault lines to “slip,” contributing to the likelihood of an earthquake.

The issue has become highly contentious in Oklahoma. But now the controversy has spread to Texas, where a subsidiary of ExxonMobil is under the microscope. After a series of earthquakes struck near Dallas, Texas regulators are demanding answers. The regulators will hold a set of hearings beginning on June 10 in which they will look into a set of earthquakes that have been linked to disposal wells operated by XTO Energy, a shale gas company purchased by ExxonMobil back in 2010.

Research from Southern Methodist University, based in Dallas, may have found a link between nearby injection wells and the earthquakes. What is worrying state regulators is the fact that the fault line that was triggered had been dormant for a long time, but sprung to life after the disturbance from the disposal wells.

In response to all the seismic activity, regulators sent requests to four energy companies, asking them to shut down their wells and look into the matter. Those companies were EOG Resources, Bosque Disposal Systems LLC, Metro Saltwater Disposal Inc., and Pinnergy Ltd.

While the industry had urged against a rush to judgment in terms of making the link between disposal wells and earthquakes, arguing that more research was needed, the data has become much harder to ignore. The frequency of earthquakes has spiked and seismologists are now confident in the link. Even the CEO of ConocoPhillips Ryan Lance has come out and admitted that there is a connection. “We’ve followed all the data and the evidence and it does appear that in some areas water disposal is creating seismic events,” he said in May. “We’re trying to understand how widespread it is.”

The big question is whether or not regulators are going to crackdown on the industry moving forward. That remains to be seen. By Charles Kennedy,

In Oklahoma, the connection between earthquakes and fracking has long been suppressed by the powerful industry, though by now even the Governor has admitted it. But that wasn’t the case in March when it all came to a head. “You don’t understand” – they “will not allow me to say certain things.” Read… Fracking Industry Conspiring To Cover Up Oklahoma Earthquake Evidence

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  6 comments for “Concerns Over Fracking Earthquakes Spread To Texas

  1. night-train says:

    Any geologist graduating from any reputable program in the last 30 has studied the induced seismicity associated with deep injection wells at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in the 1960s. Other studies followed. Watching the feigned ignorance and outright denials of the oil industry in the last five years has left me astounded. Denial of inconvenient truths for profit is apparently a business model that I missed in my management courses. I guess ethics courses have been replaced with “how to lie convincingly” studies.

  2. craig says:

    Nothing can be done about it. A few weeks ago, the Texas legislature passed a bill that bans localities from banning fracking.

    ‘Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill to block local ordinances against hydraulic fracturing.’

  3. observer says:

    It has nothing to do with fracking directly but is the result of greater volumes of water injected from the flowback following the fracking process. The sooner the industry moves to immediate recycle/reuse onsite (skid-mounted technology is ready to go) the sooner the frequency of the quakes will subside. If industry waits too long, regulators can, will and should shutdown the injection wells. AND the industry needs to start paying property owners for quake-related damage – a class action lawsuit is in the wind……

    • night-train says:

      From analyses of produced brines I have reviewed in the past, part of the reclamation/recycling process should include extracting elements contained in the produced fluids. It might not be economical as a stand-alone venture, but could help reduce over-all costs of production. I think the O&G industry needs some more outside-the-box ideas, besides PR campaigns and outright bullying.

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