Shake, rattle and inject

Posted on 06. Aug, 2012 by

University of Texas at Austin released a study today that found earthquakes occur at a higher rate near disposal/saltwater injection wells.

Cliff Frohlich, associate director of the Institute for Geology at University of Texas at Austin, started re-investigating the phenomenon a few years ago after several earthquakes occurred in the Metroplex and Cleburne in 2008 and 2009.

The UT study reviewed data from seismographs placed in the Barnett Shale between November 2009 and September 2011.

“I analyzed these data and located 67 earthquakes, more than eight times as many as reported by the National Earthquake Information Center,” read the report. “Most of the epicenters were “within 3.2 km of one or more injection wells. These included wells near Dallas-Fort Worth and Cleburne, where earthquakes near injection wells were reported by the media in 2008 and 2009, as well as wells in six other locations, including several where no earthquakes have been reported previously. This suggests injection-triggered earthquakes are more common than is generally recognized.”

“There is a long history of man-made earthquakes,” Frohlich said in an interview. “When you inject enough fluids into a deep well, there’s always a chance to cause an earthquake.”

Earthquakes aren’t always associated with high volume injection wells though. There are 32 injection wells in Wise County, and there hasn’t been an earthquake reported her since 1950.

“It’s important to remember that most of the time these don’t cause earthquakes,” Frohlich said. “There are tens of thousands of injection wells in Texas, and we’ve only had a handful of earthquakes caused by them.”

Messenger graphic by Jimmy Alford

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