Texas Earthquakes Tied to Oil and Gas Extraction Activity: SMU Study

Causal Factors for Seismicity Near Azle, Texas
Nature Communications (6, article number: 6728; doi:10.1038/ncomms7728) / by Matthew J. Hornbach, et al.
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150421/ncomms7728/pdf/ncomms7728.pdf

In November 2013, a series of earthquakes began along a mapped ancient fault system near Azle, Texas. Here we assess whether it is plausible that human activity caused these earthquakes. Analysis of both lake and groundwater variations near Azle shows that no significant stress changes were associated with the shallow water table before or during the earthquake sequence. In contrast, pore-pressure models demonstrate that a combination of brine production and wastewater injection near the fault generated subsurface pressures sufficient to induce earthquakes on near-critically stressed faults. On the basis of modelling results and the absence of historical earthquakes near Azle, brine production combined with wastewater disposal represent the most likely cause of recent seismicity near Azle. For assessing the earthquake cause, our research underscores the necessity of monitoring subsurface wastewater formation pressures and monitoring earthquakes having magnitudes of ~M2 and greater. Currently, monitoring at these levels is not standard across Texas or the United States.

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