Researchers look into possible link between Texas earthquakes, injection wells

Feb. 11, 2014

Researchers at Southern Methodist University have been collecting seismic data linked to the series of small earthquakes northwest of Fort Worth, Texas, in an attempt to determine whether they are related to wastewater injection wells.

Researchers at Southern Methodist University have been collecting seismic data linked to the series of small earthquakes northwest of Fort Worth, Texas, in an attempt to determine whether they are related to wastewater injection wells.

Since November 2013 more than 30 small earthquakes have been registered in northeast Parker County, which is located about 15 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Local residents have expressed concerns that injection wells could be the cause of the earthquakes and have called for the Texas Railroad Commission to shut down operations at the wells. Yet the commission claimed this was not possible without having scientific data on the matter.

Lead researcher Heather DeShon, an associate professor of geophysics at the university, stated that collecting data and analyzing it to check if injection wells had anything to do with the earthquakes could take at least a year. What academics will be trying to discover is the reason why most wells in the United States are not associated with seismic activity, while some do appear to be linked with earthquakes.

RELATED: Oklahoma considers rule changes for wastewater disposal wells

DeShon explained that the sensors located in the area of research found that earthquakes were still occurring but the vast majority of them were too weak to even be reported to the National Earthquake Information Center.

Previous studies in the area have concluded that the hypothesis that injection wells triggered earthquakes was "plausible" but DeShon hopes the ongoing study could provide more precise answers.

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