RRC: No Action on Injection Wells Until Link to Seismic Activity is Shown

The seismologist hired by the Texas Railroad Commission is continuing to “actively engage with industry and the academic community” on finding the cause of earthquakes in areas of Texas, including the seismic activity near Azle, Texas, about 16 miles north of Fort Worth, the Commission told Rigzone. However, given the vital role that fracking plays in the economic growth of the state, the Commission maintained it would not make any “knee-jerk reactions” on the issue.

The comments followed a recent meeting by the Commission’s executive director, Milton Rister, with the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity that was called after the mayors from Azel and nearby Reno, Texas met with the Subcommittee to discuss a series of more than 30 seismic events in the area that began late in 2013, with the last occurring Jan. 28.

Texas has more than 32,000 active disposal and injections wells scattered through the state. Most of them are located in the Permian Basin in West Texas. The first well permitted by the Commission was back in 1936, the Commission told Rigzone.

The seismologist, Dr. Craig Pearson, was hired by the Commission in April, and he said while he was hoping to discover a definitive cause for the earthquakes, a single cause might never be known.

Recently, Southern Methodist University researchers set up a network of seismic monitoring devices to help in establishing the cause of the quakes, and a fault under the Barnett Shale has been located. However, needed data on nearby well operations is proprietary information owned by the drillers, who did not wish to make the information public, Rister said.

The Commission has jurisdiction over threats of water pollution, and can shut in a well if there is an indication that the fluids that are injected into a disposal well are escaping. However, the Commission told Rigzone that inspections on a 15-mile radius of Azle “showed no indications that this was occurring.”


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