Texas RRC Turns to AI

Texas RRC Turns to AI
The Texas Railroad Commission announced that it has turned to artificial intelligence.

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has announced that it has turned to artificial intelligence to optimize the time the agency’s technical analysts spend on seismicity reviews to ensure residents and the environment are protected.

The RRC, which highlighted that seismicity reviews are conducted by the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Department for injection/disposal well permits in areas susceptible to earthquakes and in certain geologic zones, said UIC staff programed a machine learning algorithm to help with the large amount of information that needs to be processed and digested. According to the RRC, tasks performed by the machine learning algorithm have enabled the UIC to wipe out a backlog of seismic reviews to zero.

The AI program weighs many factors related to the number, severity and proximity of earthquakes and uses a decision tree to assign a grade to the review, the RRC noted, adding that, the higher the grade, the more the permit would be allowed to inject. The RRC outlined that the AI process assists the technical analyst, who reviews the data and ultimately makes the final judgment.

“Over time, since we are accruing more data every day, we will be able to produce more accurate models by feeding the machine learning algorithm more data,” Sean Avitt, the manager of the UIC Department, said in an organization statement.

“It’s not a replacement for our technical analysts. It’s a tool that not only allows them to do their jobs more quickly, but it helps them make the best possible decision on each seismic review,” he added in the statement.

Back in March, the RRC announced that it had implemented the first-ever operator-led plan to reduce seismicity in West Texas. The plan for the Northern Culberson-Reeves Seismic Response Area (SRA) addresses injection-induced seismicity and is meant to reduce the intensity and frequency of earthquakes, the RRC highlighted in a statement at the time. This is one of three SRAs in West Texas that the RRC has created to address injection-induced seismic activity from disposal wells, the organization noted.

In January, RRC Commissioner Jim Wright highlighted that oil and gas producing regions in Texas, including those in Permian Basin, had experienced an increase in seismic activity over the last year. In a statement posted on the RRC website, Wright said the most probable culprit, according to seismologists, was the injection of saltwater into underground formations to dispose of it. He outlined, however, that through the recently formed Produced Water Consortium, it was his hope that Texas can find a workable solution that will reduce the potential of future seismic events by finding alternative, productive uses for the produced water generated during oil and gas extraction.

Established in 1891, the RRC is the oldest regulatory agency in the state and one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. The organization is the state agency with primary regulatory jurisdiction over the oil and natural gas industry, pipeline transporters, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline industry, natural gas utilities, the LP-gas industry, and coal and uranium surface mining operations. 

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com


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