By Todd Glasscock
In a statement released this week, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton specifically named Johnson County as an area potentially at risk for non-natural earthquakes caused by injection well activity.
The Railroad Commission plans to collaborate with three research groups, the Bureau of Economic Geology and the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research and the Texas Seismometer Network, according to the release, “to better understand both naturally occurring and potentially induced seismicity and the associated risks.”
The release specifies Johnson County as an area these groups want to look into more closely as potentially affected by oil and gas injection activities.
“The science is clear that it is physically possible for injection wells that dispose of fluids deep underground to cause earthquakes in certain rare cases, given the right set of conditions,” Sitton said in the statement. “I have been working diligently on this issue since I joined the Commission in 2014, and after thorough study and visiting with researchers and operators across Texas, I have determined that we need to begin to look more closely at oil and gas injection activities in specific areas. One such area is Johnson County. I have seen credible data and science from operators that lead me to believe that area has elevated risks of seismicity related to disposal activities, and therefore warrants additional investigation.”
A study in the journal Science recently confirmed five quakes, one of which was a 4.8 magnitude temblor, in East Texas in 2012 and 2013 were directly related to injection wells, the sites used to store waste water from oil and gas drilling.
Stanford geophysicist William Ellsworth, who co-authored the study, told the Dallas Morning News that researchers developed a technique using radar and satellites that can determine which quakes are natural and which are man-made. It also showed high-volume deep water wells are kinds of wells responsible for the quakes.