RRC takes ‘major step’ to reduce earthquakes

Texas

PERMIAN BASIN, Texas (Nexstar)- With four more earthquakes on Wednesday and Thursday occurring in Northwest Midland County, the Railroad Commission is ordering the indefinite suspension of all deep oil and gas produced water injection in the area effective on Dec. 31.

This is the latest in a series of actions the RRC has taken to help ensure the agency takes all necessary measures to protect residents and the environment in the area.

Operators of disposal wells in the RRC’s Gardendale Seismic Response Area, just north of Odessa and northwest of Midland, will not be permitted to inject below the top of the Strawn Formation, which occurs at around 10,000 feet in depth but can vary, according to the RRC.

The RRC said it determined the suspensions were necessary because of an ever-increasing pattern of earthquakes in the area. The earthquakes on Wednesday and Thursday had a magnitude of 3.1, 3.6, 3.7 and 3.3, according to the state’s TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program.

Inspectors and geologists have been inspecting disposal activity and constantly monitoring seismic data. RRC staff have monitored approximately 30 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 3.0 in the Gardendale SRA since December 2019.

Operators of existing disposal wells in the Gardendale SRA will be allowed to apply to amend their permits for shallow injection, such as in the San Andres Formation, the top of which occurs at a depth of about 5,000 feet. Deeper portions of such amended disposal wells will be required to be plugged, according to a release.

The RRC said its seismologist and staff will continue to monitor earthquakes in the area and take further action, as necessary.

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