Column: Industry’s Response to Earthquake Concerns in the Permian Basin

Here’s a closer look at recent seismic activity in the Permian Basin and how the oil and gas industry is responding.

By Steve Hendrickson, Ralph E. Davis Associates
Column: Industry’s Response to Earthquake Concerns in the Permian Basin

The Texas RRC has determined that saltwater disposal activities are most likely the cause of the increase and has established a Seismic Response Area to “coordinate action with industry to reduce the seismic hazard.” (Source: Hart Energy)

Some of our recently highlighted industry headlines have mentioned increased concerns about seismic activity in the Permian Basin that may be the result of extensive saltwater disposal (SWD) volumes related to increased fracking and produced water. Here’s a closer look.

According to data from the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, detected seismic events with a magnitude greater than 2.0 have increased significantly. Most of these are in the magnitude 2-3 range, which aren’t likely to be felt or cause damage. Above this level, the potential for minor structural damage increases, and although this is an area of low population, even minor damage is a cause of concern. The industry’s experience in Oklahoma a few years ago was that increasing numbers of small seismic events were accomplished by the increased probability of more potentially damaging ones.

Looking at where the events have been located, we see the concentration in Culberson, Reeves and Ector counties, which are areas of high drilling activity over the last several years. The majority of the events on this map are in Culberson County.

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