A new area under watch by the Texas oil regulator could impact wells responsible for disposing about 270,000 bbl/d of saltwater from oil and gas operations, according to data and analytics firm B3 Insight.

Regulators this month classified a swath of the Permian basin as a so-called “Seismic Response Area” (SRA) after a magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit 11 miles north of Stanton, Texas. Regulators previously identified two other SRAs following an uptick in tremors in the largest U.S. oil-producing region.

In December, regulators suspending permits for 33 disposal wells across four oil-producing counties around Midland, Texas.


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

The ban has West Texas oil producers looking for ways to reduce wastewater injections that could raise costs. Solutions include recycling the wastewater or piping and trucking it elsewhere.

The newly designated area, dubbed the Stanton SRA, affects 72 disposal wells, of which 35 are active and handle roughly 273,000 bbl/d of water, according to analysis from B3. Some 74% of those wells are used for deep disposal, accounting for roughly 197,000 bbl/d of saltwater disposal.

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), which regulates the state's oil and gas industry, said it will work with operators to develop a plan to reduce the risk of earthquakes in that region, with the goal of eliminating magnitude 3.5 or higher quakes 18 months after initiation.

That approach mimics one taken in the North Culberson-Reeves SRA, near New Mexico. Operators there have until Feb. 22 to develop a plan for curtailing quakes or the RRC will implement its own action.