Scientists claim to have established that the spike in earthquakes in the DFW area can be traced to saltwater injection – a byproduct of drilling and fracking operations. The Associated Press reports that a study has linked the small earthquakes occurring west of Fort Worth to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater injection.
And the good news? With reduced fracking activity and the resulting injection of wastewater, it is predicted that there will be fewer earthquakes.
In 84 days from November 2013 to January 2014, the area around Azle, Texas, shook with 27 magnitude 2 or greater earthquakes, while scientists at Southern Methodist University and the U.S. Geological Survey monitored the shaking. It’s an area that had no recorded quakes for 150 years on faults that “have been inactive for hundreds of millions of years,” said SMU geophysicist Matthew Hornbach.
When the volume of injections decreased significantly, so did the shaking.
The scientists concluded that removing saltwater from the wells in the gas production process and then injecting that wastewater back underground “represent the most likely cause” for the swarm of quakes, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
The scientists determined this based on where and when the earthquakes happened; computer models that track pressure changes; and company data from nearby wells. Hornbach said the timing and location of the quakes correlates better to the drilling and injection than any other possible reason.
“There appears to be little doubt about the conclusion that the earthquakes were in fact induced,” USGS seismologist Susan Hough, who wasn’t part of the study team, said in an email. “There’s almost an abundance of smoking guns in this case.”