Quakes continue to shake West Texas


WEST TEXAS - People in West Texas were rattled Wednesday morning with a 2.7 magnitude earthquake around 6:30 a.m.

Residents tweeted near Gardendale that they felt the quake, but didn't report any damage.

West Texas reports more earthquakes than any other part of the state.

The Texas Tribune reports West Texas has seen a dramatic increase in earthquakes, jumping from 19 in 2009 to 1,600 in 2017 alone, according to a study published by the University of Texas at Austin.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, tracked nearly 20 years of seismic activity. The scientists documented more than 7,000 earthquakes near Pecos starting in 2009, most of them so small that no one felt them. The scientists used an earthquake monitoring system that was "some distance" from Pecos but sensitive enough to pick up vibrations 150 miles away.

"West Texas now has the highest seismicity rates in the state," co-author and Southern Methodist University Associate Professor Heather DeShon said in a written statement. "What remained uncertain is when the earthquakes actually started. This study addresses that."

While earthquake activity coincided with a large increase in oil and gas production in West Texas, the study does not try to link the two.

The research lays the groundwork to understand "the relationship between earthquakes and their human and natural causes," Peter Hennings, the study's coauthor and a research scientist at the UT Bureau of Economic Geology, said in a written statement.

However, an excerpt from the U.S. Geological Survey states “Most induced earthquakes are not directly caused by hydraulic fracturing. The recent increase in earthquakes . . . is primarily caused by disposal of waste fluids that are a byproduct of oil production.

Wastewater disposal wells typically operate for longer durations and inject much more fluid than is injected during the hydraulic fracturing process, making them more likely to induce earthquakes. In Oklahoma, which has the most induced earthquakes in the United States, 2% of earthquakes can be linked to hydraulic fracturing operations. Given the high rate of seismicity in Oklahoma, this means that there are still many earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing. The remaining earthquakes are induced by wastewater disposal. The largest earthquake known to be induced by hydraulic fracturing in the United States was a magnitude 4.0 earthquake that occurred in 2018 in Texas.

West Texas has had five earthquakes in the last nine days ranging from Midland and Odessa to Fort Stockton and Mentone. The largest of the most recent events was a 3.0 magnitude in Odessa.

For more information on local, regional, national, or global earthquakes, visit earthquaketrack.com.