Most recent earthquakes in North Texas happened close to injection wells used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling in the region, according to new research.
A two-year study by the University of Texas at Austin also found that the relatively minor temblors happened more often than indicated in previous investigations.
The UT study, published this week in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” is the latest to suggest a link between drilling and seismic activity.
“You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,” said Cliff Frohlich, the University of Texas researcher who conducted the study. “But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”
A U.S. Geological Survey report released earlier this year found that an increase in small temblors throughout the Midwest coincides with the injection of drilling wastewater in deep disposal wells. An Ohio state agency concluded in March that a wastewater injection well was responsible for a dozen earthquakes in Youngstown last year. And in June, the National Research Council released a report concluding that while there is a low risk of earthquakes directly tied to oil and gas drilling techniques, underground wastewater injections pose a higher risk of triggering seismic activity.
Drilling companies have said they do not believe earthquakes are linked to injection wells.