Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Southern Methodist University are currently monitoring seismic activity around Azle, Texas amidst claims that a series of small earthquakes that occurred in the area in late 2013 were caused by disposal wells. The seismic monitors installed by SMU and the USGS would allow researchers to determine the epicenter of any earthquake within 200-300 meters and the depth to within 500 meters.

There are currently five active disposal wells in northern Parker County and southern Wise County, an area which experienced 20 earthquakes in November and December 2013. These earthquakes prompted the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, to hold a public meeting in Azle on January 2, 2014. One of the outcomes of that meeting was a Railroad Commission vote to hire an in-house seismologist. “When earthquakes are reported, our staff will determine if saltwater disposal wells are nearby and then inspect the facilities to ensure that they are in compliance with their Railroad Commission permit conditions,” said spokeswoman Ramona Nye.

One member of the USGS, Art McGarr, has said that the researchers expect to present their findings in late April 2014, but could come to a determination earlier than that based on previously gathered data on other quakes in the area. McGarr and other researchers have said that it would be difficult to connect a seismic event with a single disposal well, but a series of seismic events such as those that have occurred in the Azle area could provide evidence of a correlation between seismic events and activities surrounding disposal wells. “Evidence would be if earthquakes started not too long after an injection well began operation,” McGarr said. “If they started within one or two months, that’s pretty good evidence. Even better evidence is if injection is stopped and the earthquakes stop.”

Media Coverage Resources:

Injection wells seen as possible cause of earthquakes

Are injection wells helping spark Texas quakes?”