Science & Technology

Yet Another Study: Oil and Gas Industry at Fault for North Texas Quakes

More research connects fracking to seismic activity in North Texas.

A disposal well near Azle. (Photo: Elizabeth Lavin)

A new study lends further credence to something everyone but state regulators seem willing to acknowledge, that human activity—specifically the wastewater injection associated with fracking—is responsible for much of the ground-shaking North Texas has experienced over the last decade.

Published over the weekend in the journal Science Advances, the report’s authors include researchers from SMU and the U.S. Geological Survey. What distinguishes this study from past research connecting North Texas earthquakes to human activity is the analysis of “high-resolution seismic reflection data,” collected by a sort of underground ultrasound that uncovers hundreds of millions of years of geological history. Researchers had to sift through 300 million years of geological layers to to find any signs of an active fault underneath Texas, leading them to rule out the possibility that recent earthquakes here were caused by natural forces. (For comparison, the team also studied data from north Mississippi, which unlike North Texas, has a pre-2008 history of seismic activity.)

The remaining culprit, then, is the oil and gas industry.

Magnani et al., Science Advances, 2017.

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