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Index > Environment > United States of America > Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in Texas

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Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in Texas

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National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in the Cogdell oil field, Texas

October 4, 2013 - Between 2006 and 2011 a series of earthquakes occurred in the Cogdell oil field near Snyder, TX.

A previous series of earthquakes occurring 1975–1982 was attributed to the injection of water into wells to enhance oil production.

We evaluated injection and extraction of oil, water, and gas in the Cogdell field. Water injection cannot explain the 2006–2011 earthquakes.

However, since 2004 significant volumes of gas including CO2 have been injected into Cogdell wells.

If this triggered the 2006–2011 seismicity, this represents an instance where gas injection has triggered earthquakes having magnitudes 3 and larger.

Understanding when gas injection triggers earthquakes will help evaluate risks associated with large-scale carbon capture and storage as a strategy for managing climate change.


Abstract

Between 1957 and 1982, water flooding was conducted to improve petroleum production in the Cogdell oil field north of Snyder, TX, and a contemporary analysis concluded this induced earthquakes that occurred between 1975 and 1982.

The National Earthquake Information Center detected no further activity between 1983 and 2005, but between 2006 and 2011 reported 18 earthquakes having magnitudes 3 and greater.

To investigate these earthquakes, we analyzed data recorded by six temporary seismograph stations deployed by the USArray program, and identified 93 well-recorded earthquakes occurring between March 2009 and December 2010.

Relocation with a double-difference method shows that most earthquakes occurred within several northeast–southwest-trending linear clusters, with trends corresponding to nodal planes of regional focal mechanisms, possibly indicating the presence of previously unidentified faults.

We have evaluated data concerning injection and extraction of oil, water, and gas in the Cogdell field.

Water injection cannot explain the 2006–2011 earthquakes, especially as net volumes (injection minus extraction) are significantly less than in the 1957–1982 period.

However, since 2004 significant volumes of gases including supercritical CO2 have been injected into the Cogdell field.

The timing of gas injection suggests it may have contributed to triggering the recent seismic activity. If so, this represents an instance where gas injection has triggered earthquakes having magnitudes 3 and larger.

Further modeling studies may help evaluate recent assertions suggesting significant risks accompany large-scale carbon capture and storage as a strategy for managing climate change.

Wei Gana,b and
Cliff Frohlichb

Edited by Donald W. Forsyth, Brown University, Providence, RI, and approved October 4, 2013 (received for review June 13, 2013)


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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