(DALLAS) — Scientists at Southern Methodist University released a report on a series of earthquakes that struck near Azle, Texas, in 2013 and 2014, finding that fluid injection and removal are likely the cause of the tremors.
The report points to wastewater injection and saltwater extraction from natural gas wells as the cause. “The model shows that a pressure differential develops along one of the faults as a combined result of high fluid injection rates to the west and high water removal rates to the east,” SMU Associate Professor of Geophysics Matthew Hornbach said in a statement. “When we ran the model over a 10-year period through a wide range of parameters, it predicted pressure changes significant enough to trigger earthquakes on faults that are already stressed.”
Researchers said that faults in the area are more prone to movement, as they are “near critically stressed.” That means, SMU Associate Professor of Geophysics Heather DeShon said, “surprisingly small changes in stress can reactivate certain faults in the region and cause earthquakes.”
The Office of the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment has said that state experienced more than 100 magnitude three or higher earthquakes in 2013 and five times as many in 2014. The Oklahoma Geological Survey determined that the cause of the earthquakes was also likely “the injection of produced water in disposal wells.”
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