Evidence that oil and gas activity in North Central Texas is likely causing earthquakes is presented this week in Nature Communications. The research shows that brine production and wastewater injection in the Azle area are the probable causes.
The role of engineering and gas and oil production in promoting earthquakes has been of concern for several decades. With the large expansion in recent years of natural gas development in shale oil fields, understanding the processes involved in human-induced seismicity has become urgent.
In November 2013, a series of earthquakes began along an ancient fault system near Azle, Texas. Matthew Hornbach and colleagues used a combination of hydraulic modelling and high-accuracy earthquake locations to show that both brine production and wastewater injection are very likely to play a role in promoting earthquakes.
Their broad approach for assessing regional stress may be applicable to other sites of oil and gas exploration. The work also outlines the critical need for additional datasets, monitoring and regulation to develop models that will help us to further understand induced seismicity where oil and gas production occurs.