RRC follows up on earthquakes near Midland, Odessa, says salt water injection likely cause of quakes

Erica Miller

AUSTIN (Nexstar)- The Railroad Commission of Texas’ most critical mission is protection of public safety and the environment. As such, the RRC’s seismologist and staff have been investigating recent earthquakes close to populated areas near Midland and Odessa. 

The team has identified steps that could be taken by oil and gas operators to help mitigate the events.

As a result, the agency is requesting that operators of 76 wells take measures such as reducing daily injection volumes of produced water into salt water disposal wells. Operators are now being asked to provide injection data which will help RRC staff further analyze seismicity. The RRC will continue working with operators on this important front. 

The following notice was set to well operators Friday:

Since February 2020, six felt earthquakes of magnitude 3.5 or greater have occurred in an area of the Midland Basin from northeast Ector County to southwest Martin County known as the Gardendale Seismic Response Area. These included a magnitude 3.7 earthquake in southwestern Martin County, about eight miles northwest of Midland, on September 7, 2021, and two magnitude 3.6 earthquakes northeast of Odessa in February 2020 and May 2021.   

The Railroad Commission of Texas has authority to regulate Saltwater Disposal well activity and may exercise that authority to address seismic activity. The RRC staff’s analysis of available information has determined that SWD injection likely contributes to seismic activity in the Gardendale SRA. Therefore, the RRC has requested that operators in the Gardendale SRA reduce SWD activity as a means of altering conditions likely contributing to seismic activity. The RRC anticipates these procedures to be in place for at least a year from initiation. The RRC has identified 76 permitted SWD wells in the Gardendale SRA and the operators of those wells are being notified in writing of this request.   

You can view the full notice, and see other measures requested by the RRC here