Success! Power Plays: Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields, the 2015 Conference Summary:

The SMU Geothermal Lab recently hosted its 7th international energy conference Power Plays:Geothermal Energy in Oil and Gas Fields. Along with discussion on generating geothermal energy from oil and gas fields, topics at this year’s event included desalination, flare gas and induced seismicity. A summary of the presentations is available at http://www.smu.edu/Dedman/Academics/Programs/GeothermalLab/Conference/PastPresentations.

Read a summery of the event here.

Read more on the event here.

State researchers not ready to blame quake on injection wells

Weatherford Democrat

Originally Posted: June 17, 2015

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AUSTIN – Disposal wells that catch the high-pressure byproducts of natural gas drilling cannot conclusively be blamed for an earthquake near Fort Worth this spring, according to state experts.

The Railroad Commission of Texas tested five disposal wells in Johnson County after a 4.0 magnitude temblor on May 7 to assess the effect of injection operations on underground rock formations.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the commission said in a statement released on Friday, citing an analysis by its seismologist, geologists and petroleum engineers.

Reports of injection wells elsewhere, however, suggest a link between disposal wells and seismic activity.

In April, a Southern Methodist University-led team found wastewater injection – along with extraction of saltwater from natural gas wells – was the most likely cause of earthquakes in 2013 and 2014 near Azle, west of Fort Worth. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, Texas regulators find no evidence that disposal wells caused Johnson Co. quake

Texas Tribune

Originally Posted: June 12, 2015

Regulators: No Evidence Wells Caused 4.0 Quake

After wrapping up a round of testing, Texas regulators say they have found no evidence that injecting oilfield waste into five disposal wells triggered the largest recorded earthquake in North Texas’ history.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the Texas Railroad Commission said Friday in a news release.

Last month, a 4.0-magnitude earthquake hit Johnson County, leading to a few reports of minor damage. It was the most powerful ever recorded in the Barnett Shale region, including more than 50 quakes that have struck since November 2013 — a surge that has coincided with the proliferation of disposal wells, deep resting places for liquid oil and gas waste injected underground at high pressures.

Under rules adopted last year, the Railroad Commission ordered testing at five disposal wells, which the four companies that operate them voluntarily shut down. On Friday, the commission said its analysis of “fall-off pressure”– tests to determine the effects of injections at the well sites – turned up no fault patterns nearby that could have been related to the earthquakes. READ MORE

Concerns over earthquakes spread to Texas

USA Today

Originally Posted: June 10, 2015

The connection between wastewater injection wells and an alarming increase in the frequency of earthquakes is getting a lot more scrutiny these days.

First was Oklahoma, which has suddenly become the earthquake capital of the United States. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2014 in the state. The culprit? Scientists are becoming more confident that the injection of wastewater into disposal wells causes fault lines to “slip,” contributing to the likelihood of an earthquake. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach, Earth Sciences, oil firms probed over Texas quakes

Wall Street Journal

Originally Posted: June 9, 2015

Oil Firms Probed Over Texas Quakes

Texas regulators are scrutinizing some of the biggest U.S. energy producers in the wake of several earthquakes that have rocked the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year.

An Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary and EOG Resources Inc., one of the biggest shale-oil and gas pumpers, are facing questions about their use of injection wells to dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. The state’s oil-and-gas regulator on Wednesday begins a series of hearings in Austin to assess some oil companies’ role in causing the temblors.

A growing body of scientific research from federal, state and academic researchers suggests that disposal wells, often used to get rid of the dirty water leftover from fracking and brine from oil-and-gas production, may be linked to increased seismic activity. READ MORE

 

SMU scientists will map faults in North Texas

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: May 30, 2015

Scientists at Southern Methodist University are embarking on an ambitious new project to map faults in North Texas.

The study, funded with $122,337 from the U.S. Geological Survey, would help answer key questions about recent earthquakes in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Those questions include: “How large of a quake can we have?” “Where are our most dangerous faults?” “How can we tell more quickly if a quake is natural or man-made?”

North Texas has had more than 160 earthquakes since 2008, including a record-breaking magnitude 4 tremor that struck near the town of Venus on May 7. Before 2008, quakes were virtually unheard of in the Dallas area.

Scientists at SMU, at the U.S. Geological Survey and at the University of Texas at Austin have linked many of the earthquakes with disposal wells, where companies bury wastewater from oil and gas operations. Geologists have known for decades that pressure from the fluid can build up near faults and cause them to slip, giving rise to quakes.

“In this area of the world, geologists and academics don’t know a lot about the deep faults associated with the recent earthquakes, because the faults don’t come to the surface,” said Heather DeShon, an SMU seismologist who will lead the new study with colleague Beatrice Magnani. READ MORE

Heather DeShon and Brian Stump, Earth Sciences, SMU receives $122k from U.S.G.S. to map North Texas faults

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: May 29, 2015

Scientists at Southern Methodist University are embarking on an ambitious new project to map faults in the North Texas area. The study, funded with $122,337 from the United States Geological Survey, would help answer key questions about recent earthquakes in Dallas-Fort Worth, such as: “How large of a quake can we have?” “Where are our most dangerous faults?” “How can we tell more quickly if a quake is natural or man-made?”

North Texas has had more than 160 earthquakes since 2008, including a record 4-magnitude tremor that struck near the town of Venus on May 7. Before 2008, quakes were virtually unheard of in the Dallas area.

Scientists at SMU, at the U.S. Geological Survey and at the University of Texas at Austin have linked many of the earthquakes with disposal wells, where companies bury wastewater from oil and gas operations. Geologists have known for decades that pressure from the fluid can build up near faults and cause them to slip, giving rise to quakes.
“In this area of the world geologists and academics don’t know a lot about the faults associated with the recent earthquakes, because the faults don’t come to the surface,” said Heather DeShon, an SMU seismologist who will lead the new study with colleague Beatrice Magnani. The faults don’t reach the surface because they have been inactive for hundreds of millions of years, scientists have said. READ MORE

Why is oil and gas activity causing earthquakes? And can we reduce the risk?

The Conversation

Originally Posted: May 11, 2015

If you’ve been following the news lately, chances are you’ve heard
image-20150507-1212-1qgtj56about – or even felt – earthquakes in the central United States. During the past five years, there has been an unprecedented increase in earthquakes in the North American mid-continent, a region previously considered one of the most stable on Earth.

According to a recent report by the Oklahoma Geological Survey, Oklahoma alone has seen seismicity rates increase 600 times compared to historic levels.

The state has gone from experiencing fewer than two magnitude-three earthquakes per year to greater than two per day, the report found. Similarly, my home state of Texas has experienced a near 10-fold increase in magnitude-three earthquakes or greater in the past five years.

The recent uptick in earthquakes in Texas, Oklahoma and several other central US states raises an obvious question: What is causing all of this seismicity? READ MORE

James Brooks receives 2015 AAPG Presidential Award for Exemplary Service

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James Brooks, provost emeritus and professor emeritus in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, has received the 2015 AAPG Presidential Award for Exemplary Service, one of the highest honors of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

AAPG President Randi Martinsen bestowed the honor upon Brooks “for a lifetime of inspired and dedicated service to his profession and community, and for the education of hundreds of students for whom he has served as an outstanding teacher, wise mentor and genuine friend.”

AAPG is the premier organization for U.S. petroleum geologists. It is one of the world’s largest professional geological societies with more than 36,000 members. READ MORE

Heather DeShon and Matthew Hornbach, seismology research links fluid injections/removal to earthquakes

Oil and Gas Daily

Originally Posted: April 30, 2015

Combination of gas field fluid injection and removal cause of earthquakes

Several natural and man-made factors can influence the subsurface stress regime resulting in earthquakes. Natural ones include intraplate stress changes related to plate tectonics and natural water table or lake level variations caused by changing weather patterns or water drainage patterns over time, or advance or retreat of glaciers. Man-made include human-generated changes to the water table, including dam construction, and industrial activities involving the injection or removal of fluids from the subsurface.
A seismology team led by Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas, finds that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes occurring near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014.

In an area where the seismology team identified two intersecting faults, they developed a sophisticated 3D model to assess the changing fluid pressure within a rock formation in the affected area. They used the model to estimate stress changes induced in the area by two wastewater injection wells and the more than 70 production wells that remove both natural gas and significant volumes of salty water known as brine.

Conclusions from the modeling study integrate a broad-range of estimates for uncertain subsurface conditions. Ultimately, better information on fluid volumes, flow parameters, and subsurface pressures in the region will provide more accurate estimates of the fluid pressure along this fault.

“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,” said Matthew Hornbach, SMU associate professor of geophysics. “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.” READ MORE