Journalist Jim Fuquay of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram covered the research of SMU seismologist Heather R. DeShon.

DeShon is leading the effort to trace the source of a recent sequence of small earthquakes in North Texas and any relationship they may have to the injection of waste water by energy companies using shale gas production to recover gas.

North Texas earthquakes occurring in the Reno-Azle area since Nov. 5, 2013, and in Mineral Wells since Nov. 28, 2013, have raised scientific questions about the nature of these sequences and heightened local and national concerns about the impact of shale gas production on infrastructure and subsurface structures.

The Star-Telegram article published Feb. 7, “Researchers say finding cause of Azle quakes will take time.”

DeShon, an associate professor of geophysics, is an expert in earthquake generation within subduction zones and intraplate settings, seismogenic zone processes, local earthquake tomography and volcano seismology.

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By Jim Fuquay

It could take a year or longer to nail down whether there is a link between the swarm of small earthquakes around Azle in recent months and nearby wastewater injection wells, researchers at Southern Methodist University said Friday.

The school’s new network of seismic activity sensors in northeast Parker County has detected numerous small earthquakes recently, said lead researcher Heather DeShon, an associate professor of geophysics.

But previous studies of quakes at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and near Cleburne took one to two years to be published, and the Azle study could follow that timetable, DeShon said.

In 2009, SMU and University of Texas at Austin researchers began investigating small quakes at DFW Airport that occurred from October 2008 to May 2009. They published their study in March 2010. The quakes stopped after Chesapeake Energy in August 2009 shut down one of two injection wells it operated on D/FW property.

UT Austin researchers reviewed seismic data collected in several locations in the Barnett Shale between November 2009 and September 2011. Cliff Frohlich, senior research scientist at UT’s Institute for Geophysics, released his study in August 2012. He concluded that “injection-triggered earthquakes are more common than is generally recognized.”

Both studies also said it was “plausible” that the injection wells triggered the quakes, but DeShon said she hopes the latest study can be more precise.

“We want to get to a point where we can say, ‘This particular well affected this seemingly dead fault’,” she said. “But first we have to gather the data.”

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