Sizing Up Seismic Risk
Proactively mitigating the risks associated with natural gas and oil production and addressing community concerns are important elements of our operations.
In Texas, this includes working with the state and some of our peer companies to deploy and manage seismic monitoring equipment which can help provide proactive responses to address earthquake-related risks.
TexNet is a system of earthquake sensors placed in the ground at dozens of locations across the state, coupled with a dynamic mapping tool that offers information on the detection location, timing and magnitude of recorded earthquakes. By analyzing data from the monitoring network and placing it into a geologic context, TexNet provides an independent, comprehensive investigative approach to help monitor earthquakes. Access to data from this network greatly improves our knowledge about earthquake risks and assists operational decision making. The data is also publicly available.
According to the United States Geological Survey, millions of earthquakes occur annually worldwide: 500,000 are detectable, 100,000 of those can be felt, and 100 of them cause damage. While most earthquakes are caused by natural forces, some human activities can trigger seismic events. Seismicity associated with the oil and natural gas industry has been attributed to both water injection and, to a much lesser degree, hydraulic fracturing.
TexNet and its research arm, the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research (CISR), is a multidisciplinary, trans-college research center managed by the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG). Researchers from The University of Texas Austin, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at El Paso and Southern Methodist University are providing the technical data acquired by the system to monitor seismic activity in real time and conduct research to help better understand earthquakes, why they occur and what impact they may have on Texas. This type of research is an area of active research at numerous universities and research institutions across the globe.
We provide both funding and technical expertise to support these efforts. We also allow monitoring equipment to be placed on our leases. Solar panels provide power to the remote earthquake monitoring stations that use a buried sensor to detect the slightest ground vibrations, and to transmit data via cellular data networks back to a data hub in Austin.
Information from TexNet is used within our internal Global Induced Seismicity Guideline process to help understand and mitigate potential seismic risks related to the planning and operation of saltwater disposal (SWD) injection wells for produced water disposal. Using our expertise in subsurface geology, we proactively engage with state regulators on the location of SWD wells to reduce the risk of induced seismicity. We also continuously monitor seismic reports in the areas where we operate to ensure we are aware of and can respond to any events that may impact our operations or nearby communities. We also take mitigating actions by opting not to operate in areas where there is existing seismic activity.
TexNet-CISR also manages the Regional Induced Seismicity Collaborative (RISC). The state geologic surveys of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arkansas, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council, have formed a collaborative research project to address the issues related to potential induced seismicity in the southern midcontinent.