Austin's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

East Texas Quakes Related to Oil and Gas Drilling?

Eddie Seal
Texas Tribune
An oil & gas drilling rig is drilling a well for Pioneer Natural Resources in the Eagle Ford Shale formation in DeWitt County. The epicenter of today's earthquake was in Karnes County.

Some people in the small East Texas town of Timpson are wondering if oil and gas drilling disposal wells are causing earthquakes in the area. The town registered its third earthquake in a week yesterday afternoon.

The biggest measured 4.1 on the Richter scale. Cliff Frohlich is a seismologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies the links between disposal wells and earthquakes.

“You can make the case that they might be natural and you can make the case that they might be linked to disposal wells, because there is a fault system in the area," Frolich said. "There have been little earthquakes on that in the past. Nothing this big. On the other hand, there are disposal wells in the area.”

The Texas Railroad Commission counts 27 active disposal wells in Shelby County where Timpson is located. Those wells dispose of wastewater that’s a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing – a drilling process that pumps water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up shale rock and free up the oil or gas locked inside.

You can read more coverage on this issue at StateImpact Texas, KUT's collaborative reporting project with NPR and KUHF, focused on energy and the environment. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
Related Content