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UT Austin study says gas, oil production likely cause of earthquakes in West Texas

More specifically, hydraulic fracturing and wastewater injection used in oil and gas production seem to cause earthquakes.

AUSTIN, Texas — An increase in West Texas and New Mexico earthquakes are likely the result of oil and gas production, according to a study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Daily Texan reported that the study found hydraulic fracturing and or wastewater injection caused 68% of 5,000 earthquakes of 1.5 magnitudes or higher in the Delaware Basin. Fracturing and injection are used in oil and gas production, and the basin includes West Texas and New Mexico.

Breaking down the percentage further, researchers determined that 13% of the earthquakes resulted from hydraulic fracturing, 43% of the earthquakes resulted from "wastewater injection into shallow sedimentary formations" and 12% of the earthquakes resulted from "wastewater injection into deep sedimentary formations."

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Hydraulic fracturing, The Daily Texan reported, "is the process of using highly pressurized liquid (water, sand or chemicals) to fracture bedrock and create the flow of oil and natural gas for extraction."

Wastewater injection usually takes place after hydraulic fracturing and prevents the pollution of nearby water sources.

The study also reported that earthquakes in the Delaware Basin became more common starting in 2009.


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