District 61 State Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) told the Index that there is no consensus amongst state geologists concerning a concrete cause for these recent earthquakes. King said although experts agree the tremors are benign, some experts believe they could be connected to the local oil and gas industry.
“There are some studies that suggest a correlation between the saltwater disposal wells and these minor earthquakes,” he said. “I don’t think that anybody legitimately thinks it’s the hydraulic fracturing or drilling itself. On the other hand, nobody really knows. However, what geologists have told me is that these levels of quakes are very common.
For example, West Texas gets them all the time. They’re not at a level anyone should worry about. They are a little bit of a nuisance, but that’s it.”
King said he is skeptical of connections to the oil and gas industry, primarily because of a discrepancy between the depth of the quakes’ epicenters are significantly lower than the depth for drilling and disposal wells in the Barnett Shale. Both earthquakes in the Mineral Wells area occurred at a depth between 2.4 and 3.1 miles below the surface, whereas the average depth for crude oil and natural gas wells tends to be just over a mile, according to statistics from the United States Energy Information Administration.
King added the other half of his skepticism is largely pragmatic.
“There’s really no definitive scientific evidence to say that these earthquakes are caused by the industry,” he said. “There are over a million oil and gas wells in Texas. There are thousands of saltwater disposal wells. There have been tens-of-thousands of instances of hydraulic fracturing. So I’m a little suspicious [of the claim] that it might be causing earthquakes in Springtown.
“We’ve been drilling oil and gas wells for over 100 years, we’ve been doing hydraulic fracturing going on 15 or 20 years, we’ve been using saltwater disposal wells for decades; why is it just now that in North Texas it would be causing earthquakes? That’s why, from a pragmatic standpoint – not being a scientist – I ask a lot of questions.”