Chesapeake Energy Corp. has shut down two saltwater disposal wells as research continues into whether such wells are to blame for recent earthquakes in North Texas.
The tremors that began on Halloween barely have been perceptible to people and not nearly powerful enough to cause significant property damage, but they still have drawn the attention of scientists from the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University. Preliminary tests did not yield any concrete results, but Chesapeake opted to shut down a disposal well near a fault line at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport "Even though the research is inconclusive, Chesapeake decided to shut in that particular well simply as a precautionary measure to allow (company) geoscientists time to study the preliminary report,” spokeswoman Julie Wilson said in a statement released Thursday. Chesapeake also ceased operation of another disposal well near Cleburne, site of additional earthquakes in June. Company officials indicated they would continue working with researchers to determine whether there is any correlation between oil and gas activities and the Texas earthquakes. The Oklahoma Geological Survey does not know of any correlation between Oklahoma earthquakes and oil field activity, officials said. Texas researchers placed portable seismometers around the Dallas airport to collect data on earthquakes in that area, a developing natural gas production region. The proximity of Chesapeake’s saltwater disposal well suggests it may have something to do with the earthquakes, researchers said. SMU seismology professor Brian Stump said it is too soon to conclude whether the well is responsible for the quakes. "However, based on our current understanding, operations at the re-injection well seem to be a more probable cause of some earthquakes rather than from hydraulic fracturing, a process used in preparing the wells for gas production,” he said.