Chesapeake Closes Wells Connected to Quakes

Researchers have found a possible reason for all the recent earthquakes in North Texas

Researchers have found a possible reason for all the recent earthquakes in North Texas.

Chesapeake Energy is shutting down two salt water disposal wells after researchers at SMU and UT found a possible connection between one of the wells and the seismic activity.

"There is a relationship," Cliff Frohlich, senior research scientist and associate director of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, said in an interview posted on the Star-Telegram's Web site. "We have not proven it with scientific certainty, but we’re looking at these as induced earthquakes."

Chesapeake disagrees.

"Preliminary results have indicated there is no correlation between natural gas drilling and fracturing activities and the minor earthquakes that have occurred over the last several months in North Texas," Chesapeake spokeswoman Julie Wilson told Bloomberg News.

The company shut down the two wells, located on fault lines at the southern end of DFW airport and in southern Cleburne, "just in case this research shows there is a correlation," Wilson said.

Salt water contained in the wells were used to crack rock while drilling for natural gas. Water is also created while gas drilling continues, meaning the excess must be stored somewhere. Enter the salt water disposal wells. These locations drill 10,000 foot wells which the excess salt water is eventually pumped.

Injection wells have been connected to earthquakes in the past, including an incident in Denver where an Army chemical weapons facility shut down a well after earthquakes were reported in connection with fluid injections.

North Texas has experienced several small quakes since last fall, including seven in Cleburne. Another quake caused minor damage to the Boy Scout Museum in Irving.

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