New Mexico’s risk of earthquakes caused by oil and gas rising

Multiple magnitude (M) 4 or 5 quakes were felt in the Midland area, leading the Texas Railroad Commission to declare a seismic response area (SRA) earlier this fall in the Gardendale region, calling for reductions in water disposal injection volumes.

Earthquakes at M 4 are generally felt but are known to cause minor damage. When recorded at M 5 or above, they may cause increasingly sever damage to structures and risk public safety.

Quakes below M 2.5 are not typically felt on the surface. 

Injections rates for existing disposal wells – where water created as a byproduct of oil and gas drilling is disposed of by pumping it underground – were reduced to 10,000 barrels per day, while operators were required to report daily injection volumes and pressures to the Commission each month.