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The proliferation of induced seismicity in the Permian Basin, Texas

May 20, 2021

The Permian Basin has a long history of induced earthquakes, but the seismicity rates have increased dramatically over the past two decades and included a MW 5.0 likely induced by wastewater disposal (WD) in March 2020. A detailed characterization of the proliferation of seismicity in the Permian Basin throughout this time period is needed for improving the scientific understanding of the mechanisms responsible and for mitigating future seismic hazard. Due to a sparse regional seismic network before the advent of Texas Seismological Network in 2017, we characterize seismicity using the 10-station TXAR array that is 100s of km away from most of the seismicity, with the objective of improving upon the substantial contributions from previous work. By exploiting the nature of waveform similarity, we detect events with template matching, performing a quantitative analysis of spatially varying detection capabilities throughout the study area. From an initial catalog of 10,753 events, we identify 45,009 earthquakes and 10,208 quarry blasts. Using our catalog of earthquakes, we improve epicentral locations, compare relative magnitude techniques, and associate earthquakes to WD or hydraulic stimulations. We further use our earthquake catalog to investigate the relationship between seismicity and human activities near the city of Pecos, Texas. Through a comparison of our earthquake catalog with industrial records, we determine that the vast majority seismicity near Pecos, Texas, since 2000 is likely induced by an increase of WD at wells injecting at depths greater than 1.5 km.

Publication Year 2021
Title The proliferation of induced seismicity in the Permian Basin, Texas
DOI 10.1029/2021JB021921
Authors Robert Skoumal, Daniel T. Trugman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research
Index ID 70221172
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center