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Huge Area of Texas Oil Patch is Heaving and Sinking

posted Jun 15, 2018, 7:18 AM by Rahni Jere Sumler   [ updated Jun 15, 2018, 7:18 AM ]
Reposted from DK GREENROOTS Community at Daily Kos. 

“Our analysis looked at just this 4000-square-mile area. We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that. This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.”  Jin-Woo Kim, a research scientist in the SMU Department of Earth Sciences.
According to geophysicists from Southern Methodist University, oil and gas activity is contributing to alarming land movements and a rising threat of sinkholes across a huge swath of W Texas. The authors of the study reported that there are approximately 297,000 oil wells many of which are in the Permian Basin, the hottest oil patch in the world. 

The Cosmos News-- Texas is Sinking: Giant Sinkholes in Texas are Growing, may Collide

Injection of wastewater and carbon dioxide increases pore pressure in rocks, a likely cause of uplift. Lu told the Guardian that cracks and corrosion from aging wells may help explain the sinking.

A “subsidence bowl” near one of the Wink sinkholes has sunk at a rate of more than 15.5in a year, probably as a result of water leaks through abandoned wells causing salt layers to dissolve, the report found. Elsewhere, a lake formed after 2003 as a result of sinking ground and rising water.

Another Southern Methodist University study last year indicated that wastewater injection, often a byproduct of fracking, is a likely cause of recent earthquakes in Texas – with the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of the most populous in the country, a hotspot.

Seismic activity in previously quiet and sparsely-populated parts of west Texas has soared in the past couple of years as the energy industry has expanded its attention beyond the Midland-Odessa area towards a mountainous and tourist-centric region near the border with Mexico.

Decades of Oil Production Activity have Destabilized Localities Populated by Small Towns

A new study by an SMU geophysical team found alarming rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4000-square-mile area of four Texas counties. Attribution: Zhong Lu, Jin-Woo Kim, SMU

A new study by an SMU geophysical team found alarming rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4000-square-mile area of four Texas counties. Larger image
The SMU researchers found a significant relationship between ground movement and oil activities that include pressurized fluid injection into the region’s geologically unstable rock formations.

Fluid injection includes waste saltwater injection into nearby wells and carbon dioxide flooding of depleting reservoirs to stimulate oil recovery.

Injected fluids increase the pore pressure in the rocks, and the release of the stress is followed by ground uplift. The researchers found that ground movement coincided with nearby sequences of wastewater injection rates and volume and CO2 injection in nearby wells.

Also related to the ground’s sinking and upheaval are dissolving salt formations due to freshwater leaking into abandoned underground oil facilities, as well as the extraction of oil.