Geologists Predict Reduced Earthquake Risk for North Texas in 2017

A reduction in oil and gas production processes may contribute to fewer earthquakes.

By Rhonda FanningMarch 2, 2017 12:20 pm

In 2015, earthquakes rattling north Texas made national headlines. But a new United States Geological Survey says that the risk has reduced significantly throughout 2016.

The survey reports that the Dallas-Fort Worth area experienced 82 Earthquakes in 2015 and just four in 2016. Based on this reduction, scientists predict people in the area are at a less than 1 percent risk of experiencing a damaging earthquake this year.

Anna Kuchment, science writer for the Dallas Morning News, says while scientists are not ruling out other factors, there is a general consensus that oil and gas production plays a role in earthquake risk. She says that earthquakes in Oklahoma increased exponentially starting in 2008 – the same time that there was a boom in energy production.

“It rose from two per year in 2008 to 4,000 a year in 2015,” Kuchment says. “That is a huge increase that scientists say can’t be explained by nature.”

Kuchment says that scientists predict a reduction in oil and gas production and changes in the process may contribute to reduced earthquake risk.

“There’s a growing consensus that oil and gas production, in rare cases, can cause earthquakes,” Kuchment says. “Scientists and regulatory agencies, and oil and gas companies themselves have made a lot of progress in figuring out how to predict these earthquakes and how to prevent them.”

Written by Emma Whalen.