Two earthquakes rock Odessa Tuesday

Two earthquakes shook most of Odessa shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday at 3.4 and 3.6, the USGS reported.

This comes following reports that most, if not all, of a half-dozen oil companies will comply with the Texas Railroad Commission’s request to reduce their saltwater injections into disposal wells and thereby mitigate the increasing problem of earthquakes around the Permian Basin.

Last week the Odessa American reported It may be a year before the quakes subside, that is if the reductions work.

Fasken Oil & Ranch, Rattler Midstream Operating, COG Operating, Occidental Permian, Pioneer Natural Resources and Wasser Operating were asked Sept. 23 to decrease their daily pumping to fewer than 10,000 barrels and spokesmen say they’ll do it.

Fasken Oil Director Tommy Taylor said his company’s five wells were only injecting 5,000 to 8,000 barrels per day anyway in the Gardendale Seismic Response Area, so the RRC’s initiative won’t impede business.

Taylor, chairman-elect of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, said he “had been watching this for several years as it progressed.

“Part of those earthquakes were off to the east of Fasken’s property, but most of them were south,” he said.

Taylor said it “is a very complex problem to solve” because the source or sources of the tremors are hard to pinpoint in the San Andres and Ellenburger formations and the Midland and Delaware basins underground.

However, referring to similar actions taken by the RRC in the Azle area west of Fort Worth and by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in Oklahoma, he said, “Reducing the injection volumes at Azle and in Oklahoma helped in those areas and I suspect it will help here.”

The RRC said it had stopped issuing permits for saltwater disposal wells in the Gardendale Seismic Response Area and that its notice to operators “was an administrative action by RRC staff to move toward mitigating earthquakes near Midland and Odessa and better protect public safety and the environment, which is critical to the mission of the agency.”

Asked why the notice was a request rather than an order, RRC spokesman Andrew Keese said, “We have already had a good response from some operators in the response area and we are confident we will have cooperation from the other operators as the agency works to address this issue.”

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 3.7-magnitude quake eight miles northwest of Midland Sept. 7 and it said six of greater than 3.5 magnitude had occurred in that area among a total of 81 of 1.5 magnitude and above during the past 18 months.