Railroad Commission Sends Inspectors to Reeves County Following 5.4 Magnitude Earthquake

Agency to Take Any Action as Needed for Disposal Wells in Area

November 17, 2022

AUSTIN – The Railroad Commission deployed inspectors to Reeves County in response to a 5.4 magnitude earthquake near the border with Culberson County.

The agency is monitoring seismic data from the United States Geological Survey, the TexNET Seismic Monitoring Program and private operator monitoring stations and will take any actions necessary to protect public safety and the environment.

RRC inspectors are examining disposal activity at injection wells in the area, and staff is also reviewing permit requirements and operators’ seismic response plans in the Northern Culberson-Reeves Seismic Response Area (SRA).

The SRA was created to reduce the intensity and frequency of earthquakes in the area and includes an Operator Led Response Plan (OLRP) with the objective “to reduce the occurrence of high-magnitude seismicity such that recurrence of 3.5 magnitude events is decreasing by December 31st, 2023.”

Based on the reviews and meetings with operators, action will be taken on steps outlined in the OLRP. Actions outlined in the plan include, but are not limited to, expanding SRA boundaries and further reducing injection volumes.   

The OLRP requires all deep disposal wells within a 9 km boundary in the SRA to shut-in for 24 months if a magnitude 4.5 or greater earthquake occurs within the boundary.  There are no active deep disposal wells within the 9 km boundary. Reduction of injection volume from shallow disposal wells has occurred based on the schedule contained in the OLRP.

The potential lag time between changes in injection rates and changes in seismicity varies; historical activity indicates a potential lag time of 12-18 months.

RRC staff will continue its work and oversight toward reducing earthquakes in that region to keep residents and the environment safe.

About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit https://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.