Weatherford Democrat

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December 11, 2013

Seis-ing things up

SMU group to place monitors in local quake zone


Beginning as early as this week, which has brought earthquakes on three consecutive days felt in Parker County, Southern Methodist University in Dallas will be placing monitoring equipment in the Azle and Reno areas to study the recent quakes.

The seismic monitoring equipment includes four digital monitors provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as 15 single-channel sensors provided by Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL) and four or five other broadband instruments from other sources allowing researchers to study a broader area.

“The first goal is to get a better handle on where these earthquakes are occurring,” Heather DeShon, associate professor of geophysics heading the research team, said.  “If it turns out they are near injection wells, then we’ll study that potential link. The primary goal is to provide better information for the public.”

As of Wednesday, 25 earthquakes had occurred in the North Texas area since Nov. 1, including 21 in and around Azle and three around northeast Palo Pinto County.

The small earthquakes have varied in magnitude from 2.2 on the Richter scale to a 3.7 earthquake near the west Parker County line early Monday morning.

“We are first going to focus in on where the earthquakes have been occurring – about a five-to six-mile area near Reno and Azle,” DeShon said. “How long the monitors remain depends on continued seismicity. We’re thinking a few months.”

A group of SMU and University of Texas at Austin researchers have produced two studies since 2009 indicating a possible link between the outbreaks of small earthquakes in North Texas’ Barnett Shale area since 2008 and some injection wells used to disposed of the byproduct of fracking.

“Because there were no known previous earthquakes, and the located events were close to the two injection wells and near the injection depth, the possibility exists that earthquakes may be related to fluid injection,” concluded a study of dozens of earthquakes in the Cleburne area between June 2009 and December 2009 that was published in October by researchers with SMU and the University of Texas at Austin.

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