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Railroad Commission of Texas to Hire In-House Seismologist

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) said it plans to hire an in-house seismologist, presumably to study the seismic events that have occurred in the Barnett Shale in North Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale in the southern part of the state.

In a statement Tuesday, the RRC said it decided to hire a seismologist after meeting with more than 800 citizens to discuss earthquakes in and around the state’s energy patch at a town hall meeting last week in Azle, TX (see Shale Daily, Jan. 2).

"It is imperative that the commission remain engaged and involved in gathering more evidence and data into any possible causation between oil and gas activities and seismic events," RRC Commissioner David Porter said. "Commission rules and regulations must be based on sound science and proven facts. In order to do so, I [have proposed that] the Commission hire an in-house seismologist."

The RRC said that an in-house seismologist will allow it "to strengthen [our] ability to follow new research, as well as coordinate an exchange of factual, scientific information with the research community."

According to the RRC, the seismologist's duties will be to:

  • Coordinate with other academic experts studying seismic events in Texas;
  • Obtain, study and interpret data to evaluate seismic activity associated with known faults and historic and/or oil and gas exploration and production activities;
  • Lead efforts to conduct research as well as internally integrate oil and gas science with seismic science;
  • Coordinate communications and information-gathering with stakeholders;
  • Review, analyze, interpret and comment on technical data from seismic data sources, computer models and digital maps; and
  • Develop recommendations and action plans.

The RRC said it will immediately begin a nationwide search to fill the position.

Researchers believe there is a link between dozens of small earthquakes in the Barnett and wastewater injection wells (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8, 2012). Meanwhile, a separate study found the majority of 62 probable earthquakes in the Eagle Ford were caused by fluid extraction from oil and gas drilling (see Shale Daily, Aug. 28, 2013).

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