Houston Chronicle

A record-setting 5.0-magnitude earthquake hit near the Permian Basin town of Orla, Texas, on Thursday morning.

Record 5.0-magnitude earthquake hits near Permian Basin town- oil and gas 360

Source: Houston Chronicle

U.S. Geological Survey officials say the quake occurred at 10:16 a.m. about 16 miles southwest of Orla in a rural area off FM 652. There have been 61 earthquakes in West Texas this year but this was the strongest recorded in the region’s history, USGS data shows.

There were no immediate reports of damage but Reeves County Sheriff Arturo Granado said his office received numerous calls from people who felt it.

“People called from El Paso saying they felt it,” Granado said. “That’s more than 200 miles away.”

Academic studies have linked earthquakes in the Permian Basin and other shale plays to hydraulic fracturing activity and the disposal of oilfield wastewater at sites known as saltwater disposal wells.

Saltwater disposal wells are regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state agency that regulates the oil and natural gas industry. Members of the oil and gas industry have formed committees to study the issue and reduce the number and intensity of earthquakes.

Railroad Commission officials adopted stricter regulations for saltwater disposal wells in November 2014. Over the past four years, the agency received 540 disposal well applications in areas of historic seismicity.

Of those proposed projects, 222 permits were issued with special conditions that include reducing maximum daily injection volumes and pressures as well as being required to record volumes and pressures on a daily basis as opposed to monthly.

Applications for 68 disposal sites were returned or withdrawn. Another 32 applications were sent to hearing while 25 permits were issued without special conditions and 193 applications are pending technical review.

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