Study: Latest evidence links quakes to oil wells
wells or reduce the volume of water they inject.
In the Raton Basin of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, earthquakes began to increase in 2001, about two years after large-scale wastewater injection began, the U.S. Geological Service said. The wastewater comes from wells that extract natural gas from underground coal beds.
The biggest quake in the basin since 2001 was magnitude 5.3 in 2011. It caused minor damage to buildings in Trinidad, Colorado, about 15 miles from the epicenter.
A 2014 paper by the Geological Service blamed injection wells for the area’s quakes.
The new University of Colorado study went further, using computer models and records of wastewater injection to conclude that enough pressure built up to cause the quakes.
Justin Rubinstein, a geophysicist with the Geological Service who was the lead author of the 2014 paper, said the computer models have been used in other locations but not in the Raton Basin before now.
Rubinstein was not involved in the University of Colorado study and said he was not familiar with all its details but that the general conclusions made sense. “It’s consistent with what my research has shown,” he said.
The University of Colorado study also found that the Raton Basin earthquakes were more widespread than previously thought, said Nakai.