Water management

RRC Suspends Water Disposal Injection in Section of Permian Basin

Operators will not be able to inject wastewater below 10,000 ft in the Gardendale area.

Midland, Texas drone shot
A series of felt earthquakes outside of Midland, Texas, (pictured) prompted the Texas Railroad Commission to suspend deep wastewater disposal in the area.
Credit: Christopher Levario/Getty Images/iStockphoto.

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has indefinitely suspended all deep oil and gas produced water injection in Northwest Midland County following a swarm of earthquakes last week. The suspension covering the Gardendale Seismic Response Area (SRA), which spans about 100 square miles of Midland and Ector counties, is effective 31 December.

According to the state’s TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program, there were four earthquakes north of Odessa and northwest of Midland that had magnitudes of 3.1, 3.6, 3.7, and 3.3. The suspension will impact several dozen saltwater disposal wells in the area.

“Operators of disposal wells in the RRC’s Gardendale SRA, which is north of Odessa and northwest of Midland, will not be permitted to inject below the top of the Strawn Formation, which occurs at around 10,000 feet in depth but can vary,” RRC spokesman Andrew Keese told the local Odessa press.

Inspectors and geologists have been inspecting disposal activity and constantly monitoring seismic data. RRC staff have seen more than 30 earthquakes greater than 3.0 since December 2019.

Operators of existing disposal wells will be allowed to apply to amend their permits for shallow injection such as in the San Andres Formation, the top of which occurs at a depth of about 5,000 ft. Deeper portions of such amended disposal wells will be required to be plugged.

The RRC’s action comes following its 23 September request to a half-dozen area oil companies to decrease their daily pumping to fewer than 10,000 bbl.