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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

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Geology -- Texas, Seismology -- Earthquakes


In recent years, numerous small earthquakes have occurred near the town of Pecos in West Texas; however, when this activity began and whether it was caused by increased petroleum industry activity has been uncertain because prior to 2017 there were few permanent seismograph stations in the region. We identify and locate earthquakes using data recorded since 2000 at TXAR, a sensitive 10‐station seismic array situated about 240 km south of Pecos. We thus show that in 2007, one earthquake occurred near Pecos, in 2009 several more occurred, and subsequently, activity has increased considerably, with more than 2000 events identified in 2017. A time‐of‐day and year‐by‐year analysis identifies geographic areas in West Texas where events are likely to be natural earthquakes and quarry blasts. However, for the Pecos events, annual seismicity rates increase along with annual volumes of petroleum production and fluid waste disposal, suggesting a causal link. Analysis of seismograms collected by the EarthScope Transportable Array indicates that the 2009 earthquakes had focal depths of 4.0–5.2 km below sea level, within or just below strata where petroleum is produced and/or wastewater is injected. The largest earthquake to date had magnitude ML3.7, but the recent high activity rates suggest that greater magnitudes may be possible. For the years 2000–2017, we provide a catalog of 10,753 epicenters of seismic events recorded at TXAR.


©2019. The Authors.

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