Earlier this year, the Texas Railroad Commission (Commission) required that XTO Energy Inc. (XTO) and EnerVest Operating LLC (EnerVest) show cause as to why the two companies should be permitted to continue their drilling operations in the Barnett Shale. The Commission’s request was triggered by a Southern Methodist University study that suggested that the injection wells in the Barnett Shale caused seismic activity in the region. As discussed previously on this blog, opponents of hydraulic fracturing have attempted to manufacture a causal connection between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity.

Last week, the Commission concluded that there is no definitive connection between injection wells and earthquakes. Because of the Commission’s conclusion, XTO and EnerVest can continue to operate their oil and gas wells in the region. Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton has stated that the Commission will continue to study the seismicity issue. The Commission has hired a seismologist to assist it with these matters.

Throughout the summer, multiple administrative hearings were conducted on the alleged connection between injection wells and seismic activity. Each hearing concluded that there was insufficient evidence showing that disposal wells caused seismic activity in North Texas. XTO and EnerVest presented studies, which concluded that the earthquakes in North Texas began at a deeper point underground than the disposal wells used by the companies. The studies relied on by XTO and EnerVest concluded that the cause of the earthquakes in North Texas was natural forces.

For more information on the Commission’s treatment of seismicity issues, please visit https://www.hydraulicfrackingblog.com/2015/09/texas-railroad-commission-clears-another-well-of-inducing-earthquakes/ and https://www.hydraulicfrackingblog.com/2015/09/texas-railroad-commission-announces-standard-of-proof-for-induced-seismicity/.