Association between localized geohazards in West Texas and human activities,...

Kim, J. W., and Z. Lu (2018), Association between localized geohazards in West Texas and human activities, recognized by Sentinel-1A/B satellite radar imagery, Scientific Reports, 8, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23143-6.

West Texas’ Permian Basin, consisting of ancient marine rocks, is underlain by water-soluble rocks and multiple oil-rich formations. In the region that is densely populated with oil producing facilities, many localized geohazards, such as ground subsidence and micro-earthquakes, have gone unnoticed. Here we identify the localized geohazards in West Texas, using the satellite radar interferometry from newly launched radar satellites that provide radar images freely to public for the first time, and probe the causal mechanisms of ground deformation, encompassing oil/gas production activities and subsurface geological characteristics. Based on our observations and analyses, human activities of fluid (saltwater, CO2) injection for stimulation of hydrocarbon production, salt dissolution in abandoned oil facilities, and hydrocarbon extraction each have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity. Proactive continuous and detailed monitoring of ground deformation from space over the currently operating and the previously operated oil/gas production facilities, as demonstrated by this research, is essential to securing the safety of humanity, preserving property, and sustaining the growth of the hydrocarbon production industry.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)