Development of complex patterns of anthropogenic uplift and subsidence in the...

Hennings, P., S. Staniewicz, K. Smye, A. Chen, E. Horne, J. Nicot, J. Ge, R. Reedy, and B. Scanlon (2023), Development of complex patterns of anthropogenic uplift and subsidence in the Delaware Basin of West Texas and southeast New Mexico, USA, Science of the Total Environment, 903, 166367, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.166367.

The Delaware Basin in west Texas and southeast New Mexico is now the largest global oil producing basin, averaging ∼400,000 m3 (∼2,500,000 barrels) per day in 2022. The shale-dominated strata targeted for production can co-produce 4–5 times more water than oil, necessitating disposal by injection of ∼1,400,000 m3 (∼8,700,000 barrels) of water per day in 2022. Through a comprehensive assimilation of regional Sentinel-1 satellite radar data and analysis of production and injection, we show how petroleum operations have caused the development of complex and accelerating patterns of surface deformation from 2015 through 2021. We observe uplift from reservoir swelling, subsidence from reservoir contraction, and the development of linear features that are indicative of faulting. Subsidence is predominantly caused by production, and an important finding of this study is that the magnitude of subsidence is linearly proportional to total production. Uplift is caused by pressurization from wastewater injection of shallow permeable strata. The patterns of uplift are complex and extend laterally well-beyond areas where injection was performed. Linear surface deformation features are observed throughout the Delaware Basin, and they are lengthening and densifying as uplift and subsidence accelerate. Many of the lineations can be linked to known strata-bounded faults and shallow seismicity in the southern Delaware Basin where they serve as permeable and anisotropic conduits for pore pressure migration. In the Northern Delaware Basin, co-seismic rupture is hosted along basement-rooted faults that may link to the linear surface features. Understanding these dynamic changes in Delaware Basin is a pressing concern for management of subsurface reservoirs and safeguarding the surface environment. Concerns include ongoing induced seismicity, hazard of drilling through over-pressured strata, maintenance of integrity for newer wellbores, mitigation of flows of brine and petroleum fluids at the surface of old wellbores, and management of the pore space resource for wastewater injection.

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Research Program: 
Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)
Funding Sources: 
NASA Earth Surface and Interior Program, Grant 80NSSC18K0467