Another earthquake above 5.0 on the Richter scale shook the oil-rich Permian Basin region of Texas on Friday.
A temblor measuring 5.4 rattled West Texas at 5:35 p.m., centered 14 miles northwest of Midland. Its depth was 5.6 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported.
Three more aftershocks ranging from 2.7 to 3.3 struck in the same spot, geophysicist Paul Caruso at the USGS’s National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado told The Dallas Express.
“A 5.4 earthquake? That’s a strong one for Texas,” Caruso said.
The earthquake was the strongest to hit Texas since a 5.7 near Alpine in Central Texas in 1995. The all-time record for intensity was 6.0 in 1931 near El Paso.
“For perspective, a 6.0 earthquake is 10 times stronger than one that’s 5.0,” Caruso added. “We don’t usually see casualties unless the earthquake is 5.5 or above.”
No injuries were reported, but the activity comes one month after a 5.3-magnitude quake hit near Pecos in West Texas on November 16.
Pecos is about one hour west of Midland. The Permian Basin is about five hours west of Dallas off Interstate 20.
The National Weather Service in Midland, which ordinarily does not monitor seismic activity, tweeted that Friday’s earthquake was the fourth-strongest in state history.
The impact was felt as far away as Irving. Other reports indicated it shook the ground as far west as Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“We have seen a lot of seismic activity in West Texas the last few years,” Caruso said. “All of it has been relatively shallow.”
There have been 24 earthquakes of at least 3.0 magnitude in West Texas since the 5.3 event, according to TexNet, the state’s seismic monitoring program.
The Railroad Commission, which monitors oil and other energy companies in Texas, activated personnel Friday in response to the Midland earthquake. It said inspectors would be examining disposal activity at injection well sites near the earthquake.
“In December 2021, the RRC ordered the indefinite suspension of all produced water disposal in deep injection wells in the SRA,” the Railroad Commission said in a statement to The Dallas Express. “Staff will review permit requirements for other injection wells in the area as it prepares for a response to reduce the frequency and intensity of earthquakes.”
“Agency personnel are continuing to closely monitor seismic data from the USGS, TexNet, and private operator monitoring stations. Staff will continue its work to keep residents and the environment safe.”
Caruso said it’s impossible to say if fracking—drilling used for extracting oil, natural gas, or water from the ground—is causing the seismic activity.
“I can’t speculate on that,” Caruso said.