GWPC Recognizes Texas RRC for Excellence in UIC

Posted by Erica Carr on 07/13/2022

GWPC President Nick Tew presented Texas Railroad Commission with the first-ever GWPC Excellence in UIC Award for their exemplary efforts utilizing artificial intelligence to speed up and streamline seismicity reviews.

According to the Railroad Commission, seismicity reviews are conducted by the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Department for injection/disposal well permits in areas susceptible to earthquakes and in certain geologic zones. UIC staff programed a machine learning algorithm to help with the large amount of information that needs to be processed and digested.

Along with some other changes, tasks performed by the machine learning algorithm have enabled UIC to wipe out a backlog of seismic reviews to zero today.

Like the technical analyst, the AI program weighs many factors related to the number, severity and proximity of earthquakes and uses a decision tree to assign a grade to the review. The higher the grade, the more the permit would be allowed to inject.

If AI grades the seismic review with low grades, the technical analyst will consult with the agency’s seismologist on whether the permit request should be denied or be allowed a minimal amount of disposal (10,000 barrels per day). The AI process, which has a high accuracy rate, assists the technical analyst, who reviews the data and ultimately makes the final judgment.

“Over time, since we are accruing more data every day, we will be able to produce more accurate models by feeding the machine learning algorithm more data,” said Sean Avitt, Manager of the UIC Department. “It’s not a replacement for our technical analysts. It’s a tool that not only allows them to do their jobs more quickly, but it helps them make the best possible decision on each seismic review.”

The GWPC Excellence in UIC Award is a new award to recognize major advances by state UIC programs in management, permitting or other aspects of the program.

For more information on Texas seismicity reviews, click here.