Texas

Two giant sinkholes in West Texas expanding, researchers say

Aerial images of sinkholes in West Texas.
Aerial images of sinkholes in West Texas.

A couple of giant sinkholes in the West Texas oil patch are apparently expanding, and might eventually converge into one gigantic hole.

The sinkholes are about a mile apart and sit between Wink and Kermit off I-20 west of Midland-Odessa. They were caused by lots of oil and gas extraction, which peaked from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University.

Satellite radar images indicate that the giant sinkholes are expanding and that new ones are forming “at an alarming rate” as nearby subsidence occurs, they report in the scientific journal Remote Sensing. One is 361 feet across, about the size of a football field; the other is larger, 670 to 900 feet across.

“A collapse could be catastrophic,” said geophysicist Jin-Woo Kim, who leads the SMU geophysical team reporting the findings.

In addition to Wink and Kermit (combined pop. about 7,000), there’s lots of oil and gas production equipment and installations and hazardous liquid pipelines in the area, Kim said in the report. The fresh water injected underground in the extraction process “can dissolve the interbedded salt layers and accelerate the sinkhole collapse.”

There’s something not too dissimilar happening in Daisetta, east of Houston.

Officials have fenced off the area around the sinkholes between Wink and Kermit and they’ll be monitored, but residents don’t appear to be worried about them.

“They’re a ways off from the highway; if nobody mentions it, then nobody is interested in it,” Kermit City Manager Gloria Saenz told the New York Daily News.

A preacher of the Apocalypse from Indiana had a decidedly different take, exclaiming on YouTube: “Here’s my concern. It’s like hell is being enlarged, and that without measure.”

Well, maybe not quite.

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh

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