Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A century of oilfield operations and earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles Basin, southern California

June 17, 2015

Most of the seismicity in the Los Angeles Basin (LA Basin) occurs at depth below the sediments and is caused by transpressional tectonics related to the big bend in the San Andreas fault. However, some of the seismicity could be associated with fluid extraction or injection in oil fields that have been in production for almost a century and cover ∼ 17% of the basin. In a recent study, first the influence of industry operations was evaluated by analyzing seismicity characteristics, including normalized seismicity rates, focal depths, and b-values, but no significant difference was found in seismicity characteristics inside and outside the oil fields. In addition, to identify possible temporal correlations, the seismicity and available monthly fluid extraction and injection volumes since 1977 were analyzed. Second, the production and deformation history of the Wilmington oil field were used to evaluate whether other oil fields are likely to experience similar surface deformation in the future. Third, the maximum earthquake magnitudes of events within the perimeters of the oil fields were analyzed to see whether they correlate with total net injected volumes, as suggested by previous studies. Similarly, maximum magnitudes were examined to see whether they exhibit an increase with net extraction volume. Overall, no obvious previously unidentified induced earthquakes were found, and the management of balanced production and injection of fluids appears to reduce the risk of induced-earthquake activity in the oil fields.

Publication Year 2015
Title A century of oilfield operations and earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles Basin, southern California
DOI 10.1190/tle34060650.1
Authors Egill Hauksson, Thomas Goebel, Jean-Paul Ampuero, Elizabeth S. Cochran
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Leading Edge
Index ID 70148594
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center