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Hydraulic fracturing induced seismicity

June 12, 2020

Hydraulic fracturing (HF) is a technique that is used for extracting petroleum resources from impermeable host rocks. In this process, fluid injected under high pressure causes fractures to propagate. This technique has been transformative for the hydrocarbon industry, unlocking otherwise stranded resources; however, environmental concerns make HF controversial. One concern is HF‐induced seismicity, since fluids driven under high pressure also have the potential to reactivate faults. Controversy has inevitably followed these HF‐induced earthquakes, with economic and human losses from ground shaking at one extreme and moratoriums on resource development at the other. Here, we review the state of knowledge of this category of induced seismicity. We first cover essential background information on HF along with an overview of published induced earthquake cases to date. Expanding on this, we synthesize the common themes and interpret the origin of these commonalities, which include recurrent earthquake swarms, proximity to well bore, rapid response to stimulation, and a paucity of reported cases. Next, we discuss the unanswered questions that naturally arise from these commonalities, leading to potential research themes: consistent recognition of cases, proposed triggering mechanisms, geologically susceptible conditions, identification of operational controls, effective mitigation efforts, and science‐informed regulatory management. HF‐induced seismicity provides a unique opportunity to better understand and manage earthquake rupture processes; overall, understanding HF‐induced earthquakes is important in order to avoid extreme reactions in either direction.

Publication Year 2020
Title Hydraulic fracturing induced seismicity
DOI 10.1029/2019RG000695
Authors Ryan Schultz, Robert Skoumal, Michael R. Brudzinski, David Eaton, Brian Baptie, William L. Ellsworth
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Reviews of Geophysics
Index ID 70214548
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center