Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Maturity of nearby faults influences seismic hazard from hydraulic fracturing

February 5, 2018

Understanding the causes of human-induced earthquakes is paramount to reducing societal risk. We investigated five cases of seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing (HF) in Ohio since 2013 that, because of their isolation from other injection activities, provide an ideal setting for studying the relations between high-pressure injection and earthquakes. Our analysis revealed two distinct groups: (i) deeper earthquakes in the Precambrian basement, with larger magnitudes (M > 2), b-values < 1, and many post–shut-in earthquakes, versus (ii) shallower earthquakes in Paleozoic rocks ∼400 m below HF, with smaller magnitudes (M < 1), b-values > 1.5, and few post–shut-in earthquakes. Based on geologic history, laboratory experiments, and fault modeling, we interpret the deep seismicity as slip on more mature faults in older crystalline rocks and the shallow seismicity as slip on immature faults in younger sedimentary rocks. This suggests that HF inducing deeper seismicity may pose higher seismic hazards. Wells inducing deeper seismicity produced more water than wells with shallow seismicity, indicating more extensive hydrologic connections outside the target formation, consistent with pore pressure diffusion influencing seismicity. However, for both groups, the 2 to 3 h between onset of HF and seismicity is too short for typical fluid pressure diffusion rates across distances of ∼1 km and argues for poroelastic stress transfer also having a primary influence on seismicity.

Publication Year 2018
Title Maturity of nearby faults influences seismic hazard from hydraulic fracturing
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1715284115
Authors Maria Kozlowska, Michael R. Brudzinski, Paul A. Friberg, Robert J. Skoumal, Nicholas Baxter, Brian S. Currie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Index ID 70203295
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center