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Sharp increase in central Oklahoma seismicity 2009-2014 induced by massive wastewater injection

December 31, 2014

Unconventional oil and gas production provides a rapidly growing energy source; however high-producing states in the United States, such as Oklahoma, face sharply rising numbers of earthquakes. Subsurface pressure data required to unequivocally link earthquakes to injection are rarely accessible. Here we use seismicity and hydrogeological models to show that distant fluid migration from high-rate disposal wells in Oklahoma is likely responsible for the largest swarm. Earthquake hypocenters occur within disposal formations and upper-basement, between 2-5 km depth. The modeled fluid pressure perturbation propagates throughout the same depth range and tracks earthquakes to distances of 35 km, with a triggering threshold of ~0.07 MPa. Although thousands of disposal wells may operate aseismically, four of the highest-rate wells likely induced 20% of 2008-2013 central US seismicity.

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