Hydraulic fracturing induced seismicity

Reviews of Geophysics
By: , and 



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 type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydraulic fracturing induced seismicity
Series title Reviews of Geophysics
DOI 10.1029/2019RG000695
Volume 3
Issue 58
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description e2019RG000695, 43 p.
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