How Big is Too Big? Assessing Seismic Hazard and Hydraulic Fracture-Induced Seismicity

Bowman-Young, Sheri (ESG Solutions) | Urbancic, Ted (ESG Solutions) | Viegas, Gisela (ESG Solutions) | Meighan, Lindsey (ESG Solutions) | VonLunen, Eric (NexenCNOOC Ltd) | Hendrick, Jason (NexenCNOOC Ltd)

OnePetro 

Abstract A vast number of the reported cases of increased seismicity of moderate magnitude (Mw > 0) earthquakes seem to be tied to some form of fluid injection activitiy, being it wastewater disposal by injection into deep wells or high pressure fluid injection into oil and gas reservoirs to hydraulically fracture the rock and improve hydrocarbon recovery. Regulations have been proposed to implement traffic light systems to dictate the responses that the industry needs to take based on either the magnitudes or observed particle velocities or accelerations on the surface. In order to relate the seismic hazard potential in seismically active areas, empirical ground motion prediction equations (EGMPE) are used to relate event parameters like magnitude and location to site characteristics such as peak ground acceleration (PGA) or peak ground velocity (PGV) which tend to be how building codes are parametrized. Therefore, local hazard assessment near hydraulic fractures that generate relatively large magnitude events need to be estimated more precisely by developing and using local EGMPEs. Hybrid deployments combining 15Hz downhole and low frequency near-surface geophones can be used to accurately capture both the localized microseismic events and any large magnitude events associated with hydraulic fracture monitoring across North American basins – Horn River, Eagle Ford, Barnett, and Montney for example. In our studies events with M>0 are observed for completions in these formations. While in many cases the magnitude of these events is too small to be felt on the surface, there are reports of higher magnitude events which have been sensed by workers on site and the local population. The exact relationships between magnitudes and shaking are not necessarily one-to-one. Shaking also varies based on the stress release of the events. As summarized recently by Hough (2014) for other fluid-induced seismicity, the lower stress releases typical for these sequences results in on-average less shaking than is observed for equivalent magnitude tectonic events. In order to quantify shaking over a seismogenic volume, we show how to develop EGMPEs based on the North-American examples. The EGMPE methodology developed in this study can be extrapolated for similar earthquakes of larger magnitude and included into future probabilistic hazard and risk analysis for induced seismicity as related to hydraulic fracture stimulations.

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