Policy ForumGeophysics

Coping with earthquakes induced by fluid injection

Science  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6224, pp. 830-831
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0494

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Summary

Large areas of the United States long considered geologically stable with little or no detected seismicity have recently become seismically active. The increase in earthquake activity began in the mid-continent starting in 2001 (1) and has continued to rise. In 2014, the rate of occurrence of earthquakes with magnitudes (M) of 3 and greater in Oklahoma exceeded that in California (see the figure). This elevated activity includes larger earthquakes, several with M > 5, that have caused significant damage (2, 3). To a large extent, the increasing rate of earthquakes in the mid-continent is due to fluid-injection activities used in modern energy production (1, 4, 5). We explore potential avenues for mitigating effects of induced seismicity. Although the United States is our focus here, Canada, China, the UK, and others confront similar problems associated with oil and gas production, whereas quakes induced by geothermal activities affect Switzerland, Germany, and others.

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