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Assessing whether the 2017 Mw 5.4 Pohang earthquake in South Korea was an induced event

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Science  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 1007-1009
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6081

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Triggering quakes in a geothermal space

Enhanced geothermal systems (EGSs) provide a potentially clean and abundant energy source. However, two magnitude-5 earthquakes recently occurred in South Korea during EGS site development. Grigoli et al. and Kim et al. present seismic and geophysical evidence that may implicate the second of these earthquakes, which occurred in Pohang, as an induced event. The combination of data from a local seismometer network, well logs, satellite observations, teleseismic waveform analysis, and stress modeling leads to the assessment that the earthquake was probably or almost certainly anthropogenically induced. The possibility remains that the earthquake occurred coincidentally at the EGS site location, but the aftershock distribution and other lines of evidence are concerning for future development of this geothermal resource.

Science, this issue p. 1003, p. 1007

Abstract

The moment magnitude (Mw) 5.4 Pohang earthquake, the most damaging event in South Korea since instrumental seismic observation began in 1905, occurred beneath the Pohang geothermal power plant in 2017. Geological and geophysical data suggest that the Pohang earthquake was induced by fluid from an enhanced geothermal system (EGS) site, which was injected directly into a near-critically stressed subsurface fault zone. The magnitude of the mainshock makes it the largest known induced earthquake at an EGS site.

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