An Experiment in Earthquake Control at Rangely, Colorado

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Science  26 Mar 1976:
Vol. 191, Issue 4233, pp. 1230-1237
DOI: 10.1126/science.191.4233.1230


An experiment in an oil field at Rangely, Colorado, has demonstrated the feasibility of earthquake control. Variations in seismicity were produced by controlled variations in the fluid pressure in a seismically active zone. Precise earthquake locations revealed that the earthquakes clustered about a fault trending through a zone of high pore pressure produced by secondary recovery operations. Laboratory measurements of the frictional properties of the reservoir rocks and an in situ stress measurement made near the earthquake zone were used to predict the fluid pressure required to trigger earthquakes on preexisting fractures. Fluid pressure was controlled by alternately injecting and recovering water from wells that penetrated the seismic zone. Fluid pressure was monitored in observation wells, and a computer model of the reservoir was used to infer the fluid pressure distributions in the vicinity of the injection wells. The results of this experiment confirm the predicted effect of fluid pressure on earthquake activity and indicate that earthquakes can be controlled wherever we can control the fluid pressure in a fault zone.

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