A risk-based approach for managing hydraulic fracturing–induced seismicity

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6541, pp. 504-507
DOI: 10.1126/science.abg5451

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Varying the stop lights

Traffic light protocols can help to mitigate induced earthquakes from unconventional oil production. However, they are not geographically tuned to account for how shaking may actually translate to structural damage. Schultz et al. incorporated damage tolerance into a traffic light protocol for the Eagle Ford shale play. They found that shut-off may be necessary more quickly in populated regions, whereas sparsely populated areas of the play can take up to a magnitude 5 earthquake without issue. This risk-based strategy provides a more nuanced approach to regulating induced seismicity.

Science, this issue p. 504


Risks from induced earthquakes are a growing concern that needs effective management. For hydraulic fracturing of the Eagle Ford shale in southern Texas, we developed a risk-informed strategy for choosing red-light thresholds that require immediate well shut-in. We used a combination of datasets to simulate spatially heterogeneous nuisance and damage impacts. Simulated impacts are greater in the northeast of the play and smaller in the southwest. This heterogeneity is driven by concentrations of population density. Spatially varying red-light thresholds normalized on these impacts [moment magnitude (Mw) 2.0 to 5.0] are fairer and safer than a single threshold applied over a broad area. Sensitivity tests indicate that the forecast maximum magnitude is the most influential parameter. Our method provides a guideline for traffic light protocols and managing induced seismicity risks.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science