Understanding North Texas Seismicity: A Joint Analysis of Seismic Data and 3D Pore Pressure Modeling

Friday, 19 December 2014
Heather R DeShon1, Matthew J Hornbach1, William L Ellsworth2, Harrison R. Oldham1, Chris Hayward1, Brian William Stump1, Cliff Frohlich3, Jon E Olson4 and James H Luetgert2, (1)Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, United States, (2)US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (3)University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States, (4)Univ Texas, Austin, TX, United States
In November 2013, a series of earthquakes began along a mapped ancient fault system near Azle, Texas. The Azle events are the third felt earthquake sequence in the Fort Worth (Barnett Shale) Basin since 2008, and several production and injection wells in the area are drilled to depths near the recent seismic activity. Understanding if and/or how injection and removal of fluids in the crystalline crust reactivates faults have important implications for seismology, the energy industry, and society. We assessed whether the Azle earthquakes were induced using a joint analysis of the earthquake data, subsurface geology and fault structure, and 3D pore pressure modeling. Using a 12-station temporary seismic deployment, we have recorded and located >300 events large enough to be recorded on multiple stations and 1000s of events during periods of swarm activity. High-resolution locations and focal mechanisms indicate that events occurred on NE-SW trending, steeply dipping normal faults associated with the southern end of the Newark East Fault Zone with hypocenters between 2-8 km depth. We considered multiple causes that might have changed stress along this system. Earthquakes resulting from natural processes, though perhaps unlikely in this historically inactive region, can be neither ruled out nor confirmed due to lack of information on the natural stress state of these faults. Analysis of lake and groundwater variations near Azle showed that no significant stress changes occurred prior to or during the earthquake sequence. In contrast, analysis of pore-pressure models shows that the combination of formation water production and wastewater injection near the fault could have caused pressure increases that induced earthquakes on near-critically stressed faults.