Differentiating Tectonic and Anthropogenic Earthquakes in the Greater Los Angeles Basin, Southern California

Friday, 19 December 2014
Egill Hauksson1, Thomas Goebel1, Elizabeth S Cochran2 and Jean Paul Ampuero1, (1)California Institute of Technology, Seismological Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (2)US Geological Survey, Pasadena, CA, United States
The 2014 flurry of moderate earthquakes in the Los Angeles region raised the concern if some of this or past seismicity was of anthropogenic origin as opposed to being caused by ongoing transpressional tectonics. The Mw5.1 La Habra sequence is located near several major oil fields but the Mw4.4 Encino sequence was located away from oil fields, within the Santa Monica Mountains. The last century of seismicity in the Los Angeles area consists of numerous small and large earthquakes. Most of these earthquakes occur beneath the basin sediments and are associated with transpressional tectonics, related to the big bend in the San Andreas fault, but some could be associated with large oil fields. In particular, both the 1933 Mw6.4 Long Beach and the 1987 Mw5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquakes were spatially associated with two major oil fields, the Huntington Beach and Montebello fields. Numerous large oil fields have been in production for more than 125 years. The geographical locations of the oil fields follow major tectonic trends such as the Newport-Inglewood fault, the Whittier fault, and the thrust belt located at the north edge of the Los Angeles basin. More than 60 fields have oil wells and some of these have both disposal and fracking wells. Before fluid injection became common, Kovach (1974) documented six damaging events induced by fluid extraction from 1947 to 1961 in the Wilmington oil field. Since 1981 the waveform-relocated earthquake catalog for the Los Angeles basin is complete on the average above M2.0. We compare the spatial distribution of these events and the proximity of nearby active oil fields. We will also analyze the seismicity in the context of available monthly fluid extraction and injection volumes and search for temporal correlations. The La Habra sequence apparently correlates with temporal changes in extraction and injection volumes in the Santa Fe Springs oil field but not with activities in other oil fields within closer spatial proximity.