Source Mechanisms of Low Frequency Seismicity in a Hydraulic Fracturing Context

Friday, 19 December 2014
Megan Zecevic, Guillaume Daniel, Fabien Hubans and Pierre Gouedard, Magnitude France, Sainte Tulle, France
In recent years, long-period long-duration (LPLD) events have been observed during hydraulic fracturing of hydrocarbon reservoirs (Das & Zoback, 2013). LPLDs are low-amplitude signals lasting from tens of seconds to minutes. Their source mechanisms are not fully understood. However, as they are remarkably similar in character to tectonic tremors it has been suggested that they may also have comparable source models. Current models suggest that a tectonic tremor consists of numerous slow-slip earthquakes superposed on each other to form continuous waveforms (Shelley et al., 2007). These slow-slip earthquakes are thought to be a result of shear slip on faults close to failure with low confining pressure, most likely due to the presence of fluid with pore pressures close to lithostatic pressures (Peng & Gomberg, 2010).

This study aims to further understand the source mechanism of LPLDs. A hydraulic fracturing dataset containing thousands of located microseismic earthquakes (MEQs) and numerous LPLDs is presented. The MEQs are located around the injection stages whereas the LPLDs are clustered in a limited region within the reservoir. This clustering suggests that LPLDs can only be generated where the conditions in the reservoir are favorable. These results correspond with the possibility that LPLDs are manifestations of slow-slip, with the source locations confined by variations in the mechanical properties of the reservoir. To test this hypothesis a further understanding of the mechanisms of LPLDs and the stress field in which they occur is needed. However, calculating focal mechanisms for LPLDs is difficult due to their emergent onset and lack of clear phases. Consequently, LPLDs must be put into context with the observed MEQs. We will present the spatial distribution of the focal mechanisms of the MEQs and analyze our findings with respect to the occurrence of the LPLD events.