Statistical Analysis of Seismicity Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing in Western Canada
Monday, 14 December 2015: 10:20
104 (Moscone South)
The unconventional extraction of shale oil or gas is typically carried out by the subsurface injection of large volumes of fluids. The fluids are used in the process of hydraulic fracturing and subsequent wastewater injection into high volume disposal wells. These operations are usually accompanied by various levels of seismic activity and sometimes result in the occurrence of moderate to large earthquakes. It is suggested that the increase in seismic activity within the central U.S. in the last decade or so is primely associated with large-scale disposal of wastewater. The Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) is an active exploration area for the extraction of oil and gas. The average rate of seismicity is lower than in the central U.S., however, there are several active clusters, where in the last 8-10 years, there has been an increase in the occurrence of moderate earthquakes. In this study, we analyze the statistical properties of seismicity associated with the WCSB. We find that the increase in seismicity rate is mostly associated with the hydraulic fracturing operations in several well defined spatial zones. Hydraulic fracturing involves high-pressure injections of fluids and is performed in multiple stages. This is done along horizontal wells which are drilled at average depths of 2 to 3 km. The triggering of large earthquakes is mostly due to injection of fluids into nearby tectonic faults which are close to failure. To model the rate of the occurrence of earthquakes we introduce a modified version of the Epidemic Type Aftershock Sequence model. The earthquake occurrence rate associated with several prominent clusters is characterized by bursts of activity associated with specifics of hydraulic fracturing operations. The proposed model can be used in the probabilistic assessment and mitigation of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.