Seismic Imaging of Open Subsurface Fractures

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Stephen C Myers, Arben Pitarka, Eric Matzel and Ana C Aguiar, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States
Injection of high-pressure fluid into the subsurface is proven to stimulate geothermal, oil, and gas production by opening cracks that increase permeability. The effectiveness of increasing permeability by high-pressure injection has been revolutionized by the introduction of “proppants” into the injected fluid to keep cracks open after the pressure of the stimulation activity ends. The network of fractures produced during stimulation is most commonly inferred by the location of micro-earthquakes. However, existing (closed) fractures may open aseismically, so the whole fracture network may not be imaged by micro-seismic locations alone. Further, whether all new fractures remain open and for how long remains unclear.

Open cracks, even fluid-filled cracks, scatter seismic waves because traction forces are not transmitted across the gap. Numerical simulation confirms that an open crack with dimensions on the order of 10 meters can scatter enough seismic energy to change the coda of seismic signals. Our simulations show that changes in seismic coda due to newly opened fractures are only a few percent of peak seismogram amplitudes, making signals from open cracks difficult to identify. We are developing advanced signal processing methods to identify candidate signals that originate from open cracks. These methods are based on differencing seismograms that are recorded before and after high-pressure fluid injection events to identify changes in the coda. The origins of candidate signals are located using time-reversal techniques to determine if the signals are indeed associated with a coherent structure. The source of scattered energy is compared to micro-seismic event locations to determine whether cracks opened seismically or aseismically. This work performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344. LLNL-ABS-675612.