Two-year survey of earthquakes and injection/production wells in the Eagle Ford Shale, Texas, prior to the MW4.8 20 October 2011 earthquake

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Between November 2009 and September 2011 the EarthScope USArray program deployed ~25 temporary seismograph stations on a 70-km grid in south-central Texas between 27°N-31°N and 96°W-101°W. This area includes the Eagle Ford Shale. For decades this geographic region has produced gas and oil from other strata using conventional methods, but recent developments in hydrofracturing technology has allowed extensive development of natural gas resources from within the Eagle Ford. Our study surveys small-magnitude seismic events and evaluates their correlation with fluid extraction and injection in the Eagle Ford, identifying and locating 62 probable earthquakes, including 58 not reported by the U.S. Geological Survey. The 62 probable earthquakes occur singly or in clusters at 14 foci; of these foci, two were situated near wells injecting recently increased volumes of water; eight were situated near wells extracting recently increased volumes of oil and/or water; and four were not situated near wells reporting significant injection/extraction increases. Thus in this region, while the majority of small earthquakes may be triggered/induced by human activity, they are more often associated with fluid extraction than with injection. We also investigated the MW4.8 20 October 2011 Fashing earthquake-the largest historically reported earthquake in south-central Texas-that occurred two weeks after the removal of the temporary USArray stations. A field study indicated that the highest-intensity (MMI VI) region was about 10 km south of 2010-2011 foreshock activity, and that there were no high-volume injection wells within 20 km of the MMI V-VI region or the foreshocks. However, the 20 October 2011 earthquake did coincide with a significant increase in oil/water extraction volumes at wells within the MMI V-VI region, and this was also true for previous earthquakes felt at Fashing in 1973 and 1983. In contrast, our study found significant increases in injection prior to an mbLG3.6 20 July 1991 earthquake near Falls City, Texas. Thus the Eagle Ford geographic region, with seismic activity associated both with extraction and injection, appears to be more complex than the Barnett Shale of northeast Texas, where a similar survey found possible correlations only with fluid injection. © 2013 The Authors.




Frohlich, C., & Brunt, M. (2013). Two-year survey of earthquakes and injection/production wells in the Eagle Ford Shale, Texas, prior to the MW4.8 20 October 2011 earthquake. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 379, 56–63.

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