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Fault activation by hydraulic fracturing in western Canada

A seismogram

A sample seismogram

Abstract: Hydraulic fracturing has been inferred to trigger the majority of injection-induced earthquakes in western Canada, in contrast to the midwestern United States where massive saltwater disposal is the dominant triggering mechanism. A template-based earthquake catalog from a seismically active Canadian shale play, combined with comprehensive injection data during a 4-month interval, shows that earthquakes are tightly clustered in space and time near hydraulic fracturing sites. The largest event [moment magnitude (MW) 3.9] occurred several weeks after injection along a fault that appears to extend from the injection zone into crystalline basement. Patterns of seismicity indicate that stress changes during operations can activate fault slip to an offset distance of >1 km, whereas pressurization by hydraulic fracturing into a fault yields episodic seismicity that can persist for months.

Bao X, Eaton DW
Fault activation by hydraulic fracturing in western Canada
Science. 2016 Nov 17. pii: aag2583. [Epub ahead of print]

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