ABSTRACT

We describe a numerical investigation of seismicity induced by injection into a single isolated fracture. Injection into a single isolated fracture is a simple analog for shear stimulation in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) during which water is injected into fractured, low permeability rock, triggering slip on preexisting large scale fracture zones. A model was developed and used that couples (1) fluid flow, (2) rate and state friction, and (3) mechanical stress interaction between fracture elements. Based on the results of this model, we propose a mechanism to describe the process by which the stimulated region grows during shear stimulation, which we refer to as the sequential stimulation (SS) mechanism. If the SS mechanism is realistic, it would undermine assumptions that are made for the estimation of the minimum principal stress and unstimulated hydraulic diffusivity. We investigated the effect of injection pressure on induced seismicity. For injection at constant pressure, there was not a significant dependence of maximum event magnitude on injection pressure, but there were more relatively large events for higher injection pressure. Decreasing injection pressure over time significantly reduced the maximum event magnitude. Significant seismicity occurred after shut-in, which was consistent with observations from EGS stimulations. Production of fluid from the well immediately after injection inhibited shut-in seismic events. The results of the model in this study were found to be broadly consistent with results from prior work using a simpler treatment of friction that we refer to as static/dynamic. We investigated the effect of shear-induced pore volume dilation and the rate and state characteristic length scale, dc. Shear-induced pore dilation resulted in a larger number of lower magnitude events. A larger value of dc caused slip to occur aseismically.

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