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The 2013-2016 induced earthquakes in Harper and Sumner Counties, southern Kansas

Justin L. Rubinstein, William L. Ellsworth and Sara L. Dougherty
The 2013-2016 induced earthquakes in Harper and Sumner Counties, southern Kansas
Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (April 2018) 108 (2): 674-689


We examine the first four years (2013-2016) of the ongoing seismicity in southern Kansas using high-precision locations derived from a local seismometer network. The earthquakes occur almost exclusively in the shallow crystalline basement, below the wastewater injection horizon of the Arbuckle Group at the base of the sedimentary section. Multiple lines of evidence lead us to conclude that disposal of wastewater from the production of oil and gas by deep injection is the probable cause for the surge of seismicity that began in 2013. First, the seismicity correlates in space and time with the injection. We observe increases in seismicity subsequent to increases in injection and decreases in seismicity in response to decreases in injection. Second, the earthquake-rate change is statistically improbable to be of natural origin. From 1974 through the time of the injection increase in 2012, no M (sub L) 4 or larger earthquakes occurred in the study area, while six occurred between 2012 and 2016. The probability of this rate change occurring randomly is approximately 0.16%. Third, the other potential industrial drivers of seismicity (hydraulic fracturing and oil production) do not correlate in space or time with seismicity. Local geological conditions are important in determining whether injection operations will induce seismicity, as shown by absence of seismicity near the largest injection operations in the southwest portion of our study area. In addition to local operations, the presence of seismicity 10+ km from large injection wells indicates that regional injection operations also need to be considered to understand the effects of injection on seismicity.

ISSN: 0037-1106
EISSN: 1943-3573
Serial Title: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Serial Volume: 108
Serial Issue: 2
Title: The 2013-2016 induced earthquakes in Harper and Sumner Counties, southern Kansas
Affiliation: U. S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, United States
Pages: 674-689
Published: 201804
Text Language: English
Publisher: Seismological Society of America, Berkeley, CA, United States
References: 84
Accession Number: 2018-053925
Categories: Seismology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus.
N37°00'00" - N40°00'00", W100°00'00" - W96°00'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Stanford University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2018, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Seismological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201813
Program Name: USGSOPNon-USGS publications with USGS authors
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