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Traffic light systems; to what extent can induced seismicity be controlled?

Stefan Baisch, Christopher Koch and Annemarie Muntendam-Bos
Traffic light systems; to what extent can induced seismicity be controlled?
Seismological Research Letters (March 2019) 90 (3): 1145-1154


In different subsurface energy technologies, traffic light systems (TLSs) have been implemented for limiting the strength of induced seismicity. Despite their widespread application, fundamental assumptions regarding the controllability of induced seismicity were usually not reviewed. This is the focus of the current article, in which we discuss limitations of a TLS in the context of seismicity induced by fluid injection and gas production. Most existing TLSs are based on a critical earthquake magnitude or vibration level that should be prevented to occur. Operational measures are defined to be taken after an induced earthquake exceeds predefined threshold values. This concept rests on the tacit assumptions that induced earthquakes of a critical strength announce themselves by precursory events of smaller strength and that future earthquakes of a critical strength can be prevented by modifying or stopping subsurface operations. We investigate to what extent these assumptions can be justified by studying observation data from a dozen fluid-injection operations in geothermal reservoirs as well as from gas production in 26 gas fields in The Netherlands. In our case studies, whereas fluid injection-induced seismicity generally starts at a low-magnitude level and exhibits a gradual temporal increase of the maximum earthquake magnitude with the duration of the injection, the largest magnitude event frequently occurs postinjection. The temporal evolution of the seismicity induced by gas production in The Netherlands is less systematic. In some gas fields, seismicity started at a comparatively large-magnitude level (ML> or =2.7) without detectable precursors. A correlation between seismic activity and the gas production rate is only observed in the largest gas field. Our findings indicate that the precision to what an earthquake of a given strength can be prevented by a TLS has more limitations than typically assumed.

ISSN: 0895-0695
EISSN: 1938-2057
Serial Title: Seismological Research Letters
Serial Volume: 90
Serial Issue: 3
Title: Traffic light systems; to what extent can induced seismicity be controlled?
Affiliation: Q-con, Bad Bergzabern, Germany
Pages: 1145-1154
Published: 20190327
Text Language: English
Publisher: Seismological Society of America, El Cerrito, CA, United States
References: 81
Accession Number: 2019-029466
Categories: Seismology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 2 tables, sketch map
N52°00'00" - N54°00'00", E04°00'00" - E07°00'00"
Secondary Affiliation: State Supervision of the Mines, NLD, Netherlands
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2020, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Seismological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201916
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