Abstract

Felt seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is very rare, with only a handful of reported cases worldwide. Using an optimized multistation cross‐correlation template‐matching routine, 77 earthquakes were identified in Poland Township, Mahoning County, Ohio, that were closely related spatially and temporally to active hydraulic fracturing operations. We identified earthquakes as small as local magnitudes (ML) ∼1 up to 3, potentially one of the largest earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing in the United States. These events all occurred from 4 to 12 March 2014, and the rate decayed once the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a shutdown of hydraulic fracturing at a nearby well on 10 March. Using a locally derived velocity model and double‐difference relocation, the earthquakes occurred during six stimulation stages along two horizontal well legs that were located ∼0.8  km away. Nearly 100 stimulation stages in nearby wells at greater distances from the earthquake source region did not coincide with detected seismicity. During the sequence, hypocenters migrated ∼600  m along an azimuth of 083°, defining a vertically oriented plane of seismicity close to the top of the Precambrian basement. The focal mechanism determined for the ML 3 event had a vertically oriented left‐lateral fault plane consistent with the earthquake distribution and the regional stress field. The focal mechanism, orientation, and depth of hypocenters were similar to those of the 2011 Youngstown earthquake sequence that occurred 18 km to the northwest and was correlated with wastewater injection instead of hydraulic fracturing. Considering the relatively large magnitude of the Poland Township events and the b‐value of 0.89, it appears the hydraulic fracturing induced slip along a pre‐existing fault/fracture zone optimally oriented in the regional stress field.

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