Abstract

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 ML 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 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.

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