Abstract

We analyzed precisely located microearthquake data detected during five hydraulic fracture treatments in the Carthage gas field of east Texas. The treatments were conducted in two adjacent boreholes within interbedded sands and shales of the Upper Cotton Valley formation. The microearthquakes were induced within narrow horizontal bands that correspond to the targeted sandstone layers. Events throughout all the treatments show strike-slip faulting occurring uniformly along vertical fractures trending close to maximum horizontal stress direction. These events are consistent with the reservoir's prevalent natural fractures, known to be isolated within the sands and trending subparallel to the expected hydraulic fracture orientation. When this uniform fracture system was activated exclusively, the detected shear deformation, measured as the moment release per unit volume of fluid injected, was constant, independent of various fluid viscosities and flow rates used. Within the base of the Upper Cotton Valley formation, anomalous event counts and moment release occurred within dense clusters that delineate bends or jogs in the fracture zones. The mechanisms are also strike-slip, but the fault planes are more favorably oriented for failure. The dense clusters show location patterns diverging in time, suggesting the expulsion of fluids from compressive fault jogs. Fluid flow forced by the adjacent slip-induced loading appears to initially extend the treatments, but the loading also tends to lock up and concentrate stress at the jogs, as evident by fewer but larger events populating the structures as treatments progress. As a result, effective drainage lengths from the boreholes may be shorter than would be inferred from the seismicity extending past the jogs. These high-moment asperities are similar to dense patches of seismicity observed along creeping sections of the San Andreas fault, where they have been attributed to localized zones of strength or stress concentration, surrounded by larger regions undergoing stable, aseismic slip. This similarity, plus large moment deficits in terms of volume injected, suggests a large component of aseismic slip is induced by the Cotton Valley treatments.

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