ABSTRACT

The development of most unconventional oil and gas resources relies upon subsurface injection of very large volumes of fluids, which can induce earthquakes by activating slip on a nearby fault. During the last 5 years, accelerated oilfield fluid injection has led to a sharp increase in the rate of earthquakes in some parts of North America. In the central United States, most induced seismicity is linked to deep disposal of coproduced wastewater from oil and gas extraction. In contrast, in western Canada most recent cases of induced seismicity are highly correlated in time and space with hydraulic fracturing, during which fluids are injected under high pressure during well completion to induce localized fracturing of rock. Furthermore, it appears that the maximum‐observed magnitude of events associated with hydraulic fracturing may exceed the predictions of an often‐cited relationship between the volume of injected fluid and the maximum expected magnitude. These findings have far‐reaching implications for assessment of induced‐seismicity hazards.

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