Effects of regulation on induced seismicity in southern Kansas

Justin L. Rubinstein, William L. Ellsworth, & Sara L. Dougherty

Submitted August 3, 2016, SCEC Contribution #6485, 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #181

The appearance of seismicity concurrent with the expansion of oil and gas activities in southern Kansas since September 2012 suggests that industrial operations are inducing earthquakes there. Much of the seismicity can be related to high-rate injection wells within 5 km of the earthquakes. There is significant complexity to the situation, though. Some of the seismicity, including the 2014 M4.8 Milan earthquake, the largest earthquake to occur in the area, lies at least 10km from high-rate injection wells. Additionally, the presence of high-rate wells does not guarantee that there will be nearby seismicity. Many of the highest-rate injection wells are located to the southwest of our study area, where there is minimal seismicity.

We have also seen changes in earthquake rates shortly following the March, 2015 enactment of new limits on the rate of wastewater disposal in five areas in southern Kansas. Overall, the earthquake rate has decreased significantly since these rules went into place. In more detail, however, earthquake rates within the five areas decreased, but the rate outside the five zones increased. It is likely that fluid-pressure diffusion is responsible for the migration of seismicity outside the areas of reduced injection because there is little injection in the areas unaffected by the new injection rules. This increase is also a reminder that seismicity can persist long after the reduction or cessation of injection. In addition to the effect of the new injection rules, it is possible that the reduction in injection may be partially caused by economic factors that have resulted in a decrease in the production of oil and gas. We have yet to disentangle the effects of the new injection rules and the low prices of oil and gas on the induced seismicity in southern Kansas.

Citation
Rubinstein, J. L., Ellsworth, W. L., & Dougherty, S. L. (2016, 08). Effects of regulation on induced seismicity in southern Kansas. Poster Presentation at 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting.


Related Projects & Working Groups
Seismology