Journal of Seismology

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 5–11 | Cite as

Probability of earthquake occurrence and magnitude estimation in the post shut-in phase of geothermal projects

  • Andreas Barth
  • Friedemann Wenzel
  • Cornelius Langenbruch
Original Article


Induced seismicity in geothermal projects is observed to continue after shut-in of the fluid injection. Recent experiments show that the largest events tend to occur after the termination of injection. We use a probabilistic approach based on Omori’s law and the Gutenberg–Richter magnitude–frequency distribution to demonstrate that the probability of exceeding a certain maximum magnitude still increases after shut-in. This increase is governed by the exponent of Omori’s law q and the Gutenberg–Richter b value. For a reduced b value in the post-injection phase, the probability of occurrence directly after shut-in can be even higher than the corresponding probability for an ongoing injection. For the reference case of q = 2 and a 10% probability at shut-in time t S to exceed a given maximum magnitude, we obtain an increase to 14.6% for t = 2t S at a constant Gutenberg–Richter b value after shut-in. A reduction of the b value by one quarter leads to a probability of 20.5%. If we consider a constant probability level of occurrence for an event larger than a given magnitude at shut-in time, this maximum magnitude increases by 0.12 units for t = 2t S (0.26 units for a reduced b value). For the Soultz-sous-Forêts (France) injection experiment in 2000, recent studies reveal q = 9.5 and a b value reduction by 14%. A magnitude 2.3 event 9 h after shut-in falls in the phase with a probability higher than for the continued injection. The probability of exceeding the magnitude of this post-injection event is determined to 97.1%.


Induced seismicity Shut-in Post-injection Probability EGS b value Soultz-sous-Forêts Basel 



We thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful and constructive remarks. Figures were made using GMT (Wessel and Smith 1998).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Barth
    • 1
  • Friedemann Wenzel
    • 1
  • Cornelius Langenbruch
    • 2
  1. 1.Geophysical InstituteKarlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Geological SciencesFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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