Induced Microearthquake Patterns in Hydrocarbon and Geothermal Reservoirs: Six Case Studies
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— The injection or production of fluids can induce microseismic events in hydrocarbon and geothermal reservoirs. By deploying sensors downhole, data sets have been collected that consist of a few hundred to well over 10,000 induced events. We find that most induced events cluster into well-defined geometrical patterns. In many cases, we must apply high-precision, relative location techniques to observe these patterns. At three sedimentary sites, thin horizontal strands of activity are commonly found within the location patterns. We believe this reflects fracture containment between stratigraphic layers of differing mechanical properties or states of stress. At a massive carbonate and two crystalline sites, combinations of linear and planar features indicate networks of intersecting fractures and allow us to infer positions of aseismic fractures through their influence on the location patterns. In addition, the fine-scale seismicity patterns often evolve systematically with time. At sedimentary sites, migration of seismicity toward the injection point has been observed and may result from slip-induced stress along fractures that initially have little resolved shear. In such cases, triggering events may be critical to generate high levels of seismic activity. At one crystalline site, the early occurrence of linear features that traverse planes of activity indicate permeable zones and possible flow paths within fractures. We hope the continued development of microseismic techniques and refinement of conceptual models will further increase our understanding of fluid behavior and lead to improved resource management in fractured reservoirs.
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