Monitoring induced seismicity near the Wellington oil field, South-Central Kansas
Nolte, Keith Alexander
University of Kansas
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Seismicity in the United States midcontinent has increased by orders of magnitude over the past decade. Spatiotemporal correlations of seismicity to wastewater injection operations have suggested that injection-related pore fluid pressure increases are inducing the earthquakes. In this investigation, I examine earthquake occurrence in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma and its relation to the change in pore pressure. The main source of data comes from the Wellington Array in the Wellington oil field, in Sumner County, KS, which has monitored for earthquakes in central Sumner County, KS since early 2015. A catalog of earthquakes was built from this data. These earthquakes were then analyzed for spatial and temporal changes, stress information, and anisotropy information. The region of seismic concern has been shown to be expanding through use of the Wellington earthquake catalog, and has revealed a northward progression of earthquake activity reaching the metropolitan area of Wichita. The stress orientation was also calculated from this earthquake catalog through focal mechanism inversion. The calculated stress orientation was confirmed through comparison to other stress measurements from well data and previous earthquake studies in the region. With this knowledge of the stress orientation, the anisotropy in the basement could be understood. This allowed for the anisotropy measurements to be correlated to pore pressure increases. The increase in pore pressure is monitored through time-lapse shear-wave anisotropy analysis. Since the onset of the observation period in 2010, the orientation of the fast shear-wave has rotated 90°, indicating a change associated with critical pore pressure build up. The time delay between fast and slow shear wave arrivals has increased, indicating a corresponding increase in anisotropy induced by pore pressure rise. In-situ near-basement fluid pressure measurements corroborate the continuous pore pressure increase revealed by the shear-wave anisotropy analysis over the earthquake-monitoring period. This research is the first to identify a change in pore fluid pressure in the basement using seismological data. The shear-wave splitting analysis is a novel application of the technique, which can be used in other regions to identify an increase in pore pressure. This increasing pore fluid pressure has become more regionally extensive as earthquakes are occurring in southern Kansas, where they previously were absent. These monitoring techniques and analyses provide new insight into mitigating induced seismicity’s impact to society.
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