Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New map profiles induced earthquake risk for West Texas

09.02.2018

Stanford geophysicists have developed a detailed map of the stresses that act in the Earth throughout the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, highlighting areas of the oil-rich region that could be at greater risk for future earthquakes induced by production operations.

The new study, published this month in the journal The Leading Edge, provides a color-coded map of the 75,000-square mile region that identifies those potential oil and gas development sites that would be would be most likely to trigger an earthquake associated with fluid injection.


New map of the Earth's stress field in the Permian Basin, west Texas and southeast New Mexico. Black lines represent measured directions of maximum horizontal stress. The colored background represents whether the Earth's crust is extensional or compressional. Blue areas to the west indicate that normal (extensional) faults are potentially active, yellow (mostly out of view to the northeast) represents strike-slip faulting (more compressional), and green means that both normal and strike-slip faults are potentially active. Earthquake locations are shown as colored dots. In recent years, several new clusters of earthquakes (red dots) have occurred in the southern Delaware Basin, near the town of Fort Stockton, and another cluster has occurred near Midland. In contrast, older events (orange dots) are concentrated on the Central Basin Platform.

Credit: Jens Lund Snee

Previous Stanford research has shown that wastewater injected as a step in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) underlies an increase in seismic activity in parts of the central and eastern U.S., particularly in Oklahoma, starting in 2005. While none of these small-to-moderate earthquakes has yet caused significant property damage or injury, they represent an increased probability of larger earthquakes.

Now, Texas is poised to take center stage as the Permian Basin is becoming the country's most important oil- and gas-producing region. In the 1920s, energy companies began extracting the basin's bountiful petroleum deposits during a boom that lasted decades. More recently, the advance of hydraulic fracturing techniques has spurred a new development frenzy. Hundreds of thousands of wells could be drilled in the region in the next few decades.

"We want to get out ahead of the problem in Texas," said study co-author Mark Zoback, the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics in Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), who led a number of the Stanford studies in Oklahoma. "We want to stop fluid injection from triggering even small earthquakes in Texas so that the probability of larger earthquakes is significantly reduced."

High-stress environment

To gauge the risk of future quakes, researchers must first understand the direction of the stresses in a region and their approximate magnitude. When the stress field aligns with a pre-existing fault in a certain manner, the fault can slip, potentially producing an earthquake. In regions such as the central and eastern U.S., far from tectonic plate boundaries such as the San Andreas Fault, this slippage occurs as a natural process, but very rarely. But increasing fluid pressure at depth reduces the friction along the fault, sometimes triggering an earthquake.

"Fluid injection can cause a quake on a fault that might not produce a natural earthquake for thousands of years from now," said study lead author Jens-Erik Lund Snee, a PhD student in the Department of Geophysics at Stanford Earth.

In a previous study, Zoback and postdoctoral scholar Cornelius Langenbruch found that in Oklahoma, fluid injection caused about 6,000 years of natural earthquakes to occur in about five years.

Creating a next-generation stress map

Building on previous efforts to create maps of stress and seismic potential in the Permian Basin, the Stanford researchers added hundreds of new data points from West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, much of the data being provided by the oil and gas industry. Their findings paint a complicated picture of the Permian Basin, which features some relatively consistent horizontal stress areas along with others that show dramatic directional rotations. "We were surprised to see such high variability," said Lund Snee. "It raises a lot of questions about how you can have rotations like that in the middle of a continental plate, far from a plate boundary."

"This is the one of the most interesting stress fields I've ever seen," Zoback said. "While the stress field in this region is surprisingly complex, the data is excellent and having documented what it is, we can now take action on this information and try to prevent the Permian Basin from becoming Oklahoma 2.0."

A tool for safer, more efficient drilling

The Stanford researchers said the new stress map provides oil companies with detailed quantitative data to inform decisions on more effective drilling operations in the Permian Basin. "This is the most complete picture of stress orientation and relative magnitude that they've ever had," Zoback said. "They can use these data every day in deciding the best direction to drill and how to carry out optimal hydraulic fracturing operations."

Future studies will focus on improving knowledge of fault lines in the region and gaining a better understanding of fluid pressure, specifically how the amount of water injection (both now and in the past) has impacted the geological mechanisms at work in the area.

"There is the potential for a lot of earthquakes in this area," said Lund Snee. "We want to understand what's causing them and provide companies with the tools to avoid triggering them."

Zoback is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy, co-director of the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity and director of the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative.

###

The study was supported by the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity, an industrial affiliates program that studies scientific and operational issues associated with triggered and induced earthquakes.

Media Contact

Barbara Buell
bbuell@stanford.edu
650-723-1771

 @stanfordearth

https://earth.stanford.edu/ 

Barbara Buell | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Hundreds of bubble streams link biology, seismology off Washington's coast
22.03.2019 | University of Washington

nachricht Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
11.03.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>