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Authors: Dahm, T.* 
Cesca, S.* 
Hainzl, S.* 
Braun, T.* 
Krueger, F.* 
Title: Discrimination between induced, triggered and natural earthquakes close to hydrocarbon reservoirs: A probabilistic approach based on the modeling of depletion-induced stress changes and seismological source parameters.
Issue Date: 13-Apr-2015
Series/Report no.: 4/120 (2015)
DOI: 10.1002/2014JB011778
Keywords: Induced seismicity
probabilistic discrimination
hydrocarbon field
triggered earthquake
seismic hazard
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.06. Seismology::04.06.02. Earthquake interactions and probability 
Abstract: Earthquakes occurring close to hydrocarbon fields under production are often under critical view of being induced or triggered. However, clear and testable rules to discriminate the different events have rarely been developed and tested. The unresolved scientific problem may lead to lengthy public disputes with unpredictable impact on the local acceptance of the exploitation and field operations. We propose a quantitative approach to discriminate induced, triggered and natural earthquakes, which is based on testable input parameters. Maxima of occurrence probabilities are compared for the cases under question, and a single probability of being triggered or induced is reported. The uncertainties of earthquake location and other input parameters are considered in terms of the integration over probability density functions (pdf). The probability that events have been human-triggered/induced is derived from the modeling of Coulomb stress changes and a rate and state dependent seismicity model. In our case a 3D boundary element method has been adapted for the nuclei of strain approach to estimate the stress changes outside the reservoir, which are related to pore pressure changes in the field formation. The predicted rate of natural earthquakes is either derived from the background seismicity or, in case of rare events, from an estimate of the tectonic stress rate. Instrumentally derived, seismological information on the event location, source mechanism and the size of the rupture plane is of advantage for the method. If the rupture plane has been estimated, the discrimination between induced or only triggered events is theoretically possible if probability functions are convolved with a rupture fault filter. We apply the approach to three recent main-shock events: (1) the Mw 4.3 Ekofisk 2001, North Sea earthquake close to the Ekofisk oil field, the 2004 Mw 4.4 Rotenburg, Northern Germany earthquake in the vicinity of the Söhlingen gas field, and the Mw 6.1 Emilia 2012, Northern Italy earthquake in the vicinity of a hydrocarbon reservoir. The three test cases cover the complete range of possible causes: clearly “human-induced”, “not even human-triggered” and a third case in-between both extremes.
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