Seismic moment evolution during hydraulic stimulations in EGS projects - insights from lab and field tests

Georg Dresen, GFZ-Potsdam

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 10:30 AM

Online-only seminar via Microsoft Teams

Recent results from an EGS project in Finland suggest a possibly successful physics-based approach in controlling stimulation-induced seismicity in geothermal projects. We analyzed the temporal evolution of seismicity and the growth of maximum observed moment magnitudes for a range of past and present stimulation projects. Our results show that the majority of the stimulation campaigns investigated reveal a clear linear relation between injected fluid volume, hydraulic energy and cumulative seismic moments. For most projects studied, the observations are in good agreement with existing physical models that predict a relation between injected fluid volume and maximum seismic moment of induced events. This suggest that in cases seismicity results from a stable, pressure-controlled rupture process at least for an extended injection period. Overall evolution of seismicity is independent of tectonic stress regime and is most likely governed by reservoir specific parameters, such as the preexisting structural inventory. However, EGS stimulation campaigns have also shown that in addition to total fluid volume injected also the rates of injection and fluid pressure increase affect seismic moment release. This aspect is not included in current models. To investigate the effect of injection rate on slip characteristics, strain partitioning and energy budget, we performed laboratory fluid injection experiments on reservoir sandstone samples in a triaxial deformation apparatus equipped with a 16-channel acoustic emission (AE) recording system. We injected fluid in sawcut samples containing a critically stressed fault at different pressurization rates. In general, fluid-induced fault deformation is dominantly aseismic. We find slow stick-slip events are induced at high fluid pressurization rate while steady fault creep occurs in response to low fluid pressurization rate. The released total seismic moment is found to be related to total injected volume, independent of fault slip behavior. Seismic moment release rate of AE is related to measured fault slip velocity. Total potential energy change and fracture energy release rate are defined by fault stiffness and largely independent of injection rate. Breakdown power density scales with slip rate and is significantly higher for fast injection and pressurization rates. The relation between moment release and injected volume is affected by fault slip behavior, characterized by a linear relation for slip at constant rate and fault creep while a cubic relation is evident for unstable and dynamic slip. Our experimental results allow separating a stable pressure-controlled injection phase with low rate of energy dissipation from a run-away phase, where breakdown power is high and cumulative moment release with injected volume is nonlinear.

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