An Improved Framework for Discriminating Seismicity Induced by Industrial Activities from Natural Earthquakes

James Verdon, Brian Baptie, Julian Bommer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
101 Downloads (Pure)


Heightened concerns regarding induced seismicity necessitate robust methods to assess whether detected earthquakes near to industrial sites are natural, or induced by the industrial activity. These assessments are required rapidly, which often precludes detailed modeling of fluid pressures and the geomechanical response of the reservoir and nearby faults. Simple question-based assessment schemes in current use are a useful tool but suffer from several shortcomings: they do not specifically address questions regarding whether available evidence supports the case for natural seismicity; they give all questions equal weighting regardless of the relative influence of different factors; they are not formulated to account for ambiguous or uncertain evidence; and the final outcomes can be difficult to interpret. We propose a new framework that addresses these shortcomings by assigning numerical scores to each question, with positive values for answers that support induced seismicity and negative values for responses favoring natural seismicity. The score values available for each question reflect the relative importance of the different questions, and for each question the absolute value of the score is modulated according to the degree of uncertainty. The final outcome is a score, the Induced Assessment Ratio (IAR), either positive or negative (or zero), that reflects whether events were induced or natural. A second score, the Evidence Strength Ratio (ESR), is assigned that characterizes the strength of the available evidence, expressed as the ratio of the maximum score possible with the available evidence relative to the maximum score that could be obtained if all desired data were available at a site. We demonstrate this approach by application to two case studies in the UK, one widely regarded as a case of induced seismicity, the other more likely to be a series of tectonic earthquakes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSeismological Research Letters
Early online date17 Apr 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Apr 2019


  • earthquakes
  • England
  • Great Britain
  • Europe faults
  • United Kingdom
  • Western Europe


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