Green, yellow, red, or out of the blue? An assessment of Traffic Light Schemes to mitigate the impact of hydraulic fracturing-induced seismicity

James P Verdon, Julian Bommer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract


Mitigating hydraulic fracturing-induced seismicity (HF-IS) poses a challenge for shale gas companies and regulators alike. The use of Traffic Light Schemes (TLSs) is the most common way by which the hazards associated with HF-IS are mitigated. In this study, we discuss the implicit risk mitigation objectives of TLSs and explain the advantages of magnitude as the fundamental parameter to characterise induced seismic hazard. We go on to investigate some of the key assumptions on which TLSs are based, namely that magnitudes evolve relatively gradually from green to yellow to red thresholds (as opposed to larger events occurring “out-of-the-blue”), and that trailing event magnitudes do not increase substantially after injection stops. We compile HF-IS datasets from around the world, including the USA, Canada, the UK and China, and track the temporal evolution of magnitudes in order to evaluate the extent to which magnitude jumps (i.e. sharp increases in magnitude from preceding events within a sequence) and trailing events occur. We find in the majority of cases magnitude jumps are less than 2 units. One quarter of cases experienced a post-injection magnitude increase, with the largest being 1.6. Trailing event increases generally occurred soon after injection, with most cases showing no increase in magnitude more than a few days after then end of injection. Hence, the effective operation of TLSs may require red-light thresholds to be set as much as two magnitude units below the threshold that the scheme is intended to avoid.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Seismology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Aug 2020

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