Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

energy technologies. The committee has done this exercise for induced seismicity associated with injection wells used for oil and gas development (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] Underground Injection Control [UIC] Class II wells) or with carbon storage (EPA UIC Class VI wells) and has developed an example of the primary elements that might be included in a best practices protocol matrix (Table 6.4).


The protocols described in Box 6.1 and Tables 6.3 and 6.4 refer to a “traffic light” control system for responding to an instance of induced seismicity. Such a system, although rarely employed in energy technology projects with active cases of induced seismicity,2 allows for low levels of seismicity but adds additional monitoring and mitigation requirements when seismic events are of sufficient intensity to result in a concern for public health and safety. The preferred criterion to be used for such a control system has been the level of ground motion observed at the site of the sensitive receptor, be it a public or private facility. Seismic event magnitude alone is generally insufficient as the only criterion because of the nature of attenuation (absorption or loss of energy) with increasing distance from an event location to a sensitive receptor site. Zoback (2012) provides a summary of a traffic light system for the purpose of managing potential induced seismicity from wastewater disposal.

As an example, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently issued as its “Conditions of Approval”3 for a proposed EGS project the specific procedures to be followed in the event that induced seismicity is observed to be caused by the proposed stimulation (hydraulic fracturing) operation. The specific procedures included the use of the traffic light control system that allows hydraulic fracturing to proceed as planned (green light) if it does not result in an intensity of ground motion in excess of Mercalli IV (“light” shaking with an acceleration of less than 3.9%g), as recorded by an instrument located at the site of public concern. However, if ground motion accelerations in the range of 3.9%g to 9.2%g are repeatedly recorded within one week, equivalent to Mercalli V (“moderate” shaking), then the operation is required to be scaled back (yellow light) to reduce the potential for the further occurrence of such events. And finally, if the operation results in a recorded acceleration of greater than 9.2%g, resulting in “strong” Mercalli VI or greater shaking, then the active operation is to immediately cease (red light).

The authority for the permitting of Class II injection well location varies by state and is discussed in Chapter 4. Well permits of Class II injection wells in Colorado, for example, are reviewed by the Colorado Geological Survey (COGCC, 2011). During a geologic review,


2 To the committee’s knowledge, the traffic light system has been applied only at the Berlin geothermal field in El Salvador (Majer et al., 2007) and at Basel, Switzerland.

3 R.M. Estabrook, BLM, Conditions of Approval for GSN-340-09-06, Work Authorized: Hydroshear, The Geysers, January 31, 2012.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement