Induced Seismicity Potential in
Committee on Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies
Committee on Earth Resources
Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering
Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by DE-PI0000010, TO# 10/DE-DT0001995 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Front cover: Photo on right-hand side of photo panel is credited to Julie Shemeta; photo used with permission. Background image is courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/poster/2011/20110228.php). Cover design by Michael Dudzik.
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COMMITTEE ON INDUCED SEISMICITY POTENTIAL IN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES
MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Chair, Colorado School of Mines, Golden
DONALD D. CLARKE, Geological Consultant, Long Beach, California
EMMANUEL DETOURNAY, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and CSIRO (Earth Science and Resource Engineering), Australia
JAMES H. DIETERICH, University of California, Riverside
DAVID K. DILLON, David K. Dillon PE, LLC, Centennial, Colorado
SIDNEY J. GREEN, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
ROBERT M. HABIGER, Spectraseis, Denver, Colorado
ROBIN K. MCGUIRE, Lettis Consultants International, Inc., Boulder, Colorado
JAMES K. MITCHELL, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
JULIE E. SHEMETA, MEQ Geo, Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colorado
JOHN L. (BILL) SMITH, Geothermal Consultant, Santa Rosa, California
National Research Council Staff
ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Study Director
COURTNEY GIBBS, Program Associate
JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate
NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate
BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES
CORALE L. BRIERLEY (Chair), Brierley Consultancy LLC, Denver, Colorado
SUSAN L. CUTTER, University of South Carolina, Columbia
WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia
EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR, Arizona State University, Tempe
ANN S. MAEST, Buka Environmental, Boulder, Colorado
DAVID R. MAIDMENT, University of Texas, Austin
ROBERT MCMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado
ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis
CLAUDIA MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville
CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington
HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
DAVID T. SANDWELL, University of California, San Diego
PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego
REGINAL SPILLER, Azimuth Investments, LLC, Houston, Texas
GENE WHITNEY, Independent Consultant, Washington, D.C.
National Research Council Staff
ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Director
ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer
SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Senior Program Officer
MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer
NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate
COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate
ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant
CHANDA T. IJAMES, Senior Program Assistant
Since the 1920s we have recognized that pumping fluids into or out of the Earth has the potential to cause seismic events that can be felt. Seismic events in Basel, Switzerland, between 2006 and 2008 were felt by local residents and were related to geothermal energy development. Strings of small seismic events in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas in the past several years have been related to wastewater disposal associated with oil and gas production. These seismic events have brought the issue of induced (human-caused) seismicity firmly into public view.
Ensuring a reliable twenty-first-century energy supply for the United States presents seminal economic, environmental, and social challenges. A variety of conventional and unconventional energy technologies are being developed to meet these challenges, including new technologies associated with shale gas production and geothermal energy. Energy technologies may also produce wastes. “Wastewater” is often produced during oil and gas drilling and is generally managed either by disposal through pumping the fluids back into the subsurface or by storage, treatment, or reuse. Carbon dioxide may also be generated as a by-product of energy production and may be captured and similarly pumped into the ground for storage.
Anticipating public concern about the potential for induced seismicity related to energy development, Senator Bingaman requested that the Department of Energy conduct a study of this issue through the National Research Council. The study was designed to examine the scale, scope, and consequences of seismicity induced during the injection of fluids related to energy production; to identify gaps in knowledge and research needed to advance the understanding of induced seismicity; to identify gaps in induced seismic hazard assessment methodologies and the research needed to close those gaps; and to assess options for interim steps toward best practices with regard to energy development and induced seismicity potential.
The committee (Appendix A) investigated the history and potential for induced seismicity associated with geothermal energy development; with oil and gas production, including enhanced oil recovery and shale gas; and with carbon capture and storage (CCS). The committee examined peer-reviewed literature, documents produced by federal and state agencies, online databases and resources, and information requested from and submitted by external sources. The committee heard from government and industry representatives; from members of the public familiar with the world’s largest geothermal operation at The Geysers, California, at a public meeting in Berkeley, California; and from people familiar with shale gas development, enhanced oil recovery, wastewater disposal, and CCS at meetings in
Dallas, Texas, and Irvine, California (Appendix B). Meetings were also held in Washington, D.C., and Denver, Colorado, to explore induced seismicity in theory and in practice.
During the meeting in Northern California, the committee was able to talk with individuals from Anderson Springs and Cobb, California, who live with induced seismicity continuously generated by geothermal energy production. Understanding their concerns and the history of how they have worked with individuals from both industry and local government, together with technical experts from the federal government, to deal with their very tangible issue of induced seismicity brought immediacy to the committee’s deliberations. This knowledge was invaluable as the committee explored the concept of a protocol system for responding to induced seismicity with some of the individuals who helped devise the proposed protocol system for induced seismicity caused by or likely related to enhanced geothermal energy development.
This study took place during a period in which a number of small, felt seismic events occurred that had been caused by or were likely related to fluid injection for energy development. Because of their recent occurrence, peer-reviewed publications about most of these events were generally not available. However, knowing that these events and information about them would be anticipated in this report, the committee attempted to identify and seek information from as many sources as possible to gain a sense of the common factual points involved in each instance, as well as the remaining, unanswered questions about these cases. Through this process, the committee has engaged scientists and engineers from academia, industry, and government because each has credible and viable information to add to better understanding of induced seismicity.
This report describes what we know about the potential for induced seismicity related to energy development. It highlights areas where our knowledge is weak and discusses inherent difficulties in dealing with an issue that does not have a well-defined regulatory “home.” The committee hopes this report will inform both the public and the decision-making process with respect to an important issue that will undoubtedly become more widely recognized as additional induced seismic events occur.
As chair, I would like to thank the committee members for their dedication and hard work. The committee commends Dr. Elizabeth Eide, the project study director, for helping to make this an exciting learning experience for us all. The committee also benefited from the dedication and excellence of research associate Jason Ortego and program associate Courtney Gibbs.
Murray W. Hitzman, Chair
TIn addition to its own expertise, the study committee relied on input from numerous external professionals and members of the public with extensive experience in addressing the range of issues related to induced seismicity. These individuals were very generous in sharing their research knowledge from the laboratory and the field, their direct experiences from industry settings and with energy development in the private sector and in government, and their personal experiences in dealing with induced seismic events. We gratefully acknowledge their contributions to help us with this work. In particular, the committee would like to thank the following people: Scott Ausbrooks, Joe Beall, Lisa Block, Jay Braitsch, Mike Bruno, Linda Christian, David Coleman, Tim Conant, Kevin Cunningham, Mark Dellinger, Philip Dellinger, Nancy Dorsey, Ola Eiken, Leo Eisner, Bill Ellsworth, Cheryl Engels, Rob Finley, Cliff Frohlich, Julio Garcia, Domenico Giardini, Jeffrey Gospe, George Guthrie, Craig Hartline, Werner Heigl, Hamilton Hess, Austin Holland, Steve Horton, Ernst Huenges, John Jeffers, Doug Johnson, Don Juckett, Bill Leith, Ernie Majer, Shawn Maxwell, Steve Melzer, Meriel Medrano, Alexander Nagelhout, Jay Nathwani, David Oppenheimer, Susan Petty, Bruce Presgrave, Philip Ringrose, Jim Rutledge, Jean Savy, Alexander Schriener, Serge Shapiro, Karl Urbank, Mark Walters, Charlene Wardlow, Norm Warpinski, Stefan Wiemer, Colin Williams, Melinda Wright, Bob Young, and Mark Zoback.
The helpful assistance we received with regard to planning and executing the field trip and workshop for the committee’s meeting in Northern California was also very important. We recognize the contributions from Calpine, the Northern California Power Agency, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the communities of Anderson Springs and Cobb, California, for their excellent cooperation and efforts to provide us with access to necessary information and localities that greatly informed the committee’s work.
The committee gratefully acknowledges the support of three standing committees under the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources for their guidance and oversight during the study process: the Committee on Earth Resources, the Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering, and the Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics (Appendix M). This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The
review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Jon Ake, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rockville, Maryland
Dan Arthur, ALL Consulting, Tulsa, Oklahoma
John Bredehoeft, The Hydrodynamics Group, Sausalito, California
Brian Clark, Schlumberger Companies, Sugar Land, Texas
Peter Malin, University of Auckland, New Zealand
W. Allen Marr, Jr., Geocomp Corporation, Acton, Massachusetts
Shawn Maxwell, Schlumberger Canada, Calgary
J. R. Anthony Pearson, Schlumberger Cambridge Research, United Kingdom
Ed Przybylowicz, Eastman Kodak Company (retired), Webster, New York
Carlos Santamarina, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Mark Zoback, Stanford University, Stanford, California
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by William L. Fisher, The University of Texas at Austin, and R. Stephen Berry, the University of Chicago, Illinois. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.