Analytical investigation of hydraulic fracture-induced seismicity and fault activation

  • Haijun ZhaoEmail author
  • Fengshan Ma
  • Gang Liu
  • Xuelei Feng
  • Jie Guo
Original Article


More recent public discourse has taken place regarding the potential correlation between seismic activity and hydraulic fracturing in shale gas reservoirs. Public fears about the risk of seismicity stem mainly from past earthquakes induced by conventional deep injections because the two types of projects share similar mechanisms of rock failure and fault activation. Although previous earthquake risks associated with fluid injection were not serious, the situation would be far more problematic if hydraulic fracturing in a shale gas reservoir triggered a similar-sized earthquake due to potential environmental issues. In fact, almost all documented injection-induced earthquakes have been associated with long-duration and high-volume injection rather than short-term (hours) pressurization (e.g., hydraulic fracturing). In general, hydraulic fracturing operations mostly induce microseismic events through rock failure and activation of small fractures. Although shale reservoirs in tectonically active zones pose a high risk of inducing large-magnitude seismic activities, the internal geological conditions and external stimulation conditions are impossible to be satisfied simultaneously to trigger activation of an entire fault and to result in a destructive earthquake during hydraulic fracturing operations.


Shale gas Hydraulic fracturing Fault activation Induced seismicity 



This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant no. XDB10030602) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41372325). Grateful appreciation is expressed for these supports.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Haijun Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Fengshan Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gang Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xuelei Feng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jie Guo
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Shale Gas and Geoengineering, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institutions of Earth ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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