How widespread is human-induced seismicity in the USA and Canada?

2017 North America

Mirko van der Baan

University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta CA


There has been significant public and scientific interest in the observation of changed seismicity rates in North America since 2008, possibly due to human activities. We find that the seismicity rate in Oklahoma between 2008 and 2016 is strongly correlated to increased hydrocarbon production. The possibility of systematic correlations between increased hydrocarbon production and seismicity rates is a pertinent question since the United States became the world's largest hydrocarbon producer in 2013, surpassing both Saudi Arabia’s oil production and Russia’s dry gas production. In most areas, increased production is due to systematic hydraulic fracturing which involves high-pressure, underground fluid injection. Increased hydrocarbon production also leads to increased salt-water production which is often disposed of underground. Increased underground fluid injection in general may cause increased seismicity rates due to facilitated slip on pre-existing faults.

Contrary to Oklahoma, analysis of oil and gas production versus seismicity rates in six other states in the United States and three provinces in Canada finds no state- or province-wide correlation between increased seismicity and hydrocarbon production, despite 8- to 16-fold increases in production in some states. However, in various areas, seismicity rates have increased locally. A comparison with seismic hazard maps shows that human-induced seismicity is less likely in areas that have historically felt fewer earthquakes. The opposite is not necessarily true.


van der Baan

Mirko van der Baan is a professor at the University of Alberta in the Department of Physics, specializing in exploration seismology. He graduated in 1996 from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, obtained a PhD with honors in 1999 from the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and then joined the University of Leeds, UK, where he became the reader of exploration seismology. He also holds an HDR (Habilitation) from University Denis Diderot, Paris, France.

Mirko is currently the director of the Microseismic Industry Consortium, a collaborative venture with the University of Calgary, dedicated to research in microseismicity. He also is one of the founding members of the Integrated Petroleum Geosciences (IPG) professional MSc program at the University of Alberta.


Please contact host locations for venues and times.

Date Location Host
31 Aug Lawrence KS, USA University of Kansas Geophysical Society
6 Sep Midland TX, USA Permian Basin Geophysical Society
7 Sep Odessa TX, USA University of Texas of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society
8 Sep Austin TX, USA University of Texas at Austin Geophysical Society
19 Sep Lafayette LA, USA University of Louisiana at Lafayette Geophysical Society
20 Sep Boulder CO, USA University of Colorado-Boulder
21 Sep Richardson TX, USA University of Texas at Dallas Geophysical Society
22 Sep Oxford OH, USA Miami University
11 Oct St John's NL, Canada Memorial University Geophysical Society
16 Oct Toronto ON, Canada Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society, Toronto & the University of Toronto
17 Oct Ottawa ON, Canada Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society, Ottowa
19 Oct Toronto ON, Canada University of Toronto Geophysical Society
24 Oct Victoria BC, Canada University of Victoria, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
26 Oct Winnipeg MB, Canada University of Manitoba Geophysical Society
2 Nov College Station TX, USA Texas A&M University Geophysical Society
6 Nov Oklahoma City OK, USA Geophysical Society of Oklahoma City
7 Nov Tulsa OK, USA Geophysical Society of Tulsa
7 Nov Tulsa OK, USA University of Tulsa Geophysical Society
9 Nov Covington LA, USA Southeastern Geophysical Society
10 Nov Dallas TX, USA Southern Methodist University
1 Dec Edmonton, AB Canada University of Alberta
5 Dec Waterloo ON, Canada University of Waterloo
12 Dec New Orleans LA, USA AGU Fall Meeting
19 Dec Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Westside
20 Dec Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Downtown
21 Dec Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Woodlands
25 Apr Calgary, AB Canada Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists

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