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

2017 North America

Mirko van der Baan

University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta CA

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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.


Date Location Host
31 Aug 2017 Lawrence KS, USA University of Kansas Geophysical Society
6 Sep 2017 Midland TX, USA Permian Basin Geophysical Society
7 Sep 2017 Odessa TX, USA University of Texas of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society
8 Sep 2017 Austin TX, USA University of Texas at Austin Geophysical Society
19 Sep 2017 Lafayette LA, USA University of Louisiana at Lafayette Geophysical Society
20 Sep 2017 Boulder CO, USA University of Colorado-Boulder
21 Sep 2017 Richardson TX, USA University of Texas at Dallas Geophysical Society
22 Sep 2017 Oxford OH, USA Miami University
11 Oct 2017 St John's NL, Canada Memorial University Geophysical Society
16 Oct 2017 Toronto ON, Canada Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society, Toronto & the University of Toronto
17 Oct 2017 Ottawa ON, Canada Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society, Ottowa
19 Oct 2017 Toronto ON, Canada University of Toronto Geophysical Society
24 Oct 2017 Victoria BC, Canada University of Victoria, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
26 Oct 2017 Winnipeg MB, Canada University of Manitoba Geophysical Society
2 Nov 2017 College Station TX, USA Texas A&M University Geophysical Society
6 Nov 2017 Oklahoma City OK, USA Geophysical Society of Oklahoma City
7 Nov 2017 Tulsa OK, USA Geophysical Society of Tulsa
7 Nov 2017 Tulsa OK, USA University of Tulsa Geophysical Society
9 Nov 2017 Covington LA, USA Southeastern Geophysical Society
10 Nov 2017 Dallas TX, USA Southern Methodist University
1 Dec 2017 Edmonton, AB Canada University of Alberta
5 Dec 2017 Waterloo ON, Canada University of Waterloo
12 Dec 2017 New Orleans LA, USA AGU Fall Meeting
19 Dec 2017 Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Westside
20 Dec 2017 Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Downtown
21 Dec 2017 Houston TX, USA Geophysical Society of Houston Woodlands
25 Apr 2017 Calgary, AB Canada Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists

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