Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

The role of aseismic slip in hydraulic fracturing–induced seismicity

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Science Advances  28 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaav7172
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7172


Models for hydraulic fracturing–induced earthquakes in shales typically ascribe fault activation to elevated pore pressure or increased shear stress; however, these mechanisms are incompatible with experiments and rate-state frictional models, which predict stable sliding (aseismic slip) on faults that penetrate rocks with high clay or total organic carbon. Recent studies further indicate that the earthquakes tend to nucleate over relatively short injection time scales and sufficiently far from the injection zone that triggering by either poroelastic stress changes or pore pressure diffusion is unlikely. Here, we invoke an alternative model based on recent laboratory and in situ experiments, wherein distal, unstable regions of a fault are progressively loaded by aseismic slip on proximal, stable regions stimulated by hydraulic fracturing. This model predicts that dynamic rupture initiates when the creep front impinges on a fault region where rock composition favors dynamic and slip rate weakening behavior.

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