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Estimating fluid-induced stress change from observed deformation


Observed deformation is sensitive to a changing stress field within the Earth. However, there are several impediments to a direct inversion of geodetic measurements for changes in stress. Estimating six independent components of stress change from a smaller number of displacement or strain components is inherently non-unique. The reliance upon surface measurements leads to a loss of resolution, due to the attenuation of higher spatial frequencies in the displacement field with distance from a source.We adopt a technique suited to the estimation of stress changes due to the injection and/or withdrawal of fluids at depth. In this approach the surface displacement data provides an estimate of the volume change responsible for the deformation, rather than stress changes themselves. The inversion for volume change is constrained by the fluid fluxes into and out of the reservoir. The distribution of volume change is used to calculate the displacements in the region above the reservoir. Estimates of stress change follow from differentiating the displacement field in conjunction with a geomechanical model of the overburden. We apply the technique to Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) observations gathered over a petroleum reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley of California. An analysis of the InSAR range changes reveals that the stress field in the overburden varies rapidly both in space and in time. The inferred stress variations are found to be compatible with the documented failure of a well in the field.

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