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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of in situ stress measurement uncertainties on assessment of predicted seismic activity and risk associated with a hypothetical industrial-scale geologic CO2 sequestration operation

  • Author(s): Jeanne, P;
  • Rutqvist, J;
  • Wainwright, HM;
  • Foxall, W;
  • Bachmann, C;
  • Zhou, Q;
  • Rinaldi, AP;
  • Birkholzer, J
  • et al.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) in geologic formations has been recognized as a promising option for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large stationary sources. However, the pressure buildup inside the storage formation can potentially induce slip along preexisting faults, which could lead to felt seismic ground motion and also provide pathways for brine/CO2 leakage into shallow drinking water aquifers. To assess the geomechanical stability of faults, it is of crucial importance to know the in situ state of stress. In situ stress measurements can provide some information on the stresses acting on faults but with considerable uncertainties. In this paper, we investigate how such uncertainties, as defined by the variation of stress measurements obtained within the study area, could influence the assessment of the geomechanical stability of faults and the characteristics of potential injection-induced seismic events. Our modeling study is based on a hypothetical industrial-scale carbon sequestration project assumed to be located in the Southern San Joaquin Basin in California, USA. We assess the stability on the major (25 km long) fault that bounds the sequestration site and is subjected to significant reservoir pressure changes as a result of 50 years of CO2 injection. We present a series of geomechanical simulations in which the resolved stresses on the fault were varied over ranges of values corresponding to various stress measurements performed around the study area. The simulation results are analyzed by a statistical approach. Our main results are that the variations in resolved stresses as defined by the range of stress measurements had a negligible effect on the prediction of the seismic risk (maximum magnitude), but an important effect on the timing, the seismicity rate (number of seismic events) and the location of seismic activity.

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