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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Maximum Magnitude and Probabilities of Induced Earthquakes in California Geothermal Fields: Applications for a Science-Based Decision Framework

  • Author(s): Weiser, Deborah Anne
  • Advisor(s): Jackson, David D
  • et al.

Induced seismicity is occurring at increasing rates around the country. Brodsky and Lajoie (2013) and others have recognized anthropogenic quakes at a few geothermal fields in California. I use three techniques to assess if there are induced earthquakes in California geothermal fields; there are three sites with clear induced seismicity: Brawley, The Geysers, and Salton Sea. Moderate to strong evidence is found at Casa Diablo, Coso, East Mesa, and Susanville. Little to no evidence is found for Heber and Wendel.

I develop a set of tools to reduce or cope with the risk imposed by these earthquakes, and also to address uncertainties through simulations. I test if an earthquake catalog may be bounded by an upper magnitude limit. I address whether the earthquake record during pumping time is consistent with the past earthquake record, or if injection can explain all or some of the earthquakes. I also present ways to assess the probability of future earthquake occurrence based on past records. I summarize current legislation for eight states where induced earthquakes are of concern. Unlike tectonic earthquakes, the hazard from induced earthquakes has the potential to be modified. I discuss direct and indirect mitigation practices. I present a framework with scientific and communication techniques for assessing uncertainty, ultimately allowing more informed decisions to be made.

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