KU Research Could Help Predict Man-made Earthquakes

Dec 15, 2017

A recently published study by the University of Kansas is providing new insights into south-central Kansas’ recent increase in earthquake activity. 

The study, published in Science Advances, shows that waves coming from the Kansas earthquakes thought to be induced by wastewater injection wells differ from the waves coming from earthquakes that happened before extensive oil and gas activity.

KU professor of geology George Tsoflias says the different waves they detected indicate the ground in that area has something called high pore fluid pressure.

“That tells us that that region in the subsurface may be susceptible to induced earthquakes,” he says.

Most wastewater injection wells aren’t linked to induced seismic activity. And until now, there hasn’t been good way to know whether a wastewater injection well would cause an earthquake, until it did.

But Tsoflias says by looking at the waves produced by earthquakes, they can begin to make a map of which areas have high pore fluid pressure and therefore high risk, and which don’t.

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