Potential Poroelastic Triggering of the 2020 M5.0
Mentone Earthquake in the Delaware Basin, Texas, by Shallow Injection Wells
The Delaware Basin in Texas, one of the largest oil and gas production sites in the US, has been impacted by widespread seismicity in recent years. The M5.0 earthquake that occurred in March 2020 near the town of Mentone is one of the largest induced earthquakes recorded in this region. Characterizing the source parameters and triggering mechanism of this major event is imperative to assess and mitigate future hazard risk. A former study showed that this event may be attributed to the deep injection nearby. Interestingly, the earthquake is located in proximity to shallow injection wells with much larger total injection volume. In this study, we investigate the role of these shallow injection wells in the triggering of the M5.0 event despite their farther distance from the mainshock. We perform source-parameter inversion and earthquake relocation to determine the precise orientation of the south-facing normal fault plane where the mainshock occurred, followed by fully coupled poroelastic stress modeling of the change of Coulomb Failure Stress (ΔCFS) on the fitted fault plane caused by shallow injection in the region. Results show that shallow wells caused up to 20 kPa of ΔCFS near the mainshock location, dominated by positive poroelastic stress change. Such perturbation surpasses the general triggering threshold of faults that are well aligned with the local stress field and suggests the nonnegligible role of these shallow wells in the triggering of the mainshock. We also discuss the complex effect of poroelastic stress perturbation in the subsurface and highlight the importance of detailed geomechanical evaluation of the reservoir when developing relevant operational and safety policies.