A century of oil-field operations and earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles Basin, southern California


Most of the seismicity in the Los Angeles Basin (LA Basin) occurs at depth below the sediments and is caused by transpressional tectonics related to the big bend in the San Andreas fault. However, some of the seismicity could be associated with fluid extraction or injection in oil fields that have been in production for almost a century and cover 17% of the basin. In a recent study, first the influence of industry operations was evaluated by analyzing seismicity characteristics, including normalized seismicity rates, focal depths, and b-values, but no significant difference was found in seismicity characteristics inside and outside the oil fields. In addition, to identify possible temporal correlations, the seismicity and available monthly fluid extraction and injection volumes since 1977 were analyzed. Second, the production and deformation history of the Wilmington oil field were used to evaluate whether other oil fields are likely to experience similar surface deformation in the future. Third, the maximum earthquake magnitudes of events within the perimeters of the oil fields were analyzed to see whether they correlate with total net injected volumes, as suggested by previous studies. Similarly, maximum magnitudes were examined to see whether they exhibit an increase with net extraction volume. Overall, no obvious previously unidentified induced earthquakes were found, and the management of balanced production and injection of fluids appears to reduce the risk of induced-earthquake activity in the oil fields.

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Leading Edge