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Geophysical Research Letters

Change of stress regime during geothermal reservoir stimulation

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Abstract

Earthquakes are induced by man-made changes of the stress field by injection or withdrawal of fluids in hydrocarbon production, geothermal exploitation, and wastewater disposal. However, the actual perturbation of the stress field and stress release by injection-induced seismicity remains largely unknown. We provide evidence for currently not understood hydromechanical processes after shut-in of the well. We invert earthquake focal mechanisms from a massive stimulation to invert for stress resolved in time and depth to obtain changes of the stress orientation and magnitude. Prior information about fracture orientations from well logs is taken into account. Comparison with independent stress measures reveals that stresses obtained from inversion of fluid-induced seismicity are highly perturbed and not representative of the initial stress field. The horizontal stresses change by tens of megapascals, turning the stress regime from transitional normal faulting/strike-slip faulting to pure normal faulting. The observed stress changes are attributed to large-scale aseismic deformation.

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