An alternative interpretation of microseismic events during hydraulic fracturing

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



It is common practice in industry to monitor hydraulic fracturing jobs by picking major, micro-earthquake events in seismograms whose source locations form a spatial pattern used for interpreting induced fractures. Surprisingly, controversy still surrounds the interpretation of these scattered, discrete events. Many authors conclude that hydraulic fractures are generated by shear failure events rather than tensile failures. This interpretation contradicts our common understanding of fracture mechanics, which describes the hydraulic fracture process as taking place predominantly in mode-I failure (pure tension). We propose that band-width limited instrumentation during seismic field recording may be partly to blame. Low-frequency (<5 Hz) tensile-source events which are expected to occur continuously between shear events are largely ignored. Herein, we try to compare the total energy of detected shear events with the total energy of expected low-frequency tensile events in the background in order to justify the main (tensile) mechanism of fracturing. Major, shear-mechanism events may not describe accurately the temporal and spatial pattern of induced fractures in the subsurface. Shear events may only represent the locations where hydraulic fractures intersect pre-existing discontinuities. Therefore, by only considering shear events, we may not be able to make a correct estimation of the orientation and extension of the hydraulic fractures. We suggest that only by recording silent (low frequency) events, we will truly be able to describe induced subsurface fracture geometries. Copyright 2011, Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Society of Petroleum Engineers - SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference 2011

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.