Induced Seismicity Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development


This report provides an overview of the existing state of research on induced seismicity related to both unconventional and conventional oil and gas development in the United States.

Key Findings

  • The large majority of studies we reviewed are retrospective and concerned with establishing association with oil and gas activities for specific events or changes in the rate of seismic events regionally that have occurred.
  • This literature finds that the change in the rate of seismic events in the central and eastern United States is related to oil and gas operations, namely wastewater injection.
  • Only recently have studies attempted more forward-looking analyses, with two studies establishing methods to predict the probability of induced seismic events in the future.
  • Three studies assess above-ground impacts of oil and gas activities, including on the Oklahoma housing market, the acceptability of earthquakes, shaking intensity.


Figure 1. Tectonic and induced earthquakes (M≥3) in Oklahoma (1979 to September 2016)

Source: Langenbruch and Zoback 2016.
Notes: The cumulative number of earthquakes is presented in linear (A) and logarithmic scales (B). The map shows the epicenters of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Figure 2. Chance of Damage from an Earthquake in 2016

Source: Petersen et al. 2016.

Figure 3. Chart Comparing Cumulative M2.5+ Earthquakes and Monthly Fluid Injection in Oklahoma

Source: Walsh and Zoback (2015).

Figure 4. Fault Map Colored with Conditional Probability of Fault Slip from Pore Pressure Change

Source: Langenbruch and Zoback (2016).
Notes: Green represents <1% of a probability of slip in response to 2 MPa pore pressure perturbation; red indicates a >33% change in response to the same pressure change.