Complex 3D Migration and Delayed Triggering of Hydraulic Fracturing-Induced Seismicity: A Case Study Near Fox Creek, Alberta




Gao, Dawei
Kao, Honn
Wang, Bei
Visser, Ryan
Schultz, Ryan
Harrington, Rebecca M.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Geophysical Research Letters


Earthquakes resulting from hydraulic fracturing (HF) can have delayed triggering relative to injection commencement over a varied range of time scales, with the majority of M ≥ 4 mainshocks occurring near/after well completion. This poses serious challenges for risk mitigation and hazard assessment. Here, we document a high-resolution, three-dimensional source migration process with delayed mainshock triggering that is controlled by local hydrogeological conditions near Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada. Our results reveal that poroelastic effects might contribute to induced seismicity, but are probably insufficient to activate a large fault segment not critically stressed. The rapid pore-pressure build-up from HF can be very localized and capable of producing large, felt earthquakes if adequate hydrological paths exist. We interpret the delayed triggering as a manifestation of pore-pressure build-up along pre-existing faults needed to facilitate seismic failure. Our findings can explain why so few injection operations are seismogenic.


We thank Editor-in-Chief Harihar Rajaram, Mirko van der Baan, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Insightful discussions with Fengzhou Tan, Ramin Mohammad Hosseini Dokht, Yajing Liu, and Stan Dosso are much appreciated.


injection-induced earthquakes, hydraulic fracturing, delayed triggering, poroelastic modeling


Gao, D., Kao, H., Wang, B., Visser, R., Schultz, R., & Harrington, R. M. (2022). Complex 3D migration and delayed triggering of hydraulic fracturing-induced seismicity: A case study near Fox Creek, Alberta. Geophysical Research Letters, (49)2.