Fault reactivation by gas injection at an underground gas storage off the east coast of Spain

Villaseñor, Antonio; Herrmann, Robert B.; Gaite, Beatriz; Ugalde, Arantza

During September–October of 2013 an intense swarm of earthquakes occurred off the east coast of Spain associated with the injection of the base gas in an offshore underground gas storage. Two weeks after the end of the injection operations, three moderate-sized earthquakes (Mw 4.0–4.1) occurred near the storage. These events were widely felt by the nearby population, leading to the indefinite shut-down of the facility. Here we investigate the source parameters (focal depth and mechanism) of the largest earthquakes in the sequence in order to identify the faults reactivated by the gas injection and to help understand the processes that caused the earthquakes. Our waveform modeling results indicate that the largest earthquakes occurred at depths of 6–8 km beneath the sea floor, significantly deeper than the injection depth (∼1800 m). Although we cannot undoubtedly discriminate the fault plane from the two nodal planes of the mechanisms, most evidence seems to favor a NW–SE-striking fault plane. We propose that the gas injection reactivated faults in the Paleozoic basement, with regional orientation possibly inherited from the opening of the Valencia Trough.

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Villaseñor, Antonio / Herrmann, Robert B. / Gaite, Beatriz / et al: Fault reactivation by gas injection at an underground gas storage off the east coast of Spain. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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