Natural seismicity in and around the Rome Trough, eastern Kentucky, from a temporary seismic network

N. Seth Carpenter, Andrew S. Holcomb, Edward W. Woolery, Zhenming Wang, John B. Hickman, Steven L. Roche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Rome trough is a northeast-trending graben system extending from eastern Kentucky northeastward across West Virginia and Pennsylvania into southern New York. The oil and gas potential of a formation deep in the trough, the Rogersville shale, which is ∼ 1 km above Precambrian basement, is being tested in eastern Kentucky. Because induced seismicity can occur from fracking formations in close proximity to basement, a temporary seismic network was deployed along the trend of the Rome trough from June 2015 through May 2019 to characterize natural seismicity. Using empirical noise models and theoretical Brune sources, minimum detectable magnitudes, Mmin, were estimated in the study area. The temporary stations reduced Mmin by an estimated 0.3-0.8 magnitude units in the vicinity of wastewater-injection wells and deep oil and gas wells testing the Rogersville shale. The first 3 yr of seismicity detected and located in the study area has been compiled. Consistent with the long-term seismicity patterns in the Advanced National Seismic System Comprehensive Catalog, very few earthquakes occurred in the crust beneath the Rome trough-only three events were recorded-where the temporary network was most sensitive. None of these events appear to have been associated with Rogersville shale oil and gas test wells. Outside of the trough boundary faults, earthquakes are diffusely distributed in zones extending into southern Ohio to the north, and into the eastern Tennessee seismic zone to the south. The orientations of P axes from the seven first-motion focal mechanisms determined in this study are nearly parallel with both the trend of the Rome trough and with the orientation of maximum horizontal compressive stress in the region. This apparent alignment between the regional stress field and the strikes of faults in the trough at seismogenic depths may explain the relative lack of earthquake activity in the trough compared with the surrounding crust to the north and south.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1831-1845
Number of pages15
JournalSeismological Research Letters
Volume91
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors express gratitude to the state of Kentucky for funding the majority of this study and to former Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) Associate Director Jerry Weisenfluh, who permitted and encouraged the undertaking of this investigation. The authors also thank Cimarex Energy Co. for their loan of six complete seismograph stations for the duration of the monitoring project, and to Dave Harris for fostering this relationship. Further, the authors thank Nanometrics for the contribution of one complete seismic station and the University of Kentucky Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for financial assistance. The authors are most grateful to the landowners who hosted the network stations. They are also grateful of Pioneer Natural Resources funding Andrew Holcomb's research assistantship while he was a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The authors appreciate the editorial assistance of Meg Smath at the KGS. They are grateful to Tom Sparks at the KGS, who assisted with compiling and interpreting the class II wastewater disposal well data. The authors also acknowledge the help of KGS staff and interns, and visiting scholars and graduate students from the United Kingdom who assisted with field work: Mike Lynch, Scott Waninger, Max Hammond, Matt Crawford, Jifeng Chen, Qian Wang, Lifang Zhang, Junjie Sun, Jianhong Kang, Paul Rodriguez-Asihama, and Russel Rogers. The authors are grateful for the reviews they received from Claire Perry and three anonymous reviewers, which improved this article.

Funding Information:
The authors express gratitude to the state of Kentucky for funding the majority of this study and to former Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) Associate Director Jerry Weisenfluh, who permitted and encouraged the undertaking of this investigation. The authors also thank Cimarex Energy Co. for their loan of six complete seismograph stations for the duration of the monitoring project, and to Dave Harris for fostering this relationship. Further, the authors thank Nanometrics for the contribution of one complete seismic station and the University of Kentucky Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for financial assistance. The authors are most grateful to the landowners who hosted the network stations. They are also grateful of Pioneer Natural Resources funding Andrew Holcomb’s research assistantship while he was a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The authors appreciate the editorial assistance of Meg Smath at the KGS. They are grateful to Tom Sparks at the KGS, who assisted with compiling and interpreting the class II wastewater disposal well data. The authors also acknowledge the help of KGS staff and interns, and visiting scholars and graduate

Publisher Copyright:
© Seismological Society of America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics

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