Enhanced Microseismicity During Production Pumping Cessation at the San Emidio Geothermal Field (Nevada, USA) in December 2016: Article No. e2023JB027008

Hao Guo, Clifford Thurber, Ian Warren, Benjamin Heath, Matthew Folsom, Hiroki Sone, Neal Lord, John Akerley, Kurt Feigl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tectonic activity, geothermal fluids, and microseismic events (MSEs) tend to occur in similar locations as a result of spatiotemporal changes in the subsurface stress state. To quantify this association, we analyze data from a dense seismic array deployed at the San Emidio geothermal field, Nevada for 1 week in December 2016 to coincide with a 19.45-hr shutdown of all injection and production pumping operations. 123 MSEs were detected, of which 101 occurred during the shutdown. The spatial association of the MSEs with the production wells suggests a causal relationship between the production cessation and the MSEs. Here we performed a detailed analysis to investigate reservoir material properties, distribution of seismically activated faults, and local stress state. We determined the hypocenters, magnitudes, and focal mechanisms for the MSEs, P-wave tomographic velocity model, and local stress tensor. The results show that most MSEs occurred near the production wells. Magnitudes fall between -2.2 and 0.0 with larger events located closer to the production wells. Most MSEs occurred within a westward-dipping normal fault zone in the reservoir associated with anomalously low P-wave velocity values. The focal mechanism and stress inversion results show predominantly normal faulting with the maximum horizontal stress oriented north-south. We suggest that the MSEs during shutdown were triggered on pre-existing, small-scale, critically stressed fault patches in the reservoir as the pore pressure increased around the production wells when the production pumping ceased. We interpret the larger MSE magnitudes closer to the production wells as a result of higher pore pressure increase.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-88281


  • focal mechanism
  • geothermal production pumping cessation
  • induced microseismicity
  • San Emidio
  • seismic location and tomography
  • stress inversion


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