Dynamic Fault Interaction during a Fluid-Injection-Induced Earthquake: The 2017 Mw 5.5 Pohang Event

by Kadek H. Palgunadi, Alice-Agnes Gabriel, Thomas Ulrich, José Á. López-Comino, P. Martin Mai
Year: 2020

Extra Information

Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. August 2020, Vol.110, Issue 5, Pages 2328–2349.


The 15 November 2017  5.5 Pohang, South Korea, earthquake has been linked to hydraulic stimulation and fluid injections, making it the largest induced seismic event associated with an enhanced geothermal system. To understand its source dynamics and fault interactions, we conduct the first 3D high‐resolution spontaneous dynamic rupture simulations of an induced earthquake. We account for topography, off‐fault plastic deformation under depth‐dependent bulk cohesion, rapid velocity weakening friction, and 1D subsurface structure. A guided fault reconstruction approach that clusters spatiotemporal aftershock locations (including their uncertainties) is used to identify a main and a secondary fault plane that intersect under a shallow angle of 15°. Based on simple Mohr–Coulomb failure analysis and 180 dynamic rupture experiments in which we vary local stress loading conditions, fluid pressure, and relative fault strength, we identify a preferred two‐fault‐plane scenario that well reproduces observations. We find that the regional far‐field tectonic stress regime promotes pure strike‐slip faulting, whereas local stress conditions constrained by borehole logging generate the observed thrust‐faulting component. Our preferred model is characterized by overpressurized pore fluids, nonoptimally oriented but dynamically weak faults and a close‐to‐critical local stress state. In our model, earthquake rupture “jumps” to the secondary fault by dynamic triggering, generating a measurable non‐double‐couple component. Our simulations suggest that complex dynamic fault interaction may occur during fluid‐injection‐induced earthquakes and that local stress perturbations dominate over regional stress conditions. Therefore, our findings have important implications for seismic hazard in active georeservoir.