The role of fluid pressure in induced vs. triggered seismicity: insights from rock deformation experiments on carbonates

Sci Rep. 2016 Apr 26;6:24852. doi: 10.1038/srep24852.

Abstract

Fluid overpressure is one of the primary mechanisms for tectonic fault slip, because fluids lubricate the fault and fluid pressure reduces the effective normal stress that holds the fault in place. However, current models of earthquake nucleation, based on rate- and state- friction laws, imply that stable sliding is favoured by the increase of pore fluid pressure. Despite this controversy, currently, there are only a few studies on the role of fluid pressure under controlled, laboratory conditions. Here, we use laboratory experiments, to show that the rate- and state- friction parameters do change with increasing fluid pressure. We tested carbonate gouges from sub hydrostatic to near lithostatic fluid pressure conditions, and show that the friction rate parameter (a - b) evolves from velocity strengthening to velocity neutral behaviour. Furthermore, the critical slip distance, Dc, decreases from about 90 to 10 μm. Our data suggest that fluid overpressure plays an important role in controlling the mode of fault slip. Since fault rheology and fault stability parameters change with fluid pressure, we suggest that a comprehensive characterization of these parameters is fundamental for better assessing the role of fluid pressure in natural and human induced earthquakes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't