Seismologists reported thousands of aftershocks in the months following the magnitude-7.1 Earthquake in Ridgecrest, California, on July 5, 2019. Surprisingly, none were found in the Coso geothermal field, around 10 kilometers from the main shock’s surface ruptures. Caltech researchers have determined that operations related to geothermal energy production at Coso have de-stressed the region, making it less prone to Earthquake, during the last 30 years.
These findings could point to solutions to de-stress high-risk seismic locations while still constructing sustainable energy infrastructure. The study was carried out by Earle C. Anthony, Professor of Geology and Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Jean-Philippe Avouac. On July 1, a paper reporting the research will be published in the journal Nature.
When water is pumped in during the building of a geothermal field, many minor Earthquake (about magnitude 4) are created. This is often seen as a reason for concern, and several geothermal projects have been canceled due to “caused” seismicity. However, according to this new study, these small Earthquake and the “silent” or aseismic deformation generated by fluid injection relieve tension and reduce the probability of a giant Earthquake in the region.