InSAR Reveals Complex Surface Deformation Patterns Over an 80,000 km2...

Staniewicz, S., A. Chen, H. Lee, J. Olson, A. Savvaidis, R. Reedy, C. Breton, E. Rathje, and P. Hennings (2020), InSAR Reveals Complex Surface Deformation Patterns Over an 80,000 km2 Oil-Producing Region in the Permian Basin, Geophys. Res. Lett., 47, doi:

Here we used Sentinel-1 interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data acquired between November 2014 to January 2019 to map how the basin's surface has deformed in response to fluid injection and extraction. While our stacking approach has low complexity, its accuracy increases with the Sentinel-1 data volume. With an automated outlier removal algorithm, we achieved ∼2 mm/year accuracy across the basin in the presence of up to ±15 cm tropospheric noise. We observed numerous subsidence and uplift features near active production and disposal wells, with the maximum deformation rate occurring in 2018 when production peaked. The most important deformation signatures are linear patterns that extend tens of kilometers near Pecos, TX, where a cluster of increased seismic events was cataloged by the Texas Seismological Network (TexNet). Our elastic modeling results demonstrate that fluid extraction and dip slip along normal faults are potential causes for the observed seismicity and deformation patterns. Plain Language Summary Over the past decade, breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made the Permian Basin one of the most productive oil fields in the world. Using spaceborne interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), we mapped how the Permian Basin's land surface has deformed from oil and gas production activities. We developed a new processing technique to mitigate tropospheric noise associated with turbulent variations, which allows us measure ground changes with millimeter-level accuracy. We observed numerous subsidence and uplift features near active production and disposal wells. The observed deformation rate is the highest in 2018 when the largest volume of oil and gas was produced in the basin. The InSAR-observed subsidence patterns over the Pecos area can be modeled as dip slip over multiple normal faults and discretized cylindrical reservoir compaction. The implication for the scientific community, as well as a broader sector of stakeholders, is that the increase in high-quality satellite-based data now allows us to monitor vast areas for subsurface stress and pore pressure changes in oil-producing regions.

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Research Program: 
Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)
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This research was funded by a grant to J. Chen, E. Rathje, and J. Olson from the NASA Earth Surface and Interior Program (80NSSC18K0467). This work was also supported by funding from the State of Texas, through The University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, for the TexNet Seismic Monitoring and Research Project as well as the industrial affiliates of the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research. This study was supported by NASA High-End Computing (HEC) resources (HEC-SMD-17-1089).