Induced seismicity monitoring of an underground salt cavern prone to collapse

Abstract : Within the framework of a large research project launched to assess the feasibility of microseismic monitoring of growing underground caverns, this specific work focuses on the analysis of the induced seismicity recorded in a salt mine environment. A local seismic network has been installed over an underground salt cavern located in the Lorraine basin (Northeast of France). The microseismic network includes four 3-components and three single component geophones deployed at depths between 30 and 125 m in cemented boreholes drilled in the vicinity of the study area. The underground cavern under monitoring is located within a salt layer at 180 m depth and it presents a rather irregular shape that can be approximated by a cylindrical volume of 50 m height and 180 m diameter. Presently, the cavern is full of saturated brine inducing a significant pressure on its walls (similar to 2.0 MPa) to keep the overburden mechanically stable. Nevertheless some small microseismic events were recorded by the network and analyzed (approximately 2,000 events in 2 years of recording). In October 2005 and April 2007, two controlled pressure transient experiments were carried out in the cavern, in order to analyze the mechanical response of the overburden by tracking the induced microseismicity. The recorded events were mainly grouped in clusters of 3-30 s of signal duration with emergent first arrivals and rather low frequency content (between 20 and 120 Hz). Some of these events have been spatially located by travel-time picking close to the actual cavern and its immediate roof. Preliminary spectral analysis of isolated microearthquakes suggests sources with non-negligible tensile components possibly related to fluid-filled cracks. Rock-debris falling into the cavern from delamination of clay marls in the immediate roof is probably another source of seismic excitation. This was later confirmed when the most important seismic swarms occurred at the site during May 2007, accompanied by the detachment of more than 8 x 10(4) m(3) of marly material on top of the cavern roof. In any case, no clear evidence of classical brittle ruptures in the most competent layers of the overburden has been observed during the analyzed period. Current work is focused on the discrimination of all these possible mechanisms to better understand the damage processes in the cavern overburden and to assess its final collapse hazard.
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Diego Mercerat, Lynda Driad-Lebeau, Pascal Bernard. Induced seismicity monitoring of an underground salt cavern prone to collapse. Pure and Applied Geophysics, Springer Verlag, 2010, 167 (1-2), pp.5-25. ⟨10.1007/s00024-009-0008-1⟩. ⟨ineris-00963213⟩

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