Frictional and poromechanical properties of the Delaware Mountain Group: Insights into induced seismicity in the Delaware Basin

David C. Bolton, Raphael Affinito, Katie Smye, Chris Marone, Peter Hennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Delaware Basin in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico has experienced a proliferation in seismic activity since 2016. The seismic activity is primarily due to subsurface injection of wastewater into shallow and deep reservoirs. However, the precise mechanisms connecting fluid injection to seismic activity are not well understood. To shed light on these processes, we measured rate-state friction and poromechanical properties of rocks sampled from the Delaware Mountain Group (DMG) at pressures and stresses representative of in-situ conditions. Experiments were conducted inside a pressure vessel and loaded at a true-triaxial stress state. The samples exhibit velocity-strengthening behavior and transition to velocity-neutral behavior with increasing slip. We also measure frictional healing and demonstrate that the healing rates are consistent with those measured from quartz-feldspathic-rich rocks. Experiments were conducted under a constant pore-pressure boundary condition where transient changes in pore-volume were compensated by modulating the fluid volume within the fault. Our data show that a step increase in sliding velocity leads to dilatancy and causes an influx of fluid into the fault. In contrast, a step decrease in sliding velocity causes the fault zone to compact and reduces fluid flow into the fault. Data show that changes in flow rate scale systematically with fault slip velocity. Broadly speaking, the frictional and poromechanical data indicate that shallow faults within the DMG should favor aseismic creep as opposed to unstable slip. Our data are consistent with elastic dislocation models of fault slip and InSAR data, indicating that faulting in the DMG is predominantly aseismic. The lack of velocity weakening behavior observed in our samples indicates that heterogenous frictional properties are needed to explain the co-existence of both aseismic and seismic slip in the DMG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118436
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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