ERC Advanced Grant to develop virtual seismology

News - 12 April 2017

Prof. Kees Wapenaar from TU Delft received an ERC Advanced Grant worth €2.5 million for his VirtualSeis programme. For the next five years, this European grant will support the development of virtual seismology technology, for example to improve the monitoring of earthquake-sensitive areas.

If it were possible to place seismometers and seismic vibrators below the ground in, for example, an earthquake-sensitive area, we could measure the source mechanism of actual earthquakes, monitor the geomechanical state of the area over time, and quantify the ground motion caused by possible future earthquakes. Moreover, we could monitor fluid flow in aquifers, geothermal reservoirs or CO2 storage reservoirs with unprecedented resolution. 

Unfortunately, placing seismic instruments below the ground on a large scale is not practically feasible. That is why Wapenaar is proposing to develop a methodology for creating virtual seismic sources and virtual seismometers anywhere in the subsurface, based on seismic reflection measurements carried out at the earth's surface: Virtual Seismology (VS). 

VS accurately mimics the responses to actual earthquakes (which would be recorded by actual buried seismometers). Wapenaar will initially develop VS to study induced earthquake problems and, in collaboration with his colleague and acquisition expert Guy Drijkoningen, apply the method in a relevant area using the latest fibre-optic technology. The collected data will be used to create virtual sources and receivers in the subsurface. This will allow them to characterise induced earthquakes, quantify the ground motion and monitor the geomechanical state of the area over time.
Next, he will develop the technology for imaging and monitoring subsurface fluid flows at high resolution.

According to Wapenaar, the combination of virtual seismology and the latest acquisition technology will have a major impact on the field of seismic monitoring.