Serge Shapiro

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Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Award

Contributed by Ilya Tsvankin and Vladimir Grechka

Serge Shapiro is widely known as a key developer of microseismic monitoring and applications of passive seismic measurements to reservoir characterization. His selection for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal, however, also reflects Serge’s contributions to an impressive variety of other geophysical topics.

Serge’s creativity and ability to gain insight into the physics of complex subsurface processes were obvious early in his career when he studied seismic attenuation and scattering as part of his Ph.D. project in Moscow. After moving to the University of Karlsruhe in 1991, Serge worked with Peter Hubral on seismic “stratigraphic filtering” and published a book on the generalized O’Doherty-Anstey theory of wave propagation in finely layered media. An extension of that theory describes scatter- ing attenuation and velocity dispersion of seismic waves propagating through media with random heterogeneities. Later, during his relatively short tenure at the Nancy School of Geology in France, he was involved in the multidisciplinary Gocad Research Consortium.

Serge’s research program at the Free University of Berlin has made a major impact in understanding the physics of induced microseismicity. He had recognized the po- tential of microseismic methods in reservoir monitoring much earlier than most of his peers and in 2004 founded the PHASE (PHysics and Application of Seismic Emis- sion) university consortium. Organizing a major research group outside his native country was certainly a difficult undertaking, and the continuing success of PHASE is a testament to Serge’s perseverance and scientific leadership skills. Also, he was a principal investigator of a fluid-injection experiment at the German deep drilling site (KTB).

In collaboration with his students and colleagues from several research institutions, Serge has developed an elegant quantitative description of microseismicity triggered by fluid injections and proposed efficient approaches to location and imaging of microseismic events. His research group has identified and described the processes of pore-pressure relaxation (diffusion) and fluid-related stress perturbation as the dom- inant triggering factors of seismicity induced by fluid injection. The concepts of the triggering front (that publication received the 2002 Best Paper in Geophysics Award) and the back front are instrumental in the analysis of the spatial and temporal distribution of induced seismicity during and after fluid injections. Under Serge’s direction, the PHASE consortium has formulated the principles of quantitative interpretation and inversion (3D mapping of the hydraulic diffusivity tensor) of microseismicity in- duced by fluid injections at geothermal fields, as well as by hydraulic fracturing of hydrocarbon reservoirs. This approach also provides a basis for characterization of rock strength (“seismic criticality”) and helps explain the spatial density of microseismic events.

Recent developments of Serge’s group include a description of nonlinear fluid-rock interaction that accounts for the pressure dependence of hydraulic rock properties. Another topic essential for seismicity risk analysis is probabilistic quantification of the magnitude distribution of seismicity induced by fluid injections. In particular, Serge and his co-authors introduced and estimated for a number of fluid-injection locations the so-called “seismogenic index”—a parameter quantifying seismotectonic activity.

Also, Serge has initiated a series of unique laboratory studies on induced seismicity designed to elucidate the nature of fluid-triggered earthquakes. While much of Serge’s research over the past decade has focused on microseismic methods, he has also made significant contributions to numerical rock physics and geomechanics. In particular, he has proposed a comprehensive approach for describing stress-induced anisotropy and, in general, the influence of stress and pore pressure on physical properties of rocks. This “piezosensitivity” (porosity-deformation) theory provides an underpinning for time-lapse monitoring of compacting reservoirs and of stress changes caused by fluid injection.

Clearly, Serge’s body of work covers the physics of rocks and wave phenomena at scales ranging from grain size all the way to seismic wavelength, which is uncommon even for scientists of his caliber. Serge’s eagerness to share ideas and curiosity about topics new to him (he is never afraid of asking questions) makes him a real pleasure to collaborate with. His research program and mentoring skills keep attracting strong students from all over the world, and we have always been impressed by graduates from his group. It is great to see this multitude of Serge’s accomplishments being deservedly recognized by the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal.