The most reliable way to determine stress orientation is to identify features (either geological features or wellbore failures) the orientation of which is controlled by the orientations of the present-day in-situ stresses. Other methods that rely on observing the effect of stress on rock properties using oriented core have been found to be less reliable and subject to influence by factors other than in-situ stress.
Geological indicators of stress orientation
In the absence of better data, it is sometimes useful to look at earthquake focal mechanisms within the region or to map local geological structures to help provide a “first look” estimate of the relative magnitudes and orientations of the current stresses. In the case of earthquake focal mechanisms, it is important to utilize data from many earthquakes within a small region to derive a “composite focal mechanism,” to avoid the large uncertainties associated with individual analyses. In the case of geological structure, it is critically important to remember that many structures are inherited from older stress fields and that the only structures that do provide information are those that are currently active.
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