Fracking, Earthquakes and Solutions
Prince George, B.C.- A two year study on recent seismic activity in the north east of BC, specifically the Montney Play area, has confirmed the shakers were the result of hydraulic fracturing and warns induced quakes could have a bigger impact than natural events of the same intensity.
Dr. Honn Kao, with Natural Resources Canada, co authored the report which looked at 676 events from the fall of 2014, though to December 31, 2015 that had been recorded by Progress Energy. The study included an examination of the 4.6 quake experienced in August of 2015.Although links between increased seismicity and hydraulic fracturing were established in previous studies in the region, Dr. Kao says the seismicity in the Montney Play is a little more complicated “Because we not only have hydraulic fracturing, but also waste water injection.”
He says preliminary studies indicate the hydraulic fracturing operations, not waste water injection, are linked to the earthquakes they studied “Progress energy agrees with our conclusions.”
He says the waste water injection process in Canada is causing fewer number of earthquakes compared to hydraulic fracturing “That’s a different conclusion from what is now observed in the United States.” He says researchers are still trying to determine why the U.S. situation links waste water injection to the earthquakes in that country “One thing can be very clear from the observations what we have, here in Canada certainly appears to be very different from what we have in the United States.”
The information gathered in this study will be used to try and develop methods that would mitigate the potential for damaging earthquakes “Now that we recognize the link between injection operations and induced earthquakes, what can we do in terms of the operations side, so that we will not cause the earthquakes to be large enough that they have hazard implications. I think that’s really the current direction of all the research efforts.”
He says the study points out the importance of recognizing the seismic hazard implications of induced earthquakes. He says induced earthquakes are taking place at much shallower depths than a natural incident, so the energy released can travel much further with the potential to cause significant shaking, and possibly damaging infrastructure and buildings.
Dr. Kao says the information will be presented to regulatory agencies, “So that when they improve or revise their regulatory process, they will have something that will back up their action.”