Oil and gas commission investigating quakes in northeast B.C.

Honn Kao, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, said the probability is ‘very high’ that the tremors were caused by fracking

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission is investigating a series of earthquakes that one expert says were very likely caused by hydraulic fracturing, a fuel extraction process also known as fracking.

Earthquakes Canada reported a 4.5 magnitude quake just before 5:30 p.m. Thursday that was felt in Fort St. John, Taylor, Chetwynd and Dawson Creek in the province’s northeast. A second quake rattled the region about 45 minutes later and measured 4.0.

The oil and gas commission issued a brief statement Friday that said operations in the area were immediately shut down as a precaution and mitigation strategies will be put into place for any operations linked to seismic events.

Honn Kao, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, said the probability is “very high” that the tremors were caused by fracking, which involves injecting high-pressure liquid into the ground to extract oil and gas.

He said the survey established seismic stations in the region in 2013 and the stations automatically detected the quakes Thursday evening. It contacted the oil and gas commission, which investigated to see if there is a specific fracking operation nearby, he said.

READ MORE: 4.5 magnitude earthquake strikes near Fort St. John

“Our colleagues at the BC Oil and Gas Commission immediately realized that there was an active hydraulic fracturing operation in the vicinity of the epicentre,” he said.

He said the quakes are consistent with the pattern of fracking-induced events, and the preliminary assessment of the geological survey is that the tremors were likely caused by fracking. The geological survey and the oil and gas commission continue to investigate, he said.

“This is not 100 per cent proof … but we are continuing to work with the BC Oil and Gas Commission to get more detailed operation data.”

Geoff Morrison, B.C. manager of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said safe and sustainable natural gas development is a priority for operators in northeast B.C.

“Natural gas activity is strictly regulated and monitored, and the safety of communities located near operations is of paramount importance. We have a track record of robust regulations, employing best industry operating practices, and working to continuously improve our environmental performance,” he said in a statement.

The industry will continue to work closely with the oil and gas commission as it conducts its investigation, he added.

The commission has been monitoring induced seismicity caused by fuel extraction activities for some time. It has previously found that hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal can cause seismic activity.

It released two studies on induced seismicity caused by oil and gas activities, in 2012 and 2014. The most recent study found there were 231 seismic events caused by oil and gas operations in the Montney Trend, a natural gas reserve in northeast B.C., between August 2013 and October 2014.

The U.S. Geological Survey said in its tectonic summary of Thursday’s quake in northeast B.C. that there is evidence that some North American earthquakes have been triggered by human activities that have altered the stress conditions in the Earth’s crust, including fracking.

Kao said the majority of fracking does not induce earthquakes that are felt by people.

One of the reasons that fracking can cause earthquakes that are felt is because the water or fluids injected into the ground disturb naturally occurring geological faults.

In Canada, the highest recorded magnitudes of earthquakes caused by fracking are about 4.5 to 4.6, Kao said, adding that the duration of these earthquakes is short and they are usually shallow.

“Even though the preliminary assessment appears to indicate that this is an induced event, we are still working on it and making sure our analysis is as complete as possible.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Almost half of Canadian university students fear they cannot pay rising tuitions

COVID-19 also diminishing expectations for job market

Saanich’s autumn full-moon lantern celebration shifts to drive-thru

Harvest Moon event takes place Sept. 26 in Gordon Head

Voting now ready for Arts Alive 2020 sculptures

Audio and written descriptions posted for all 10 sculptures

Sooke marine search and rescue cast their nets for volunteers

Non-profit looking for crew and society members

West Shore man sentenced to four and a half years for sexually abusing foster daughter

Abuse took place over a three year period while daughter was between ages of 13 to 15

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Rare fish washes onto Whiffin Spit in Sooke

Deep water fish identified as ‘King-of-the-salmon’

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Most Read