Industry, regulators, academia and governments are cooperating to understand, monitor and manage anomalous seismic activity in order to ensure the continued safe development of energy resources.
Anomalous induced seismicity refers to seismic events caused by human activity that is unusual or inconsistent with what is expected. Industry, regulators and governments understand that the public has concerns about the potential for anomalous induced seismicity associated with fracking. As a result, there have been a number of regulatory enhancements, industry initiatives and research undertaken to improve understanding, management and monitoring of anomalous induced seismicity during fracking. Some of the regulations and initiatives include:
- Regulators in British Columbia and Alberta require continuous seismic monitoring during fracking operations
- The British Columbia Oil & Gas Commission, Natural Resources Canada, GeoscienceBC and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers collaborated to upgrade the network in northeast BC. This work has resulted in an additional nine seismograph stations, bringing the northeast total to 11.
- In Alberta, there is a “traffic light” system with staged action thresholds that require operators to report seismic events of magnitudes 2 or greater.
- Regulations in both provinces require the suspension of operations if a seismic event of magnitude 4 or greater is triggered. Operations can only resume once regulators have had an opportunity to investigate and are satisfied that the actions taken by the operator reduce the likelihood of further anomalous induced seismicity.
Oil and gas producers have developed an operating practice that establishes monitoring, mitigation and response procedures to avoid or minimize any adverse effects of induced seismicity associated with fracking. The report, Industry Shared Practices: Anomalous Induced Seismicity Due to Hydraulic Fracturing, [Link in the Resources section] share’s the industry’s knowledge and experience related to anomalous induced seismicity in the areas of risk appraisal and risk mitigation approaches and explores the key research that is available.
The collection of independent, science-based Canadian research into the link between fracking and induced seismicity is growing. Much of this research relies on the collaboration of industry to share data with academia. View some of the recent research through the following links: [Links in Resources section]
- Fault Activation by Hydraulic Fracturing in Western Canada FAULT (November 2016) by David Eaton and Xuewei Bao, University of Calgary
- Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (May 2016) by a team of researchers led by Western University’s Gail Atkinson and University of Calgary’s David Eaton.
- Impact of Induced Seismicity on the Evaluation of Seismic Hazard: Some Preliminary Considerations (May 2015) by a team of Western University researchers led by Gail Atkinson.
- Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Montney Trend (December 2014), British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission
- Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Horn River (August 2012), British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission
The research consistently states that the risk of fracking causing a seismic event that can be felt at the surface is low and induced seismicity of 3+ magnitudes is rare.