An attendee walks past hydraulic fracking equipment at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An attendee walks past hydraulic fracking equipment at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Fracking likely to create stronger, more common earthquakes in B.C: study

More damaging earthquakes can be expected more often as fracking oil and gas wells increase pressure underground, says new research

More damaging earthquakes can be expected more often in northern British Columbia as fracking oil and gas wells increases pressure underground, says newly published research.

“It makes earthquakes more common and it makes larger ones more common,” said Allan Chapman, an independent researcher and formerly senior scientist with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.

“There appears to be a fairly strong relationship between this cumulative water loading underground and the magnitude of an event.”

Chapman said his study suggests that homes and infrastructure in northern B.C. could be at risk from earthquakes and that current government safeguards are inadequate.

“For many of these large events there may be no warning.”

Chapman looked at the Montney field near Fort St. John, B.C. For years, that area has seen intensive oil and gas development using fracking, which injects high-pressure fluids deep underground to fracture rocks and release oil and gas.

That technique has become increasingly associated with earthquakes. In parts of the Montney, a total of 439 earthquakes up to 4.6 magnitude were associated with fracking between 2013 and 2019.

Previous research has linked the pressure at which the fluids are injected to the resulting temblor.

Chapman looked at the total volumes of water injected wells within five kilometres of an earthquake epicentre. He found that areas where water volumes built up over time — sometimes from several different companies — were associated with stronger magnitudes of at least 3.0, enough to be felt on the surface.

The number of earthquakes also increased.

One part of the Montney generated about 20 earthquakes when one million cubic metres of fluids were pumped underground. That same area registered more than 160 events when injection grew to 3.5 million cubic metres.

“It makes the earthquakes more common and it makes the large ones more common,” Chapman said.

He noted that fracking is expected to increase in the Montney. Many sites only have four wells on a pad.

“At full development, you’re expecting to see 20 or 30 wells on a pad. What’s going to happen if the amount of fracking rises substantially?”

In a statement from spokeswoman Lannea Parfitt, The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission criticized Chapman’s peer-reviewed work.

“Our geological and engineering experts have concluded it is based on a number of unproven assumptions or incomplete consideration of the factors cited,” the commission said in an email.

The commission said the paper didn’t account for variation in rock strata, fault types and local stresses. It called Chapman’s conclusions “speculation.”

“Our geologists and seismic experts use sound, peer-reviewed research, data, and predictive modelling to understand, regulate and mitigate seismic activity,” it said.

B.C. and Alberta have instituted what’s called a “traffic light” approach to manage risk. Companies are expected to reduce pumping pressure and volume once light earthquakes are felt and to stop completely as they increase.

But Chapman points out four of the region’s five biggest recent earthquakes — all over magnitude 4.0 — weren’t preceded by any warnings.

“There was no precursor,” he said.

“Magnitude 4 is a big event, shaking the ground for 30 kilometres. If you had one within a couple kilometres of your house, you’d be worried about damage.”

Fracking has already induced earthquakes in China rated at 5.3, Chapman’s study says.

“There is no upper limit.”

Fort St. John, with 20,000 residents, felt five earthquakes between 2013 and 2019. The largest was rated at 4.2.

The region’s bridges and dams could also be vulnerable, Chapman said.

He is joining other researchers who have already called for a no-fracking zone in areas with susceptible geology, homes and buildings.

“We do need to look at places that are too high-value. They need to have a no-frack zone around them.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

fracking

Just Posted

The city-owned lot at 361 St. Julien St., which has been home to a temporary homeless site for more than a year, will be sold and plans are to build a three-storey mixed-use development there, Peter de Verteuil, Duncan CAO explained at a recent council meeting. (File photo)
New development planned for homeless site in Duncan

Lot on St. Julien Street would see three-storey building

Historian and longtime Citizen columnist T.W. Paterson photographs the historical wreckage of a plane on Mount Benson. Paterson recently won an award from the British Columbia Historical Foundation. (Submitted)
Cowichan’s Tom W. Paterson wins award for historical writing

British Columbia Historical Federation hands Recognition Award to local writer

This electric school bus is the newest addition to the Cowichan Valley School District’s fleet. (Submitted)
Editorial: New electric school bus good place to start

Changing public transit like buses to electric really is important.

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

Old-growth logging protesters block a road on Monday, June 14. This is not the blockade at Honeymoon Bay referred to in the story. (Facebook photo)
Old-growth logging protesters block RCMP access on road near Honeymoon Bay

Police were on their way to enforcement in Fairy Creek area when they were stopped

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

BC Ferries’ newest Island Class vessel is experiencing an issue with one of its thrusters off the Algerian coast. Photo courtesy patbaywebcam.com.
BC Ferries newest vessel having mechanical issues in Mediterranean

Island 4 will be repaired in Spain before crossing Atlantic

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

There were 255 babies born in Victoria in May 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pandemic baby boom makes for a busier Vancouver Island Father’s Day

Victoria’s 255 babies born in May up almost 10 per cent over last year

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

Most Read