What’s with all the Fracking Earthquakes

What’s with all the Fracking Earthquakes by Lynsey Kitching, November 19, 2012, Tumbler Ridge News
Honn Kao, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Seismology for the Pacific Geoscience Centre explains 2008 was tied to the investigation of fracking and seismic activity near Fort Nelson. … Between 2009 and 2011 there was a controversy around the earthquakes occurring in the Horn River Basin. The OGC released a report on the matter this year. A close town to the issues was Fort Nelson. The report from the OGC says, “The investigation has concluded the events observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults.”  The report goes on to state, “The Commission makes seven recommendations based on the investigation, which include the submission of microseismic reports; establishment of a notification and consultation procedure; studying the relationship of hydraulic fracturing parameters on seismicity, and upgrading and improving BC’s seismograph grid and monitoring procedures. In addition, the Commission has initiated a broader study with the University of British Columbia. The intent of this research is to provide insights into predicting the location and magnitude of seismic events based on hydraulic fracturing parameters, geomechanics and to establish protocols for prediction, detection, monitoring and mitigation of these events.” … The report from the OGC states, “A search of the areas in the National Earthquake Database from 1985 to present shows no detected seismicity in the Horn River Basin prior to 2009.”

Kao says, “The number of seismic events does appear to increase with the operation of fracking activity in the Horn River Basin.”

The OGC and NRC have established a formal collaboration to enhance seismic monitoring capabilities for the region. Kao says, “We want to learn more about the nature of the induced seismicity and how it’s related to fracking operations and their control parameters. We are actively working on this research. We really need clear evidence in order to draw conclusion as the topic is becoming more and more sensitive.”

During the presentation from the OGC here in Tumbler Ridge, the main focus of the discussion was based around our aquifer and the group presented a very convincing argument as to why fracking cannot harm our aquifer. However, Mayor Darwin Wren still has concerns fracking has the potential to harm our main water source. What happens if there is an earthquake, be it fracking induced or natural?

There are different ways the Tumbler Ridge aquifer could get harmed through the practice of nearby fracking and there is also a chance it could not get harmed at all. Or on the extreme side, similar to what happened to the hot springs near Haida Gwaii, the water could just disappear. Kao says, “The aquifer is a very complex system. Around the world there has been quite a bit of documentation indicating when earthquakes occur, the water system sometimes reacts. That is something that has been documented very widely around the world. The latest example is what occurred in the Haida Gwaii area. Right after the earthquake, the residences noticed their hot spring dried up,” Kao continues, “That means the occurrence of earthquakes sometimes does have an impact on hydrological systems. It happens, people document it, but no one can say it will happen every time earthquakes occur. There are other factors that may affect the interaction between earthquake systems and hydrological systems. It becomes a very difficult issue to answer.”

The chance of our aquifer suddenly drying up due to fracking induced earthquakes is probably unlikely, but not out of the question. Mayor Wren points to his biggest concern. “I was talking to a few people down in Victoria at the UBCM about fracking. Would we be able to enforce no fracking within say five km of the aquifer?”  Wren continues, “In some ways no, probably not, but if we move forward with the resolution anyway it’s going to raise the profile of the issue. There are other areas where they have misjudged and have destroyed some aquifers,” he continues, talking about the connection between fracking and earthquakes, “With fracking you’re pumping all this liquid down there. The notion is the bedrock is going to protect the aquifer. An earthquake cracks the barrier of the bedrock. If it cracks, that stuff is going into the water, there’s no doubt about it. The earthquake itself would open channels for the liquid to flow. In theory they are saying the bedrock is the protection. With an earthquake, that theory isn’t going to hold.”

Since the technology does not exist to predict earthquakes or to be able to detect blind faults, the practice of fracking too close to the Tumbler Ridge aquifer could, for some, seem risky. The bottom line is we just don’t know yet, but is the safety of our water source something we’re willing to roll the dice on? [Emphasis added]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.