Canada breaking frac quake records: Geosciences professor thinks earthquakes near Fox Creek are clearly linked to fracking

Geosciences professor thinks earthquakes near Fox Creek are clearly linked to fracking by Travis Dosser, January 15, 2016 10:50 am, CKNW News Talk Vancouver

Geosciences professor thinks earthquakes near Fox Creek are clearly linked to fracking
There have been 367 earthquakes recorded in the Fox Creek area since last January but the Alberta Energy Regulator isn’t ready to blame the tremors on fracking. 

2015 03 19 Global News clip on Fox Creek frac induced quakes and AER's experimental ineffective stop light, too late for mitigation, system

David Eaton, a U of C geosciences professor, says earthquakes were almost unheard-of in the Fox Creek area before the first fracking wells were completed in 2013.

“I think it is very clear that hydraulic fracturing does have something to do with the earthquake activity we’re seeing in that area but there is still a lot we don’t know about how directly connect the fracking operations are to directly inducing fault splits,” explains Eaton.

Eaton says earthquakes were rare in the Fox Creek area until fracking started.

“Starting in December 2013, we started to pick up earthquake activity in that area and it correlated with industry well completions that were taking place and it is an atypical area for earthquake activity and it seems to be more sensitive to hydraulic fracturing completion than any other part of the province,” explains Eaton. [Or is it because the AER deregulated the fracing at Fox Creek to a frac’ing free-for-all, on permit fits all, blanket approval greed fest?

Eaton says the province should proceed with caution on future fracking developments.

“The province has implemented new procedures in that area, so called traffic light protocols, so that any event above magnitude four would trigger a red light condition and a halt in operations,” explains Eaton. “We still need to better understand how we can forecast and manage the risk that is coming from this.”

Eaton says researchers around the world, including the U of C, are working on the issue

“We’re working closely with government agencies in Alberta, BC and federally and also working quite closely with the industry,” explains Eaton. “Companies are quite concerned with this and are looking for answers themselves.” [Really? If companies gave a damn, the fix the damages they cause; pay for water hauling for the Town of Fox Creek; repair the contaminated aquifers at Ponoka, Spirit River, Wetaskawin, Lochend NW of Calgary, Rosebud, etc; fix Hawkwoods damaged buildings and Ann Craft’s house and out buildlings; and they’d stop their ego and greed-induced madness.] The Mayor of Fox Creek is concerned at the number of earthquakes his community and the impact of the industry in the area.

Mayor Jim Ahn says the newly drafted rules are supposed to ensure fracking doesn’t cause dangerous seismic events but they are clearly not working.

He says the province and its energy regulator are turning a blind eye to what’s happening and has invited Premier Rachel Notley to come to town to discuss the concerns.

Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd says she will be in touch with Ahn to discuss his concerns and how they can be addressed. (twd, Newstalk770, The Canadian Press) [Emphasis added]

The mysterious connection between fracking and earthquakes by Bob Weber The Canadian Press, January 15, 2016, Global News

“The scientists are all on the same page.”

Scientists still studying link between earthquakes and fracking by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press, January 15, 2016, CTV News

A record-breaking earthquake this week in the middle of an Alberta oilfield heavily subject to hydraulic fracking is one of a growing number of such events across the continent, scientists say.

But while the amount of research on “induced seismic activity” is growing, the link between fracking and quaking is still a mystery.

“If we look at tens of thousands of wells that have been stimulated with hydraulic fracking in Western Canada, less than half a per cent are associated with induced earthquake activity,” said David Eaton, a University of Calgary geophysicist.

B.C. commission confirms 4.6-magnitude quake in August caused by fracking

“What are the factors that make it prevalent in some areas and entirely absent in most other areas?”

On Tuesday, an earthquake variously reported as measuring between 4.2 and 4.8 on the Richter scale shook pictures on the walls of homes in Fox Creek, a community in the centre of the Duvernay oil and gas field.

The quake was the latest — and largest — of hundreds of similar shakers around the community since 2013. 

Scientists agree that fracking or injecting waste water into wells can cause earthquakes.

“Among the earth science community, I don’t think there’s any doubt,” said Arthur McGarr of the United States Geological Survey. “The scientists are all on the same page.”

But many questions still have to be answered. Experts need to sort out when fracking is the cause of earthquakes and when they’re caused by waste water pumped into deep aquifers.
“Waste-water disposal, at least in the U.S., has been the primary cause of earthquakes,” said McGarr. “In Canada, it’s not clear that things work the same way. That’s still a debated question.”

Eaton said scientists are trying to identify in advance when underground faults and features could cause problems. [So we get a nice letter from Protti’s AER advising us we are not directly affected, have no right to say no, have no right to a hearing and soon our communities and homes might frac up or crumble down, but we are entitled to “No Duty of Care” legally immune, Charter violating intimidation tactics to keep us silent after we lose our homes, or the ability to be safe in them.] 

“But the evidence which is coming through in these studies is that features that are mappable with seismic imaging are not necessarily problematic, whereas features that are very difficult to see with the geophysical technology that we’ve got may actually be the problematic ones.

“There’s urgent scientific research right now which is focused on trying to find better ways to identify these features in advance.” [Why then, is the AER enabling companies to keep creating >4M frac quakes?]

Although fracking has been around for decades, recent years have seen the technique combined with horizontal drilling and greater pressures.

“It’s being done more often, more widely, with larger injection volumes,” said Eaton.

The largest induced quakes have been in British Columbia, where they have measured around 5.0 on the Richter scale.

And around Fox Creek the intensity of the events has been growing, said geophysicist Jeff Gu of the University of Alberta.

“The magnitude of the events is slowly creeping up a little. It’s something that we need to keep an eye on,” he said.

“We do have to make sure that we have enough monitoring capability in case of a larger event. The integrity of the wells would have to be inspected more regularly, especially in cases where there are small earthquakes.”

McGarr said close monitoring can detect little earthquakes that could be the precursors to bigger, more dangerous ones.

“That’s kind of our working hypothesis in trying to figure ways to keep the hazard down,” he said. “The main thing is … looking for clues the earthquake hazard may be climbing to dangerous levels.” [Emphasis added]

Was Canada’s Latest Earthquake the Largest Fracking Quake in the World? Canada may once again set a world record for the largest earthquake triggered by the controversial drilling process by Lorraine Chow, January 15, 2016, EcoWatch

… A statement from Repsol confirmed that Tuesday’s earthquake occurred during fracking operations. “Repsol immediately shut down operations and reported the event to the AER and other local authorities,” the statement said.

“The company is investigating the event, which includes reviewing and analyzing available geological and geophysical data, as well as the onsite seismic monitoring data. Operations will not resume at this location until a full assessment of the event has been completed and approval has been received from the AER.”

… Alberta’s provincial energy regulator also said at the time that the quake was likely caused by hydraulic fracturing.

Gu also told CBC News that if fracking induced Tuesday’s 4.8 quake, it would be the largest such quake in Canada’s history. Actually, such a quake would be the largest such quake in the world.

No injuries or property damages were reported from the temblor, although some residents in the area felt shaken.

“I thought it was just a forklift backing into the wall,” St. Albert resident Ken Munroe said in the video below.

Canada has the dubious honor of holding the world record for the largest fracking-induced earthquake. Last month, British Columbia’s energy regulator confirmed that a 4.6-magnitude earthquake that struck the province in August was caused by fracking. … [Emphasis added]

2016 01 13: LA renters, apartment owners responsible for earthquake upgrades

To frack or not to frack by Daniela Ginta, January 15, 2016, News Kamloops

AMIDST the welcome news of the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines being shut down by the B.C. government, the fact that fracking is still considered an acceptable process for extracting natural gas is somewhat baffling.

After all, the earthquake that rattled Fox Creek, Alta., and a large area surrounding it, was no small matter. At 4.8 magnitude, the earthquake was serious enough to make the Alberta Energy Regulator close the operation indefinitely. The decision is a wise one and the earthquake a cautionary tale that no one should be allowed to downplay.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, comes with many risks. High-pressure fluid – as much as half a million litters of water with additives — is injected into deep wells in order to crack rocks and force out the natural gas trapped in the shale.

Aside from an increased risk of earthquakes (231 triggered by the shale gas industry between August 2013 and October 2014) that seem to increase in magnitude as more wells are being dug, fracking comes with a high risk of water contamination.

While some can argue that the province needs its natural gas project to continue in order to secure revenue and provide jobs, the controversial operations are bound to put some areas of B.C. and the people who live there at considerable risk.

The recent Fox Creek earthquake, as well as the two that occurred in British Columbia last year, share some commonalities: they were all caused by fracking and registered over 4 on the seismic scale. Hence the temporary (short or long-term) closing of the operations, yet unfortunately not severe enough to cause a re-evaluation of the process. [Will anything be severe enough to curb the greed in citizens, companies, regulators and politicians?]

That many people in the area where fracking operations occur, as well as environmentalists, are showing great concern is only natural. After all, natural gas giant Petronas, the company behind the huge LNG developments in B.C., was discovered to have a poor reputation when it comes to safety matters. Not exactly what the public wants to hear about an industry that has been mushrooming in northeastern British Columbia.

And mushrooming is the right term indeed, as more than 7,300 wells have been drilled since 2005 in British Columbia. The trouble is, the more wells they dig and the more additive-treated water is pumped into them to release the gas, the higher the risk of earthquakes and leakage of toxic and carcinogenic compounds (yes, they are) into fresh aquifers. We can figure out ways to exist without natural gas, but there is no way we can ever exist without water. Which means that we have to preserve what we have at all costs rather than have so much of it used by industries that do not honour a green-energy commitment, nor admit the putative health and environmental effects they inflict.

As if an increased risk of earthquakes and water contamination is not enough, adding the release of methane into the atmosphere as yet another fracking side-effect (a 2013 report pointed out that the actual release is 70 percent higher than initially thought), should make us all wonder why fracking is allowed to continue the way it does. 

After all, as with an oil spill in a pristine area, the effects of fracking can greatly affect a community. In Hudson’s Hope, B.C., the site of five fracking wells and also the place of a continuous landslide which people blame on the fracking operation, the reality is as dark as could be, water-wise.

The only source of water for the community is contaminated with heavy metals, not that anyone claims responsibility for it. A report by the B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission stated that the area has naturally occurring metals and is prone to land instability. How conveniently impaired one could say. Yet sarcasm aside, the reality is a sad one. The water advisory is still on and it’ll probably be for a while. People cannot use the creek the way they used to for generations.

Fracking is still happening near Hudson’s Hope and while the residents blame it for their water problems, truth is hard to come by when big money is at stake.

Call it cliché if you will, but human health and the health of the environment are priceless. And we just don’t have the luxury to spare any at this point. Nor should we be gullible enough to allow companies to convince us that fracking comes with low risks hence it should continue. The price in the long run (or not so long) could be a devastating one and the future generations, as well as the present one, deserve better. [Emphasis added]

Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at email hidden; JavaScript is required, or through her blog at

[Refer also to:

2016 01 13: Dr. Jeffrey Gu interviewed by 630CHED on the 4.8M Earthquake at Fox Creek, Alberta (1.5 hours after Ernst’s Supreme Court Hearing) ]

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