US report offers frank discussion on fracking-induced earthquakes

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As we deal with the constant threat of a large earthquake on the West Coast, a candid report out of the US is offering up advice on how to deal with human-caused tremors induced by fracking — the blasting of water and chemicals deep into shale formations to release oil and natural gas.

The 150-page document produced by a group of drilling states, seismologists, academics and industry experts matter-of-factly references links between fracking or deep-injection wastewater disposal and earthquakes, something the industry has danced around in the past.

The report urges states to put regulations in place to deal with induced earthquakes and gives advice on how to prepare for and respond to them.

Can BC’s natural gas industry learn some lessons?

“I think they already are doing a lot of this,” says David Hughes, an earth scientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada.

“But the bottom line is fracking-produced quakes are just a cost of doing business. I don’t think there’s really anything you can do about them,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“Companies have been experimenting with injecting ever-larger volumes of water and ever-larger of proppant — the sand used to prop the induced fractures open — so I think we just have to accept that as the cost of doing business.”

And it could be an increasing cost, with five liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for BC’s coast.

“If perchance all those LNG terminals are built, we’re talking about more than doubling the number of wells that have historically been drilled in BC,” says Hughes.

“There has been about 25,000 drilled up until 2014 and we’ll be looking at drilling a little over 40,000 over the next 25 years to satisfy those needs.”

Hughes says the good news is tremors associated with fracking are generally weak. “Although you are going to feel them, they are not likely to cause a lot of damage on the surface.”

Fracking is thought to have triggered a 4.4-magnitude earthquake in northeastern BC last year and another moderate quake in August.

An industry report found the shale gas industry triggered 231 earthquakes in the province between August, 2013, and October, 2014, none of which were linked to injuries or property damage.

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