A series of small but high-profile earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing last year is behind a decision by B.C.’s oil and gas regulator to step up monitoring of seismic activity.
Starting June 1, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) will collect ground motion data from new wells in gas fields near Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, the regulator announced in an industry bulletin this week.
The new permit conditions require companies to have “adequate monitoring” systems in place during hydraulic fracturing. In addition, companies will have to file a ground motion monitoring report within 30 days of completing a fracture.
“This is the next step in mitigation measures that started with earlier permit conditions in 2012, increased seismic monitoring in the northeast in 2013 and new regulations in 2015,” OGC spokesperson Alan Clay wrote in an email.
Fracking was deemed the cause of a 4.6 earthquake north of Fort St. John last summer—the largest “induced seismicity” event on record in B.C.
The quake had its epicentre at a drilling site operated by Progress Energy, the largest drilling company in B.C. The company temporarily suspended operations during an investigation. Shaking could be felt as far away as Charlie Lake.
While the quake caused no damage, it raised debate about industry regulation as the provincial government pins its hopes to a liquefied natural gas industry.
Progress Energy is the upstream subsidiary of Petronas, the company behind the $11 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG export facility outside Prince Rupert. The company recently slashed its Northeast B.C. operations as it awaits a federal decision on the facility.
More than 230 earthquakes were linked to fracking in an earlier Oil and Gas Commission study between August 2013 and November 2014, but only 11 could be felt at the surface.