Significant back-to-back earthquakes in northern B.C. ‘very likely’ caused by fracking

Significant back-to-back earthquakes in northern B.C. ‘very likely’ caused by fracking

4.6 and 4.7 magnitude quakes northwest of Fort St. John recorded within four days, just a kilometre apart.

Two significant earthquakes within a week in northeast B.C. were probably triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to preliminary information from federal scientists. 

On Nov. 11, Earthquakes Canada reported a 4.7-magnitude earthquake, 132 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John.

That was followed four days later by a 4.6-magnitude quake recorded just a kilometre away from the first seismic event.

“There is an active hydraulic fracturing operation nearby,” said Prof. Honn Kao, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. “The likelihood of these two events being induced by industry is very high.”

Earthquakes Canada said while the tremors were “lightly felt in the surrounding area,” there were no reports of damage.

Fracking involves injecting fluids into a deep well under high pressure to fracture tight rock formations and release the natural gas inside. 

According to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC), the province’s energy regulator, fracking in B.C. takes place deeper underground than it does in other areas of the world — sometimes more than four kilometres beneath the surface. 

In an email to CBC News, the BCOGC said all drilling in the Montney formation near Fort St John B.C., “has or will eventually involve hydraulic fracturing operations.” 

According to information on the BCOGC’s website, “microseismic events” occur when fluid fractures the rock.

“In some cases, where there is a susceptible pre-existing fault, slippage on the fault plane can occur,” it says.

While the vast majority of fracking operations don’t trigger earthquakes,the practice has been linked to most of the larger seismic events in Alberta and northeastern B.C. over the past decade.

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