A 4.6-magnitude earthquake near Fort St. John, B.C. in August 2015 was caused by high-pressure fracking liquids pumped underground by Calgary-based Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Malaysian state fossil company Petronas, according to analysis by a Geological Survey of Canada research scientist.
“It confirms what we’ve learned so far, that the majority of earthquakes induced in northeastern British Columbia appear to be related to hydraulic fracturing operations rather than other injection operations,” scientist Honn Kao told the National Observer.
“Almost everybody, including industry and the research community, agrees that there is no doubt that hydraulic fracturing and waste water injection can cause earthquakes,” he added. “Now the question is how big or how damaging these earthquakes can be.”
The Fort St. John quake caused no damage, but was the biggest yet in the province’s northeastern shale gas region, the Observer notes. Kao said the connection between the earthquake and fracking operations, as opposed to related waste water disposal, is “very different from the reports for the Central and Eastern United States, where they indicate that most of their induced earthquakes are related to waste water injection.”
Kao acknowledged that his research, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, “was possible because Progress Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Limited shared data from their seismographic stations with him,” writes Vancouver-based reporter Erin Ellis. “Corporate monitoring points far outnumber those of the government.”
Ellis notes that the Montney shale, which would be the source of fracked gas for Petronas’ proposed $36-billion LNG terminal near Prince Rupert, has seen “hundreds of small seismic events” since fracking began in the mid-1980s. But Progress Energy Communications Director David Sterna said the company hasn’t recorded any stronger quakes since Fort St. John’s in 2015, despite installing additional monitoring equipment.
“Since 2012, Progress Energy has completed more than 3,400 hydraulic fractures without any incident of injury or property damage,” he told the Observer in an email.