Energy regulator probing whether fracking caused earthquake

Energy regulator probing whether fracking caused earthquake

Magnitude 4.6 earthquake most powerful to have ever hit central Alberta

Alberta Energy Regulator is probing whether fracking caused an earthquake that rattled the Sylvan Lake and Red Deer areas on Monday morning.

“We are currently reviewing the events to determine if the incident is due to hydraulic fracturing activities or natural causes,” said AER spokesperson Natalie Brodych. “Vesta Energy was conducting hydraulic fracturing activities in the area, but has since stopped.”

Brodych said the earthquake was detected about 12 km south of Sylvan Lake and was reported to the regulator by Vesta Energy at 6:20 a.m.

There have been no reported impacts to public safety, infrastructure, or the environment, she said.

Vesta Energy said in a statement Monday afternoon that its monitoring equipment detected a 4.32 magnitude seismic event at 5:56 a.m. about 20 km southwest of Red Deer.

“There were reports of power outages in the region that may have resulted from the seismic event,” says the company. “Vesta has shut down its completions activity in the area and is working with the Alberta Energy Regulator to review and investigate the situation.

“Safety of the public and our employees is paramount at Vesta Energy. The company has real time seismic monitoring equipment on site which will be used in its investigation of the situation.”

The company says it will release further information as it becomes available.

A 4.6 magnitude earthquake that shook homes and spooked many central Albertans was the largest ever to hit the area, says Natural Resources Canada.

Taimi Mulder, an earthquake seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada says the most powerful earthquakes in central Alberta usually top out at 3.8 to 4 on the Richter scale.

Normally earthquakes that sit on the higher end of the scale for Central Alberta are around 3.8-4 on the Richter scale.

“We are still classifying this as a light earthquake, but it does seem to be the largest to hit the area,” said Mulder.

The quake occurred around 5:55 a.m. local time Monday and was lightly felt in Red Deer, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe. The earthquake originated about a kilometre below the surface.

Mulder said the event is still being investigated, but it does not appear to be caused by fracking in the area.

The cause is believed to be from tectonic movement along the Rocky Mountains.

While Central Alberta is a distance away from a fault line, quakes still occur every few years.

“It is very unusual, but not unheard of to have an earthquake in the area,” Mulder said adding, “Normally we see more activity in larger centres such as Calgary, Edmonton or Banff.”

AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said about 5:55 a.m. a signal from a substation just south of Sylvan Lake indicated a problem.

“It indicated we had lost two transformers there that had tripped out of service.”

About 4,600 customers were affected. Some got their power back within eight minutes but others had to wait until just before 7:30 a.m.

Schreiner said the electricity transmission system is designed with safety mechanisms that are triggered when any anomalies are detected.

All of the customers are being served by one transformer and technicians are checking the second to ensure there was no damage before it is brought back into service.

Schreiner said they can’t say for sure the earthquake caused the problem.

“Not conclusively. I think it’s a reasonable assumption to say that it is related to the earthquake but the investigation is ongoing.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press file photo)
Police seeks suspects in Bowden armed robbery

Man was beaten and robbed of his wallet

Red Deer RCMP say Alexander King was last seen about a month ago. (Contributed)
Red Deer teen reported missing

RCMP ask for public’s assistance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says it’s not appropriate for former… Continue reading

More back-alley murals, such as this one behind Can-West Travel, will be painted this summer before the City of Red Deer holds it Meet the Street arts and culture festival in September. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer seeks more mural artists

Creating 10 more back-alley murals is the goal

Teachers with Centre-Nord School Division are holding a strike vote on Jan. 25 and 26. (Photo from Facebook)
Central Alberta teachers hold strike vote

Francophone teachers to cast votes

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP officer in Alberta charged with off-duty sexual assault in Edmonton

EDMONTON — Alberta’s police watchdog says an RCMP officer has been charged… Continue reading

Canada’s 29th Governor General Julie Payette looks on alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Senate chamber during her installation ceremony, in Ottawa on Monday, October 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says GG vetting process needs improvement after Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s admission Friday that he might have… Continue reading

NDP member of Parliament Lindsay Mathyssen speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP warns of long delays in equal pay for women in federal pay equity rules

OTTAWA — The federal New Democrats say new rules to close a… Continue reading

President Joe Biden waves as he departs after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington. Less than a week after the economic gut punch of cancelling Keystone XL, Canada is bracing for more bad news today from the White House. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Patrick Semansky
U.S. president to sign executive orders enacting stringent new Buy American regimen

WASHINGTON — Less than a week after the economic gut punch of… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

A 37-year-old man from Maskwacis has died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital Tuesday December 15, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canadian provinces push back vaccination plans as Pfizer deliveries grind to a halt

Some Canadian health-care workers are being told they’ll have to wait longer… Continue reading

A Shell logo is seen at a petrol station in London on January 20, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kirsty Wigglesworth
Shell buys European electric car charging firm ubitricity

Experts say easier access to charging facilities key to successful rollout of electric vehicles

FILE— In this Feb. 23, 2019, file photo, Vashti Cunningham poses for photographers after winning the women’s high jump final at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships in New York. Cunningham is one of the athletes who will be competing in the American Track League, which opens a four-week-long series on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 in an indoor setting at the University of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez. File)
Back on track: Competing, not cash, lures big names to meet

American Track League begins a four-week indoor series at the University of Arkansas

Most Read