Researchers hunt for evidence of fracking quakes

CALGARY — Researchers in Alberta are digging into a controversial technique used to extract natural gas and oil that some say causes earthquakes.

CALGARY — Researchers in Alberta are digging into a controversial technique used to extract natural gas and oil that some say causes earthquakes.

Teams from the University of Calgary and University of Alberta want to listen to hydraulic fracture treatments or fracking, as it’s more commonly known.

“What it involves is installation of sensors that are called geophones, usually in a deep borehole, but sometimes also at the surface,” David Eaton, a University of Calgary geophysics professor and lead investigator, said Thursday.

“The geophones are used to measure ground vibrations and if you measure ground vibrations at three or more locations, it’s possible to then triangulate the location where seismic waves are created. And they’re created at tiny, micro-earthquakes that occur during the frack treatment process.”

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep down well bores to crack open fissures and boost the flow of oil and gas.

Eaton said researchers can track in real time where a fracture is going and where fluids used in the process end up.

“We do want to make sure that…fracks stay in the target zone where they’re intended to go and also that they’re aren’t any concerns about triggering of earth tremors that might be above the threshold for magnitude that people would consider acceptable.”

Eaton said the research will take place at locations in Western Canada.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is providing half of the money for the three-year, $1.86 million university project.

The rest will come from 10 industry partners, including ConocoPhillips, Cameco (TSX:CCO), Shell, Husky (TSX:HSE), Nexen (TSX:NSY) and Encana (TSCX:ECA).

Eaton said the industry funding will not affect their findings.

“We do take the challenge very seriously to maintain high academic integrity through this project and our industry partners know this.”

Opponents of fracking have raised environmental concerns about the amount of water the process requires, pollution from wastewater and the potential for earthquakes.

The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, the province’s energy regulator, said in a report released in September that fracking caused a spate of small earthquakes in B.C.’s remote northeastern corner.

The report said an investigation found that at least 38 quakes observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing near pre-existing faults.

The 38 events ranged between magnitudes of 2.2 and 3.8 on the Richter scale.

A quake of between 4.0 and 4.9 is considered “light” and may cause a noticeable shaking of indoor items and rattling noises.

The report also said more than 8,000 fracking completions have been performed in northeastern B.C. that haven’t been associated with unusual seismic activity.

Earlier this year, a report by the National Research Council in the United States said hydraulic fracturing does not pose a high risk for triggering earthquakes large enough to feel.

It said only two worldwide instances of shaking — a magnitude 2.8 tremor in Oklahoma and a 2.3 magnitude shaking in England — can be attributed to hydraulic fracturing.

In Ohio, an injection well used to hold wastewater from the fracking process has been tied to a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area.

— By Jennifer Graham in Regina

Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

The Minnesota Wild celebrate their overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal at 3:20 of overtime… Continue reading

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., celebrates after hitting a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Girardi, Segura have confrontation as Phils lose to Jays

Blue Jays 10 Phillies 8 DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — The injury-depleted Philadelphia… Continue reading

New York Islanders' Kyle Palmieri (21) returns to the bench after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Palmieri’s OT winner lifts Isles by Penguins 4-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders brought Kyle Palmieri home at… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

ATLANTA (AP) — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Feds face growing calls for answers after general overseeing vaccine effort sidelined

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is facing growing calls for answers… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Most Read