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The largest earthquake yet detected in British Columbia’s northeastern shale gas region was conclusively caused by fracking from Progress Energy Inc. in August 2015, says a federal scientist whose study was published this month.

Honn Kao, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, says it’s now clear that the 4.6 magnitude quake, which was felt at the surface near the resource town of Fort St. John, was the direct result of liquids being pumped into underground rock formations under high pressure to extract natural gas.

“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,” Kao said in a telephone interview from his office in Sidney, B.C., near Victoria.

Progress Energy of Calgary is owned by Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia which has floated plans to build a liquified natural gas processing plant on B.C.’s coast near Prince Rupert. The source of the gas would be the Montney shale gas area where hundreds of small seismic events have been detected by monitoring stations since fracking began in the area in the mid-1980s. The company hasn’t made a final decision on whether to proceed with the project to ship liquified gas to Asian markets.

Support for proposals to build LNG facilities have been a key component of the federal and provincial governments' economic policies and the issue could land in the middle of B.C.'s May 9 election.

Question of damage

“Now almost everybody, including industry and the research community, agrees that there is no doubt that hydraulic fracturing and waste water injection can cause earthquakes,” Kao said. "Now the question is how big or how damaging these earthquakes can be.”

“This is something that’s 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.”

The BC Oil and Gas Commission also reported in December 2015 that fracking was behind the quake which caused no damage. The commission is a provincial Crown corporation which regulates shale oil production.

Kao said 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. Corporate monitoring points far outnumber those of the government.

“Progress Energy has been very open and they make it very clear that they want to know the cause of induced seismicity as much as we do,” said Kao. “They spent a lot of money setting up seismic arrays trying to figure out where are the earthquakes, how big they are and so on.”

Earthquakes in B.C.'s Montney play, 1985-2016
Blue dots are seismic events from 1985 to 2016. Stars are earthquakes over magnitude 4. Monitoring stations: triangles = government.; squares = Progress Energy Inc.; diamonds = Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

More monitors installed

The key issue now is whether seismic activity can be consistently kept below magnitude 4 which cannot be felt at the surface, he added.

Phil Rygg, director of communications for the BC Oil and Gas Commission, says the study mirrors its research on the Horn River Basin near the Yukon border and the Montney region where the 4.6-magnitude earthquake occurred.

That’s why the commission has required more monitoring stations, prompt reporting of ground motion and a halt in production after a quake of magnitude 4 or higher. Progress Energy did stop work immediately after the Aug. 17, 2015, earthquake, but resumed after a go-ahead from the commission.

Rygg noted there has been no surface damage from induced quakes in British Columbia.

David Sterna, director of communications at Calgary-based Progress Energy, declined to be interviewed because he said the company hasn’t yet reviewed the latest research. But he said in an emailed response that there have not been any stronger earthquakes since 2015 and the company has installed more detection equipment since then.

“Since 2012, Progress Energy has completed more than 3,400 hydraulic fractures without any incident of injury or property damage,” Sterna wrote. “As part of our commitment to safety, Progress Energy has installed 17 localized seismograph arrays in our operating areas to monitor potential occurrences of induced seismicity from our activities.”

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Another recent study was reported in The Tyee: 'Methane Leaks from Energy Wells Affects Groundwater, Travels Great Distances, Study Confirms'. Researchers indicated that "“There has been no science-based groundwater monitoring using modern methods at fracking sites."

As such, in the absence of groundwater monitoring, to what degree of confidence can the BC Oil and Gas Commission accurately conclude that fracking induced quakes "cause no harm"?

It has been said, 'the ABSENCE OF PROOF of harm IS NOT PROOF OF ABSENCE of harm.

Good Lord! How much earthshaking and groundwater producing incidents do we need to accept the fact that water is the most threatened variable in humanity's attempt to survive an industry's increasing assault on the earth? At one time we considered the trees of Canada to be an inexhaustible resource until our speed of their destruction outpaced the speed of their regeneration. Now we're doing the same thing to water, our most basic need What international aquifers we're not emptying (threatening desertification of once vibrant terrains) we're polluting with the methane from fracking operations. Just read "Slick Water" and take a look at Alberta's mess for irrefutable proof of the abhorrent connection.

The Colatteral Damage of man induced fractures in the earth's fragile crust is negligence. There are countless natural Quake Zones in the Rocky Mountain range. The straw man fallacy of Proprietary information of Hazardous liquids and solids being pumped into the aquifers not being Publicly Disclosed is a tragic method of disposing of Hazardous waste. What a legacy to leave for future generations.

Not withstanding that it was Diana Daunheimer's farm animals that refused to drink the water. Her story is on YouTube along with Slick water the Jessica Ernst story. The Daunheimer homestead had 6 Gas Wells surrounding their 12 acres venting off toxic gasses like H2s that will kill you at 0.08 ppm.

I fully understand the position families are subject to when they may have signed a Lease Agreement which inadvertently has a Gag Order of Non Disclosure for multiple generations forward. Our Provincial governments that have allowed this have failed their electorate. They are cozied up to Big Oil.

Pure Fox Theatre as the Self Regulated and Industry Funded AER. Our Ministers of the Environment and Senior staff should be sacked for negligence and failure in "Duty of Care". As well as the embedded Health Ministries complicit in hiding the true impact on human health. As well as the Agricultural Ministers who are allowing the contamination of the agricultural land base from airborne contaminates settling onto the grasses and Up taking. Google, Italy open air garbage burning dioxins mozzarella cheese and the cows contaminating their milk all because of human Greed and Negligence.

I suffer a WCB compensation Toxic Fume Injury because of Corporate Greed and Ministry of Labour complicity with the Industrial Client Owner. There were 59 men on oxygen my last day of work. Many days before the Hospital ran out of oxygen. Bias to donors of large cash gifts results in the "horse blinders" virus. Eg. Just as has been disclosed about the BC Liberal government being graciously given donations in the millions. A quick Integrity Search on the Malaysian government will show their Global Rating as per ethics and accountability. Zero, zilch, it is a One Party Governance. Basically the same as the Blood Line Monarchies most of the First Nations in BC live under. The Chiefs who signed onto the LNG Pipeline to LeLu Island Export Terminal did negligible education and consultation with their Band members.

The BC government was complicit in exploiting this totalitarian system of undemocratic rule by negotiating some 22 other LNG Export Terminals. BC's mountain range will resemble a Spider Web of pipelines to these Coastal Seaports.

The BC government exploited this weakness in First Nations governance. Basically they carried the beads, blankets and jangle bells with promises of prosperity, Aka, the "Black Snake Prophecy" would be a warning bell for the first inhabitants of this great land that is being desecrated by wanton Greed and Negligence by our Straw Men Regulators.

Hi Gerald,

Thanks for the comment and mention.
To clarify, we have 6 wells very near our home, 3 are gas wells, one is sour crude, another sour condensate, the other sweet crude. Liquids were tanked, in which associated gases disassociate and are vented to atmosphere. Other routine emissions, include formations gases used for fuel in compressors and lift systems, as well as methanol venting, (methanol is continually injected into wells to prevent freezing and hydrate formation) instrument venting, surface casing vent flows and fugitive emissions.

Non-routine emissions are the well tests, (flaring and incineration) and drilling and fracturing and service emissions. The average well test releases 400-800 e3m3 of emissions in just a few days. Routine emissions by our home, averaged 60 million litres a month. The sour crude oil well, vented sour gas at 300ppm, above the licensed concentration (AER did nothing about this) and without our knowledge. The company falsified public notifications, so that we were unaware of sour gas venting happening 50m from our property line. Worse still, the use of sour gas, at 300ppm to fuel the compressor on site, in a 1:1 ratio, combusted acid gas, produces sulphur dioxide, which is known to be irrevocably harmful to health at .25ppm.

Due to my insistence of regulatory intervention, the venting tanks were removed, and liquid products are not shipped in line. The sour crude oil well was inactivated, largely based on low productivity, which fracked wells are infamous for-huge decline rates. In all, we have experienced a reduction in emissions, but far too late to protect the health of our family and livestock.

As per our water, yes, it was the animals refusing it that gave us cause for concern, along with the sour smell and physical changes. Water tests commissioned in 2000 and 2006 (prior to drilling) showed no measured levels of sulphides (as H2S) but the AENV testing we has done in 2014, after the 6 wells, did detect H2S in the water. As per the Tyee article linked above, methane can be the cause of this. Our water, also had detectable levels of arsenic, barium, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, lithium, nickel, uranium, zinc and vanadium and certain phthalates. However, the AENV testing could hardly be relied upon. The first event was so flawed, even AENV had to admit, that the testing event would not hold up to any scrutiny-this after AENV assuring our family, our water was fine to consume and hoping this put our "mind at ease."
The second event, was also flawed, but jurisdiction by this time, had transferred to the AER and AENV would not speak to the results, blaming the sampling errors on the lab. Since 2013, if you have suspected contaminated water, regarding fracking in Alberta, you have to deal with the AER, which is 100% industry funded and has no protocol or directive regarding such contamination events or the procedure regarding. The AER expects that the company that contaminated the water, will be the one to test the water well, and the company has no obligation to share those results with the landowner. There is also no directive or regulation for baseline testing in Alberta for fracking operations and the AER maintains the rights to close a file at will, which is their standard solution for remediating water well concerns.

We have yet to engage in further testing, as the company has yet to disclose all chemicals used and produced in the well sites by our home, in defiance of the Rules of Court.

This is all further complicated by the fact that Health Canada has set very few guidelines for any industry contaminants in drinking water, including methane. If there is no guideline, there is no contravention. Nice industrial loophole, wouldn't you say? Maybe Health Canada should protect our drinking water, by implementing stricter and more appropriate parameters for drinking water in our nation.

It would stand to reason that increased seismicity, creates increased pathways for methane and other industry contamination to migrate. The impacts are exponential, much like the richter scale.

Seismicity is just a small fraction of the impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing and the failures to be both transparent about, and responsive to these known impacts.


Who needed proof? Certainly not anyone with a modicum of understanding and technical knowledge of fracking operations.

Every hydraulically fractured well bore, is a series of induced seismic events. The industrial process is intended to pulverize normally stable and tight geologic formations, to facilitate the release of imbedded hydrocarbons.
Prior to the injection of fracture fluids, it is standard practice for companies to use perforation guns, with gamma ray neutron charges, to initiate the fractures in the target formation. The radioactive signature left behind, then allows companies to track the propagations resulting from the frack event. Micro-seismic testers that are either placed at the surface of the well sites, or run into adjacent well bores, also log the destruction of the formation, as the fracture slurry is pumped into the formation in stages.

Fracture fluids are not truly a liquid, since there is an average mass of 10% sand, ceramic beads or other type of "proppant" used to hold open the fractures, once the frack event is complete. Chemical "breakers" are sent downhole, after the slurry is injected, which de-gel the fracture fluids, assisting the return of fluids and not the proppant to surface.

Industry and their repugnant lobby and synergy groups must be upset that the gig on seismicity and fracking is up. It is disturbing that the scientific community allowed the deception to go on this long. Now, you can clearly see, they are changing their putrid tune. Instead of outright denial of induced quakes, the new scheme is to ensure the public, that as long as the events remain around a magnitude of 4, everything is just peachy. Shame on these scientists, since we all know industry has no shame. No surface damage. Aside from that not being true, look at Oklahoma, what about sub-surface damage? From the Kao abstract, it reports frack induced events happen at average depths of 500m to 2.5 km. 500m is within the base of groundwater protection in most areas, therefore, these events, have the very serious potential to damage and disrupt vital groundwater supplies. Is anyone monitoring these impacts?

How big will frack induced events get, and what will future impacts be? Just envision what industry has currently leveraged for exploration and production of unconventional resources. LNG dreams in BC, 70% of coal fired electricity in Alberta, being replaced with fracked gas. Hundreds of thousands of more well sites and facilities across these provinces alone. Multiple zones, from shallow to deep, in all directions, vertical, directional, horizontal and deviated, being fracked. Along with that, comes stupendous amounts of produced water, drilling and frack waste, that requires injections for disposal, also a mechanism of induced quakes.

Industry, CAPP, synergy, regulators and their friendly neighbourhood scientists will only be able to keep up this new and improved deception for so long, before the obvious is undeniable once again.

Just in case my assertion that all hydraulic fracturing events induce seismicity is not believable, here is an academic stating the intention of fracturing as well:

"Hydraulic fracturing is designed to cause small earthquakes," said Ruijia Wang, one of the study's co-authors and a PhD candidate at the U of A.

I don't find it calming to learn there is no damage at the surface. Humans have been spewing climate changing chemicals into our air (water and soil) for decades. It was only as an accumulation of this these chemicals changed the way climate worked that we realized we had a problem. I suspect the same will be true of fracking. Down the road the accumulated impact will turn out to be a problem in some way we have not yet foreseen.
As with a child playing with matches, we don't know what we are doing, what the long term results will be, and who/what will be affected by those long term results. Why is it so important to control who has marijuana but not who eats sugar, why is it so important to research and put controls on some items and with other actions we carry on in a cavalier, who cares fashion. I suspect as with everything it is a "follow the money" answer.

In Alberta, surface damage has been reported and ignored. As long as the Regulator works for Industry, the true costs will never be realized.