New rules for oil companies using hydraulic fracturing in the Fox Creek area should prevent stronger earthquakes, the Alberta Energy Regulator has declared.
After a cluster of earthquakes possibly associated with “fracking” in the region, the regulator decided to bring new regulations, said Todd Shipman, AER manager responsible for seismic monitoring.
“We want the ability to prevent the large events, so we are asking companies to modify their operations when they hit a level 2.0 on the Richter scale,” he said.
In January, the Duvernay area 260 kilometres northwest of Edmonton recorded two significant earthquakes, including a 4.4-magnitude event 33 kilometres west of Fox Creek. That came after a cluster of 18 seismic events a month earlier.
Some of those earthquakes “appear to be related” to fracking, a process that involves injecting high-pressure fluids, sand and chemicals underground to crack open rock layers and release oil and gas, Shipman said.
Companies must now record seismic activity as low as 2.0 on the Richter scale in an eight-kilometre radius of their wells. At that level, they must immediately take action to reduce the impact of their operations to prevent the quake from growing.
At 4.0 magnitude, companies must immediately cease operations until the regulator approves restarting, says the new order.
Previously, there was no requirement on companies to report earthquakes at such a low level to the local AER office. These events will now be reported publicly on the regulator’s incident reporting website.
(Source: Edmonton Journal)