The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News

Another Industry Reported Quake in BC's Fracking Grounds


Regulator says tremor likely industry-caused, but company says it's too soon to say.

By Andrew Nikiforuk 20 Aug 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

This coverage of Canadian national issues is made possible because of generous financial support from our Tyee Builders. Please consider joining.

image atom
The quake occurred 114 km northwest of Fort St. John. Photo by northern BC frack fields by Hayley Dunning.

Progress Energy, an arm of the Malaysian oil company Petronas, temporarily shut down operations at a wellsite after a 4.5 magnitude earthquake hit an area 114 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John on Aug. 17.

B.C.'s oil and gas regulator said the earthquake was likely caused by hydraulic fracturing but "has yet to determine the cause of the event." Progress Energy reported the tremor on Monday. No damages were reported to the regulator.

"The Commission is working to obtain a reasonable event depth from local seismic-monitoring data and is collecting more information about the event as part of its investigation," B.C. Oil and Gas Commission spokesman Allan Clay told The Tyee.

David Sterna, Progress Energy's director of external affairs, said the company has since resumed operations with approval from the regulator, and that "despite certain media speculation, it is too early to determine whether Monday's seismic activity was a natural occurrence or related to hydraulic fracturing activities."

Natural Resources Canada recorded the earthquake's magnitude as 4.6 -- which, if confirmed by researchers, could make it the largest industry-caused tremor ever recorded in North America. Several smaller tremors were also recorded in the same vicinity.*

The epicentre of the earthquake occurred three kilometers from a site where Progress Energy was conducting a multi-stage frack into the Montney Shale, a large swath of land stretching across northeast B.C. into northwest Alberta.

In B.C., any fracking operation that measures a magnitude 4.0 tremor or greater within a three kilometre radius of the drilling pad must report the event to the regulator and suspend operations. Alberta operates a similar "traffic light" system for earthquakes in the Duvernay Shale around Fox Creek, Alberta.

That region, which has experienced industry-made quakes for two years, saw a 2.6 tremor in early August.

The shale gas industry injects fluids and sand at high pressure into deep and shallow wells to crack open difficult oil and gas deposits. The injections create a network of cracks that can also connect to water zones, other industry wellsites and faults.

The reactivation of these faults can then trigger an earthquake, sometimes days after the fracture treatment, scientists say.

BC tremors on record

According to a 2014 BC Oil and Gas Commission report, the shale gas industry triggered 231 earthquakes in northeastern British Columbia between August 2013 and October 2014. None of the quakes resulted in injuries, but several caused damage to horizontal wellbores.

Researchers do not know the full impact of the industry-caused shaking on aquifers or migrating gases in the earth due to limited monitoring.

Some quakes were large enough for locals to "experience a few seconds of shaking" on the ground in seven areas of the province on top of the Montney Shale.

The events, many of which occurred in clusters or swarms, show that fracking technology can be unpredictable.

University of Western Ontario seismic hazard expert Gail Atkinson, the leader of a research effort called the Canadian Induced Seismicity Collaboration, recently said that researchers "cannot predict the likelihood or magnitude of such events from specific planned operations because we do not have enough data on the complex natural rock systems, nor do we have validated predictive models."

Last month, Progress Energy refused to release to The Tyee a copy of a company presentation on industry-caused earthquakes that it gave at a public meeting organized by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

At the time, spokesman Sterna said, "As a practice, we do not provide copies of presentations to the media or any third parties."


Sterna said then that earthquakes caused by fracking at wells operated by Progress Energy in the Montney region had mostly been under a magnitude of 2.0, "with none of these events being detectable from the surface without the use of sensitive detection equipment. Events over 4.0 must be reported to the [Commission]. To date, there has been one recorded event of that magnitude in an area that we operate in."

In 2014, the company's operations triggered a 4.4 magnitude event at a site 84 kilometres northwest from this week's earthquake, according to BC Oil and Gas Commission spokesman Clay.

New studies by provincial and federal scientists show that the shale gas industry, which the B.C. government hopes will eventually supply proposed liquefied natural gas terminals with fracked gas, has caused more than a thousand earthquakes in northeast B.C. since 2006 and changed the region's seismicity.

The earthquakes, ranging in magnitude from 1.0 to 4.3, include seven events higher than 4.0 and more than 20 events that shook buildings and moved furniture in places like Fort St. John.

Typically, only earthquakes above a magnitude above 3.0 can be felt on the ground, and tremors just larger than 4.0 can cause minor damage. A great earthquake, capable of extensive damage, typically measures a magnitude of 8.0.

A recent presentation by Dan Walker, senior petroleum geologist for the BC Oil and Gas Commission, identified public safety, property damage, well bore integrity (the shaking can cause wells to leak methane) and aquifer contamination as genuine hazards from industry quakes.

*Story updated Aug. 24 at 6 p.m.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll