Those Fracking Quakes Keep Getting Bigger

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Prior to 2013, there was one measurable quake a year at Fox Creek, Alberta. Then Chevron, Shell, Exxon and other major players started fracking in the surrounding hills. There has been 160 “small” quakes since then. After the first 4.4 quake this year, the Alberta Energy Regulator laid out a “traffic light system” whereby they are to be informed of any 2.0 quakes and when quakes are 4.0 or stronger companies are to cease operations. Fox Creek experienced another 4.4, which was felt 130 miles to the east in Edmonton, on June 13. Those Fracking quakes keep getting bigger.

The Largest “Fracking” Quake

Alberta Energy Regulator
Alberta Energy Regulator

Gail Atkinson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Induced Seismicity Hazards at Ontario’s Western University, observed, “the magnitudes have been increasing every year.”

The largest quake believed to be caused by “injection into deep disposal wells” occurred in Central Oklahoma, during 2011, and measured 5.6. More than a dozen homes were damaged, including the one you see at the top of this page.

There is still some debate about the cause of the Oklahoma quake, especially from industry, and the largest quakes definitely attributed to fracking or a related cause were in Fox Creek.

Frequency of Fracking Quakes Increasing

The frequency of quakes has also been increasing. According to the US U.S. Geological, “Studies show one to three magnitude 3.0 earthquakes or larger occurred yearly from 1975 to 2008, while the average grew to around 40 earthquakes per year from 2009 to mid-2013.”

There have been hundreds of small quakes, measuring up to 3.8, recorded in British Columbia.

“The more small earthquakes we have it just simply increases the odds we’re going to have a more damaging event,” said William Ellsworth of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Top Photo Credit: House damage in Central Oklahoma Photo Credit: Brian Sherrod, USGS.

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