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Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin

This study shows that the most recent cases of induced earthquakes in Western Canada are strongly correlated in space and time with ongoing hydraulic fracturing activities. These findings, the authors say, have far-reaching implications for assessment of induced-seismicity hazards.

Key findings:

  • The development of most unconventional oil and gas resources relies upon subsurface injection of very large volumes of fluids, which can induce earthquakes by activating slip on a nearby fault.
  • During the last 5 years, accelerated oilfield fluid injection has led to a sharp increase in the rate of earthquakes in some parts of North America.
  • In the central United States, most induced seismicity is linked to deep disposal of coproduced wastewater from oil and gas extraction.
  • In contrast, in western Canada most recent cases of induced seismicity are highly correlated in time and space with hydraulic fracturing, during which fluids are injected under high pressure during well completion to induce localized fracturing of rock.
  • Furthermore, it appears that the maximum-observed magnitude of events associated with hydraulic fracturing may exceed the predictions of an often-cited relationship between the volume of injected fluid and the maximum expected magnitude.

Bibliography:
Gail M. Atkinson, David W. Eaton, Hadi Ghofrani, Dan Walker, Burns Cheadle, Ryan Schultz, Robert Shcherbakov, Kristy Tiampo, Jeff Gu, Rebecca M. Harrington, Yajing Liu, Mirko van der Baan, and Honn Kao
Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin
Seismological Research Letters Volume 87, Number 3, May/June 2016,pp. 1-17

See also:
Steve Horn, Study: Fracking, Not Just Fracking Wastewater Injection, Causing Earthquakes in Western Canada. Resilience.org, Apr. 1, 2016

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