NEWS
03/31/2016 15:43 EDT | Updated 04/01/2017 01:12 EDT

Fracking earthquakes are rare, isolated events, says B.C. Oil and Gas Commission

Earthquakes from fracking are rare and usually not felt, says the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, in response to a report released last week that show a definite link between hydraulic fracturing and large earthquakes.

The report says 90 per cent of all large earthquakes with a magnitude larger than 3.0  in northeastern B.C are linked to fracking. It is simply a matter of time before a fracking-triggered earthquake causes damage, said one of the report's lead authors.

However, the report also said less than one percent of fracking wells directly trigger earthquakes. That's the piece of information the oil and gas industry is highlighting.

"These are isolated events, they're rare events. It's very rare that they are ever felt at surface," said Ken Paulson, chief operating officer for the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.

Mitigating risks

Any wells that cause a 4.0 magnitude or larger earthquake must shut down and implement measures that mitigate the risk for another earthquake, said Paulson.

"You can reduce the pressures or you can reduce the pump rates," he said.

Alternatively, well operators can choose to avoid the fault altogether.

"If it looks like you've intersected a fairly large fault, then what you can do is just skip that stage and move on to other stages. So avoiding the fault and avoiding any further movement on the fault."

The oil and gas commission will continue to work with researchers to monitor seismic activity in the area, said Paulson.

The commission has worked with researchers to install nine new seismic detection centres in northeastern B.C. in recent years, he said. There are now 11 detection centres in the region, allowing the industry to keep better track of earthquakes.

"We're very comfortable that hydraulic fracturing is conducted everyday safely here in British Columbia and can continue to be," said Paulson.

With files from CBC Radio's The Early Edition