The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has issued
new rules which create a "traffic light" process in
response to earthquakes believed to have been caused by hydraulic
fracturing. Subsurface Order No. 2 comes after several seismic
events that may be related to hydraulic fracturing were recorded in
the Duvernay play near Fox Creek in northwestern Alberta. A 3.8
magnitude earthquake measured on the Richter scale happened on
January 214, 2015 and a 4.4 magnitude earthquake was recorded on
January 22, 2014. Both were felt by residents of Fox Creek but
there were no injuries or damage.
Some researchers believe that these and other recent shallow
earthquakes in the area are consistent with being induced by
hydraulic fracturing operations although it is impossible to
definitely state that they were not naturally occurring
earthquakes. The Fox Creek area historically has not had a lot of
seismicity until hydraulic fracturing operations started in 2013.
Since then, researches have recorded hundreds of very minor
earthquakes and aftershocks at depths much shallower than where
natural earthquakes typically occur. The Alberta Geological Survey,
a part of the AER, regularly monitors seismic activity throughout
Alberta through the 53-station Regional Alberta Observatory for
Earthquake Studies Network (RAVEN).
Subsurface Order No. 2 requires that effective immediately that
every well licensee of a well with a surface or bottom hole located
in the Duvernay zone at which any completion operations are
contemplated that include hydraulic fracturing must:
before beginning any completion operations that include
hydraulic fracturing, assess the potential for induced seismicity
and establish and implement a plan to monitor for, mitigate and
respond to any induced seismicity that may occur or result from its
the monitoring must be capable of detecting a 2.0 local
magnitude seismic event within 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) of the
the licensee must immediately report to the AER all seismic
events recorded of 2.0 or greater within 5 kilometres of the well
and implement their induced seismicity plan in a manner that
eliminates or reduces further seismic events;
if a 4.0 or greater seismic event is recorded within 5 km of
the well, the licensee must immediately stop hydraulic fracturing
operations at the well and return the well to a safe state;
hydraulic fracturing of a well which have been suspended may
only be recommenced with the AER's written consent.
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