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Seismicity refers to the geographic and historical distribution of earthquakes. Induced seismicity is a seismic event resulting from human activity, and can be caused by industries such as mining, dam impoundment and natural gas development.

What is the link to Hydraulic Fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting fluid (usually water) at high pressures to create fractures or open existing fractures in hydrocarbon-bearing rocks deep underground. A hard granular substance called proppant (usually sand), mixed with the fluid holds the cracks open once the pressure is lowered. Hydraulic fracturing allows the natural gas to flow from the formation to the wellbore. As hydraulic fracturing fluid is injected, microseismic events are created as the rock is fractured. In some cases, where there is a susceptible pre-existing fault, slippage on the fault plane can occur.

How is Seismicity monitored?

Seismic activity in British Columbia is primarily recorded by the Canadian National Seismograph Network (CNSN). The CNSN data is analyzed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and further enhanced with specialized seismic arrays. The BC Energy Regulator routinely reviews all available data to monitor for potential occurrences of induced seismicity.

How does the BCER regulate activities that may induce seismic events?

The BCER has the legislative authority to make decisions on proposed oil and gas activities. Companies looking to explore, develop, produce, and market oil and gas resources in B.C. must apply to the BCER. We review, assess and make decisions on these applications. This consolidated single-window authority provides not only a one-stop place for all oil and gas and associated activity requirements, but a consistent application, decision, regulatory and compliance authority. Stakeholders work with one agency; therefore, we serve the public interest by having an all-encompassing review process for oil and gas activities.

What is the BCER doing to mitigate induced seismicity?

  • Eighteen new public seismograph stations installed in northeast B.C. since 2013, add into the existing CNSN data, thus densifying the monitoring of seismicity in the region. Localized seismograph arrays have been installed by industry and academia as well.
  • Kiskatinaw Seismic Monitoring and Mitigation Area (KSMMA) is a special project order that came into effect May 14, 2018. It requires seismic hazard pre-assessments within the order area as well as community engagement.
  • Drilling and Production Regulation province-wide require the immediate suspension of injection activities if a magnitude 4.0 or greater event is recorded and linked to the activity, as well as the mandatory reporting of felt events.
  • Additional permit conditions require the presence of ground motion monitoring during hydraulic fracturing activities for areas where previous seismic activity occurred, as well as reporting of events.
  • Risk assessments are required for disposal wells, which operate under strict pressure and reporting conditions.
  • Strategic Partnership with McGill University on a three-year seismology project to research induced seismicity in the Doe-Dawson area of northeast B.C. along with additional research initiatives.
  • The BCER is the chair of the B.C. Induced Seismicity Research Consortium that directs analysis and research of induced seismicity, which is funded through a partnership with Geoscience BC and BC OGRIS. Resource: PowerPoint on Montney Data Resources - For Researchers and Others.