B.C. resource-industry advocate says natural-gas fracking is supposed to cause the ground to shake

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      In late March, a published study found that "accelerated oilfield fluid injection" has "led to a sharp increase in the rate of earthquakes in some parts of North America".

      The paper stated that "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".

      After the paper received national media attention, the executive director of Vancouver-based Resource Works, Stewart Muir, distributed a commentary to try to put the public's mind at ease.

      In the article, the former Vancouver Sun business editor and historian insisted that there's a "mini-industry of false prophets" who "contradict every claim that industry and government make about the safety and desirability of LNG and natural gas".

      "Most recently, the prophets have seized on seismicity, or the problem of earthquakes, as a reason why British Columbia natural gas should be left in the ground," Muir wrote.

      He went on to state that hydraulic fracturing is supposed to shake up the ground "in highly controlled, precisely understood ways".

      "Yet there have long been rules in place to govern the potential for fracking operations to trigger seismic events around faults deep in the earth's crust where the gas lies," Muir maintained.

      A "heightened data inspection" must start when there's a 2.5 Magnitude tremor, according to Muir. And even when there is this level of turbulence, it isn't felt on the surface, he noted.

      "In the extremely rare event (0.3% of the time) that the tremors reach 4.0, work must stop," he wrote. "Following that, the operators study the issue and find out what's going on."

      Meanwhile, the study has prompted B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver to call for a moratorium on horizontal fracking until there's "scientific certainty about the risks". 

      The 13 researchers who wrote the paper cited concerns in the abstract over the degree of certainty between how fracking is conducted and the level of seismic activity.

      "Furthermore, it appears that the maximum-observed magnitude of events associated with hydraulic fracturing may exceed the predictions of an oft-cited relationship between the volume of injected fluid and the maximum expected magnitude" they wrote. "These findings may have far-reaching implications for assessment of induced-seismicity hazards."

      "Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin" was published in Seismological Research Letters, which is an arm of the Seismological Society of America.