Monitoring and responding to seismic events in Northeastern B.C. 

Regional seismographic network in Northeast B.C. monitors seismic events related to hydraulic fracturing and fluid disposal 

Initially six seismographic stations were installed in Northeast B.C. to enhance the Canadian National Seismographic Network . A further four stations were soon added to further enhance the network’s coverage, and the addition of the Yukon Government to the consortium in the last year has added an additional five stations near the Yukon/B.C. border.

The BC Seismic Research Consortium was established in 2012 by Geoscience BC, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC). It followed a recommendation from the BCOGC in response to concerns regarding induced seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing in the Horn River Basin. In the report, Investigation of Observed Seismicity in the Horn River Basin, the BCOGC recommended augmenting the Canadian National Seismographic Network (CNSN) to improve knowledge of the effects of induced seismicity by monitoring seismic events created by oil and gas operations that are related to hydraulic fracturing and fluid disposal. This, in turn, would increase oversight of induced low-magnitude seismic events.

The mandate of the BC Seismic Research Consortium is to monitor seismic events from oil and gas activities in the region, providing publicly available information that also enables the energy sector and the regulator to continue the safe and responsible development of B.C.’s natural gas resources. Initially funded by Geoscience BC and industry (CAPP, via the BC Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society), project activities began with Geoscience BC and industry sharing the cost and maintenance of the seismic stations, with additional financial and technical support coming from the BCOGC and Natural Resources Canada, respectively. The Yukon Government was added as a consortium funding partner in 2016. The consortium is managed by a joint steering and technical committee comprised of representatives from each of the consortium partners.

Initially six seismographic stations were installed in Northeast B.C. to enhance the CNSN. A further four stations were soon added to further enhance the network’s coverage, and the addition of the Yukon Government to the consortium in the last year has added an additional five stations near the Yukon/B.C. border. All events registered by the network are published on the NRCan website (http://www.earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/index-eng.php), and annual project updates can be found on Geoscience BC’s website (www.geosciencebc.com).

As the network has expanded across the Liard Basin, Horn River Basin, and Montney play, the determination of earthquake epicentres and magnitude resolution in Northeast B.C. has greatly improved. A recent internal study by the consortium-sponsored seismologist suggests the minimum detectable earthquake magnitude in the region is 1.4 to 2.4, an improvement of 0.2 in detectable magnitudes from just over a year ago.

Data regarding seismic events in Northeast B.C. are being used by the BCOGC for on-going review and development of protocols for responsible hydraulic fracturing and fluid disposal operations. This information has also been used by the oil and gas sector to improve completion practices and is also used by local communities and First Nations. A fundamental goal of BCOGC is to understand and quantify the emerging seismic hazards from oil & gas activities.

The consortium has just wrapped up its fifth year of existence, but the seismic network isn’t going away. Viewed by both local communities, government and the resource sectors as necessary to the development of natural gas in B.C., the consortium is working on ensuring the existing stations remain funded and operational today and far into the future. 

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