Shaking Things Up
Wouldn't that be nice, if we had a warning when an earthquake was going to happen? It's not for lack of trying. Researchers have been attempting for decades to predict earthquakes, but alas that nut remains uncracked, at least for now. Dr. Mirko van der Baan at the University of Alberta reminded CBC listeners in Alberta of this fact just this past week after an earthquake with magnitude greater than 4 was induced (apparently) by (it is most likely) hydraulic fracturing in the East Shale Basin Duvernay (ESBD).
Oil and gas companies don't make faults. When we were talking to people about the ESBD, we pointed out that there are some natural seismic events in the area, which implies pre-existing faults that have the potential to be perturbed by industry activity. The faults need to be identified and understood using geology + geomechanics to assess the risk (and wouldn't you know, that's our specialty...). The argument that there won't be induced seismicity in an area because there hasn't been any yet is silly and possibly dangerous.
A great place for Albertans (or anyone else) to start learning about induced seismicity is here, the Alberta Energy Regular and Alberta Geological Survey's web page. It's available to everyone. Another great resource is the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity.
There's SO much out there on this topic that there's no need for me to write a long article. If you want to chat more about it, please get in touch.