The effects of fracking on the underground fault lines of northern B.C. will be put under the microscope by Geoscience BC.
The provincial agency dedicated to earth sciences announced Thursday that, in light of studies showing a correlation between fracking and small earthquakes in northeastern B.C., the work was important to do.
Fracking is the nickname for hydraulic fracturing - the process used primarily by the natural gas industry to inject high-pressure concoctions of water, chemicals and sand deep into the earth to push the natural gas out of hard-to-reach places.
The five-year research project will cost about $1 million, shared equally between Geoscience BC and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Technical support has been promised by the BC Oil and Gas Commission and Natural Resources Canada.
"The program partners will install a state-of-the-art network to collect seismic data in northeast British Columbia," said Geoscience BC president Lyn Anglin. "The seismic array network will include up to six new stations, which will complement two existing Canadian National Seismograph Network stations. It is anticipated that the installation work will be completed by late 2012. Once the array has been calibrated, real-time seismic data will be provided to researchers for analysis and interpretation."
An array of stakeholder groups, including oil and gas companies, environmental groups, First Nations, local governments and the landowners in the fracking zones have raised questions for years about the consequences of fracking.
"Along with the routine micro-seismicity created by hydraulic fracturing, some low magnitude seismic events were triggered in northeast British Columbia by fluid injection during fracturing," Anglin said. The new study will bring clarity to that recent discovery.
David Pryce, vice-president of operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said he was confident in the fracking process, and saw upsides in this research project.
"Canada's natural gas industry supports increased seismic monitoring in the region that can assure the public and landowners that hydraulic fracturing can and will continue safely," he said. "Upgrading the grid is an important step to better understand seismic activity in northeastern B.C. and, by making this data publicly available, it will encourage transparent performance reporting."