Alberta Energy Regulator cites company for causing seismic events in Peace River area
The Alberta Energy Regulator has cited an energy company for causing a series of earthquakes, including the largest recorded tremblor in the province's history.
The environmental protection order issued against Obsidian Energy Ltd. Thursday came the same day a scientific paper was published showing those earthquakes were caused by industry activity -- not natural causes, as the regulator initially suggested.
In November, parts of Alberta near the northwestern town of Peace River were rocked by a series of quakes culminating in one that reached a 5.6 magnitude.
Residents reported being knocked to their knees. The earth was pushed upward by more than three centimetres - enough to register on satellites.
“This event was caused by wastewater disposal,” said Ryan Schultz, a Canadian seismologist who helped conduct the research while at Stanford University in California. His paper on the event, written with colleagues at the University of Alberta and Natural Resources Canada, was published Thursday morning in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
In a release Thursday evening on Twitter, the energy regulator said the protection order was issued after its own investigation.
“An investigation conducted by the Alberta Geological Society, a branch of the AER, has concluded that Obsidian's disposal operation induced the seismic events,” it said.
Oilpatch techniques, such as deep disposal wells that inject wastewater kilometres underground, can induce earthquakes. One such well located near the earthquake site, used to dispose of water used in oilsands operations, has injected more thanone millioncubic metres of wastewater down about two kilometres.
After the record-breaking quake occurred, the Alberta Geological Society attributed it to natural causes. The centre of the quake, then estimated to be six kilometres underground, was thought too deep and too far away from oilpatch activity in time and space to have been generated by industry.
Not so, said Schultz.
A closer and more thorough look at the data brought the centre of the quake up to about four kilometres beneath the surface. At some point, the regulator's catalogue of Alberta quakes was changed to reflect that figure.
Similarly, Schultz said a look at previous research on so-called “induced seismicity” revealed long lag times between deep-well water injection and earthquakes.
A previous disposal site in Alberta started quaking three years after pumping began, Schultz said. A Dutch disposal well didn't start causing earthquakes for decades.
As well, history shows deep water disposal can cause earthquakes up to 20 kilometres away. Alberta's November earthquakes were nowhere near that distant.
“The clusters of earthquakes were right on top of a deep disposal well,” Schultz said.
His paper suggests that the injected water forced itself between the two sides of a fault deep in the earth. That water was enough to reduce the friction holding the two sides together and eventually resulted in a slippage that shook the surface.
Statistical analysis of the correlation between the quakes and the underground pumping was conclusive, Schultz said.
“We had a confidence somewhere between 89 and 97 per cent just in the timing,” he said. “There is enough information to start making these kinds of links.”
Schultz said the findings could have big implications for Canada's and Alberta's climate change plans.
Both jurisdictions favour reducing the climate impact of the province's energy industry by pumping vast amounts of waste carbon dioxide deep underground, much as wastewater is injected. So-called carbon capture and storage could have the same seismic effects as deep wastewater disposal, Schultz said.
“If carbon capture is going to be done at a scale that is going to combat climate change, then significant amounts of volume need to be put in the ground,” he said. “You might expect then also getting these types of earthquakes the more volume that you store.”
That doesn't necessarily mean carbon capture and storage is a bad idea, he said, but it means a lot more seismic monitoring needs to take place around the sites to keep track of what's happening deep in the earth.
“This could be an issue,” Schultz said. “Monitoring will tell.
“You need to be able to see what is going on.”
Obsidian now must submit plans and take actions to reduce the frequency and magnitude of the events, says the protection order, which covers the November quake as well as subsequent events on March 16.
The company, an oil and gas producer that pumps about 33,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, must also establish seismic monitoring in the surrounding area and install equipment within a 10-kilometre radius of the disposal operation to measure vibration.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Freeland's budget bill passes House after Poilievre pledges to block it
The federal budget implementation bill passed the House of Commons on Thursday, after days of Conservative attempts to block it.
'Tremendous amount we could be doing': Expert shares tips for preventing, adapting to wildfires
As wildfires rage across Canada in what’s being called an unprecedented season, one expert says there’s more that individuals and communities can do to adapt and prevent forest fires from causing widespread devastation.
Supreme Court of Canada won't hear unvaccinated woman's case for organ donation
The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of an Alberta woman who was unwilling to be vaccinated in order to get a life-saving organ transplant.
Are more interest rate hikes on the way? Here's what experts say
In the wake of the Bank of Canada’s unexpected rate hike, economists are pointing to further tightening in the near term.
10-year-old girl survives more than 24 hours alone in the rugged Cascade mountains after getting lost while out with her family
Rescuers in Washington state are praising the resourcefulness of a 10-year-old girl who survived on her own for more than 24 hours in the rugged terrain of the Cascade mountains after getting lost while out with her family.
Wildfire battles continue as heat, air quality alerts affect most of Canada
Air pollution from wildfires remained well above healthy levels across much of southern and northern Ontario and several communities in British Columbia and Alberta on Thursday.
4 very young children critically wounded in knife attack in French Alpine town
As bystanders screamed for help, a man with a knife stabbed four young children at a lakeside park in the French Alps on Thursday, assaulting at least one in a stroller repeatedly. The children between 22 months and 3 years old suffered life-threatening injuries, and two adults also were wounded, authorities said.
Liberals unveil plan to make hybrid House of Commons sittings permanent
Government House Leader Mark Holland has unveiled the federal Liberals' plans to make hybrid sittings a permanent feature in the House of Commons.
Premier remains mum on funding to search Manitoba landfill for remains of 2 women
The decision to search a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women and who will fund it remains up in the air a month after a feasibility study was completed.
Worker buried in trench collapse during sewer repairs in Charleswood
Occupational Health and Safety is investigating a trench collapse that occurred at a utility repair site in the community of Charleswood on Thursday.
High River auto body shop owners featured in Discovery Channel reality series
The series is called Bush Wreck Rescue and it's described by the producers as "Western Canadian motorheads obsessed with turning abandoned trucks into custom gems, hunt for old rust buckets, drag them out of the bush and go to great lengths to transform them into vintage classics."
Southern Alberta town cancels alert after cougar sighting
The Town of Magrath in southern Alberta cancelled an alert for a dangerous animal after a cougar was spotted on the Magrath nature trail early Thursday morning.
'Men like to strike women': Judge slams culture of domestic violence in Sask. during murder sentencing
A man who killed his ex-wife’s cousin will spend life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years, a judge decided on Thursday at Saskatoon’s Court of King’s Bench.
Veteran Saskatoon city councillor Glen Penner dead at 82
Long-time city councillor and former Saskatchewan Liberal MLA Glen Penner died on Monday, according to a Saskatoon obituary.
Saskatoon property taxes could see 13 per cent hike as city confronts $75M revenue gap
Significant property tax hikes may be needed to cover a funding shortfall, according to City of Saskatoon administration.
Regina mayor says homeless camp was reaching 'critical point' before teardown
Regina's mayor says the city's fire department had growing concerns about the health, safety and well-being of those living in a homeless camp that was dismantled on Wednesday morning.
Hot Regina schools a symptom of crowded classrooms and chronic underfunding, union says
The uncomfortably hot temperatures some kids are experiencing in classrooms are another sign the province needs to rethink its approach to funding schools, the head of Saskatchewan's teachers' union says.
See Regina's underpasses flood again and again in archival video
A common occurrence not only this year but in years past has been flooded underpasses in Regina following heavy rainfall events. Using the video player in the article, you can see vehicles — and sometimes people — stranded by the sudden floods that have plagued the city over the years.
Higgs government faces caucus revolt over changes to LGBTQ school policy in N.B.
New Brunswick students under the age of 16 who identify as trans and non-binary won't be able to officially change their names or pronouns in school without parental consent.
Halifax says more residents can return home Friday after wildfires
The Halifax Regional Municipality says it will announce Thursday when more residents can return to their homes in communities impacted by the Tantallon wildfires.
N.B. shellfish company shuttered over improper storage of shell waste: environment minister
A company at the centre of a community fight over what residents in the town of Beaurivage, N.B. say is a powerful stench has been ordered to cease operations.
Video captures bus plowing into stopped traffic in deadly Mississauga, Ont. crash
Video has surfaced showing a Mississauga, Ont. transit bus plowing into stopped traffic in a crash that left one person dead and at least eight injured on Thursday morning.
Toronto constable demoted for role in cheating promotions exam
An officer who admitted to playing a part in a scheme to cheat the Toronto Police Service promotions procedure has been temporarily demoted instead.
European family turfed from long-term Airbnb in Toronto to test renters’ rights
A European family who says they were evicted from their long-term Airbnb rental in Toronto last week has sparked a precedent-setting fight.
Quebec wildfires: fierce fight in Normetal as flames within 500 metres of municipality
Quebec's public security minister preached patience on Thursday as fires continued to rage in the province's north, saying it remained unclear when more than 12,000 people displaced by the encroaching flames would be able to return home.
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre opens up about life after stroke, depression
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, who spent his life in politics, collapsed and suffered a stroke on April 11, and even as he's slowly recovering, the fighter's instinct, that he's known for, is very much alive.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Air quality improves over Ottawa, but smoky skies could return on Friday
People in the Ottawa-Gatineau area are breathing fresher air, as smoke and haze from wildfires in northern Ontario and Quebec moves out of the area.
Rising interest rates making 30-year amortization more popular for homebuyers
As interest rates continue to rise, the cost of buying a house in Ottawa and across Canada is becoming more expensive. Many homeowners are now forced to extend their mortgage payments.
Bear spotted in Kanata neighbourhood 'safely placed in a cage', police say
Police received a call about a bear sighting in the 500 block of Woodchase Street, near Breckenridge Crescent, at approximately 9 a.m.
Cyclist taken to hospital after crash in Kitchener
A cyclist has been taken to an out-of-region hospital with what police call “potentially serious injuries” after a crash involving a vehicle in Kitchener.
Fire at Waterloo house displaces 7 people
Firefighters were called to the house on Laurel Street around noon Thursday.
No working smoke alarms in fatal Waterloo house fire
Fire officials have confirmed there were no working smoke alarms at a fatal house fire in Waterloo earlier this week.
Wildfire evacuation order west of Sudbury, Ont., expands, highway closed
A wildfire west of Sudbury, Ont., has quadrupled in size prompting evacuation orders to be expanded and one highway to close.
Another northern Ont. resident charged for illegal backyard fire, 5th in one week
A fifth person in northern Ontario has been charged in less than a week for having a campfire during the fire ban.
Here's what you need to do before you leave your house in a forest fire-prompted evacuation
Thousands of Canadians have had to leave their homes in several provinces over the last few weeks due to forest fires. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your property, both prior to an evacuation and during.
Softball-sized hail, strong wind gusts reported in Manitoba storm
A storm that tore through a community northwest of Brandon Wednesday brought with it heavy winds and, in some areas, hail the size of softballs.
Man charged in connection to crash that sent two officers to hospital
A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a crash that left two Winnipeg police officers with serious injuries.
Manitoba trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
WATCH LIVE | B.C. officials to provide update on wildfire situation, air quality
Smoke has eased in much of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, but air quality advisories remain in place.
Brazilian curling champion pleads guilty to B.C. sex crimes involving underage victims
A youth curling coach who was a three-time Brazilian champion in the sport has pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual interference, according to authorities in B.C.
Port Moody police seek missing couple last seen 2 weeks ago
Police in Port Moody are asking the public for help locating a young couple that hasn't been seen in two weeks.
WATCH LIVE | Vancouver Island wildfire rages on with no timeline to reopen crucial highway
British Columbia wildfire officials say firefighters are making some progress battling an out-of-control wildfire that has closed Highway 4, the only highway connecting western Vancouver Island with the rest of the province.
New Vancouver-Nanaimo ferry service announces pricing, launch timing
The new passenger-only ferry service between Vancouver and Nanaimo, Hullo, has announced that it will begin operations this summer.
Saanich police seek people connected to 'serious threats' investigation
Saanich Police are asking for the public's help in solving a serious threats investigation.