Bureau of Economic Geology

Seismicity Induced by the Development of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources

October 23, 2020 9:00 AM
David Eaton

Dr. David Eaton
Professor, Department of Geoscience
University of Calgary

Unconventional oil and gas development is sometimes accompanied by unintended earthquakes, known as induced seismicity. Among the largest such induced events have been the 2016 5.8 MW Pawnee earthquake in Oklahoma and the 2018 5.2 MW earthquake in the Sichuan Basin, China. These moderate earthquakes were triggered by distinct industrial processes -  saltwater disposal (Pawnee) and hydraulic fracturing (Sichuan Basin). Notably, as recently as 2015 it was common to find assertions in the scientific literature that the risk of triggering a damaging earthquake by hydraulic fracturing could be treated as negligible. That viewpoint has now changed. This presentation will give an overview of the scientific framework for understanding this type of induced seismicity, with a particular focus on hydraulic-fracturing induced earthquakes in the western Canada Sedimentary Basin. Topics will include proposed triggering mechanisms, geologically susceptible conditions, identification of operational controls, mitigation efforts, and science-informed regulatory management.