Oil-Sand Wastewater Triggered Peace River Earthquake

A study by Stanford University is shedding new light on the cause of the November earthquake in our province.

Researchers at the university say that the quake, one of the most powerful ever recorded in Alberta, was likely caused by oil and gas activity.

In a paper published on March 23 in Geophysical Research Letters, Stanford scientists are pointing to the deep underground disposal of wastewater from oil extraction as the cause of the tremors. Their findings contradict the November 30 statement from the Alberta Energy Regulator saying that the earthquakes were due to natural tectonic activity.

A news release posted by Stanford University says their research is the first to link such a large earthquake to human activities far away from a mountain range, and that results have implications for other energy-related operations, such as carbon capture and storage.

“Earthquakes of similar magnitude to the Peace River event could be damaging, even deadly, if they happened in more populated areas,” said study lead author Ryan Schultz

“The Peace River earthquake caught our interest because it occurred in an unusual place,” said co-author William Ellsworth, a research professor of geophysics and co-director of the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity.

“Multiple lines of compelling evidence point to this quake as being man-made.”

To analyze the earthquake, researchers compared publicly available information about wastewater disposal activities in Peace River to ground deformation measured by satellite and regional seismic monitors.

Shultz advises the 2022 Peace River quake is a cautionary tale for a region where government and industry aim to expand hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage in the coming years while continuing oil-sands wastewater disposal.

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