Abstract

We systematically re-analyzed historical seismograms to verify the existence of background seismicity in the Horn River Basin of northeast British Columbia before the start of regional shale gas development. We also carefully relocated local earthquakes that occurred between December 2006 and December 2011 to delineate their spatiotemporal relationship with hydraulic fracturing (HF) operations in the region. Scattered seismic events were detected in the Horn River Basin throughout the study periods. The located seismicity within 100 km of the Fort Nelson seismic station had a clearly increasing trend, specifically in the Etsho area where most local HF operations were performed. The number of events was increased from 24 in 2002–2003 (prior to HF operations) to 131 in 2011 (peak period of HF operations). In addition, maximum magnitude of the events was shifted from ML 2.9 to ML 3.6 as the scale of HF operation expanded from 2006–2007 to 2011. Based on our relocated earthquake catalog, the overall b value is estimated at 1.21, which is higher than the average of tectonic/natural earthquakes of ∼1.0. Our observations highly support the likelihood of a physical relationship between HF operation and induced seismicity in the Horn River Basin. Unfortunately, due to the sparse station density in the region, depth resolution is poor for the vast majority of events in our study area. As new seismograph stations are established in northeast British Columbia, both epicentral mislocation and depth uncertainty for future events are expected to improve significantly.

You do not currently have access to this article.