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17th September 2015
Fracking risks to be focus of University of Alberta panel of experts

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 1:18:22 MDT PM

Want to learn more about how fracking is linked to Alberta earthquakes?

The University of Alberta is hosting a panel of experts on Thursday to discuss potential risks of fracking. The panel was pulled together after recent earthquakes in Fox Creek, 250 km northwest of Edmonton, were linked to fracking or hydrofracturing, a controversial method used to extract oil and gas from shale rock.

The first well-documented case of fracking-induced earthquakes in Alberta was several years ago near Fox Creek at Crooked Lake.

But the more recent - and larger magnitude -earthquakes near the town of Fox Creek have further increased public awareness and concern regarding the new fracking-related seismic activity.

“The earthquakes near Fox Creek, which showed a maximum magnitude of approximately 4.4, are among the largest earthquakes in the world that have been linked to hydraulic fracturing,” explains geophysicist Jeff Gu, a University of Alberta physics professor in earthquake seismology.

“It is important to engage the public, since people have the right to know about the potential hazards and environmental impact of industrial practices in their backyard,” he explains.

“It is the responsibility of the scientific community to provide timely and accurate updates of new scientific findings, as well as to dispel certain myths or misconceptions of induced earthquakes.”

Among the many concerns and potential risks surrounding fracking-induced earthquakes, the biggest may be contamination in various forms due to leaked chemicals from the fracking itself, transport, and wastewater disposal.

Induced earthquakes could also compromise the integrity of wells, putting workers at risk.

“Earthquakes in association with hydraulic fracturing or wastewater disposal is both an environmental and an economic issue critical to our province,” says Gu.

“As far as economics, there is no question that shale gas exploration and fracking are effectively revolutionizing the oil and gas industry in North America. How do we balance the need for economic development and job security, especially in a province like ours, while ensuring safe and clean energy sources? This remains to be worked out properly.”

The 7:30 p.m. Thursday event, “Fracking and Earthquakes: a cause for concern?” is open to the public. It will be held in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences 1-430.

The event will feature a presentation from Cliff Frolich, PhD, Institute for Geophysical Research Distinguished Lecturer and Associate Director of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), followed a panel of experts from government, industry, and academia to discuss the ongoing development and expansion of hydrofracturing and what hazards it might pose to surrounding communities. Guests will have an opportunity to speak individually with the panelists following the formal presentation.