Fracking And Earthquakes: A Cause For Concern? UofA Hosts Panel Of Experts To Discuss Potential Risks

Recent earthquakes in Fox Creek, Alberta have been linked to hydrofracturing (or "fracking"), a controversial method used to extract oil and gas from shale rock, with tremendous economic and environmental implications.

The first well-documented case of fracking-induced earthquakes in Alberta was just a couple of years ago in Crooked Lake, however 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.”

On Thursday, September 10, the University of Alberta is doing just that, through a special event open to the public, titled: “Fracking and Earthquakes: a cause for concern?”

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.

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.”

Event: Fracking and earthquakes: a cause for concern? Thursday, September 10, 2015, 7:30 p.m. CCIS 1-430 (Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences), University of Alberta campus. Free tickets are available online at:


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