Oil Company Indefinitely Halts Fracking After Small Earthquake

(REUTERS/Terry Wade)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation in Alberta, Canada, has been shut down by local regulators after a small magnitude 4.8 earthquake hit the area Tuesday.

“[T]he company has ceased operations … and they will not be allowed to resume operations until we have approved their plans,” Carrie Rosa, a spokeswoman for Alberta’s Energy Regulator, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Canada’s energy regulators automatically shut down fracking sites whenever an earthquake of magnitude 4.0 or higher occurs in the area of operations. There were no reports of injuries, deaths or damage to the site.

“It’s too soon to tell if it’s related to fracking, it was a light earthquake that would have been felt,”Camille Brillon, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, said in a public statement.

The nearest town to the site has a population of only 2,000 people and largely relies on oil and gas development.

Media outlets and environmental groups have repeatedly attempted to tie fracking to earthquakes, but this directly contradicts the best available science and government research.

“Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes,” states the website of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Fracking-earthquake myths are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.

Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale, and the difference between whole numbers on the scale is massive. A quake with a magnitude of 9.0 devastated Japan in 2011, while a 3.0 quake generally cannot be felt. An earthquake that measures 3.0 on the Richter scale releases 31 times the energy of a 2.0 quake and has a shaking amplitude 10 times smaller than that of a 3.0 quake.

The vast majority of geologists and seismologists believe that fracking doesn’t cause damaging or significant earthquakes.

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