March 4, 2019 10:56 pm
Updated: March 5, 2019 9:12 pm

Fracking and the major role it plays in causing earthquakes in Alberta

WATCH: When we think of the wide open prairies, we don't usually think of earthquakes — but they are more common than you may believe. Tiffany Lizée explains.

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Earthquakes in the prairies are more common than you think.

READ MORE: 4.6 magnitude earthquake hits central Alberta near Red Deer

Of the roughly 2,800 earthquakes recorded in Alberta over the past three decades, almost half of those have occurred on prairie land.

Shifting tectonic plates have caused earthquakes on the prairies, however, scientists are finding human activity may also be a major factor.

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David Eaton is a geophysicist and has studied the links between earthquakes and human activity such as fracking.

READ MORE: Study defines link between fracking, earthquakes in northern Alberta

Eaton’s research suggests there is increasing evidence that earthquakes can be induced by injecting fluids from oil and gas operations deep into the earth.

“What we’ve seen, starting at about 2013, in Western Canada is that we have more frequent earthquakes of [significant] magnitude and they’re related to oil and gas activities,” said Eaton.

Hydraulic fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground under extreme pressure, which cracks the rocks and minerals and then releases the oil and gas trapped inside.

WATCH (March 30, 2016): Research claims a definitive link between fracking and earthquakes. Experts say it’s more proof the controversial process is the cause of a majority of the seismic activity in Western Canada. But as Reid Fiest reports, the findings also say only a very small number of fracking sites actually cause a major tremor.

Human-caused earthquakes occur much closer to the surface and are felt more intensely, compared to a natural quake of the same magnitude.

Earthquakes are deemed natural by Natural Resources Canada until the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) proves that the earthquake was induced.

The last significant human-caused earthquake on Alberta prairie land rattled Fox Creek in 2016 and was confirmed to be caused by fracking.

Earthquake map of Canada.

Courtesy: Natural Resources Canada

If you feel an earthquake, the Canadian government asks you to fill out this form.

READ MORE: How fracking is linked to Fox Creek earthquakes

The specific details provided about the extent of shaking and damage helps them determine how your area may respond to future earthquakes.

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