May 27, 2019 10:25 pm
Updated: May 28, 2019 7:21 am

Alberta Energy Regulator restricts fracking near Brazeau dam following earthquake

TransAlta's largest hydro plant Brazeau dam is shown in this undated handout image.


The Alberta Energy Regulator is moving to restrict oilfield fracking activity near the Brazeau Reservoir in east central Alberta as a precaution following a 4.3 magnitude earthquake south of the area in March.

The AER says hydraulic fracturing operations targeting the Duvernay underground formation or deeper are prohibited within five kilometres of the Brazeau dam infrastructure.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking — where water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure to break up tight rock and free trapped oil and gas — is also banned for shallower operations within three kilometres.

READ MORE: Fracking and the major role it plays in causing earthquakes in Alberta

Watch below: (From March 2019) 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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Oilfield firms that engage in hydraulic fracturing within five kilometres of the dam must report any seismic events greater than 1.0 magnitude and operations must cease if any event of 2.5 magnitude or greater is detected, the AER says.

The epicentre of the earthquake in March was estimated to be about 32 kilometres northwest of Rocky Mountain House — about 75 kilometres south of the dam — but it was not immediately linked to fracking activity. It was strong enough to be felt by local residents but no damage was initially reported.

READ MORE: 4.3 magnitude earthquake shakes central Alberta near Rocky Mountain House

A 4.6 magnitude earthquake a week earlier was felt in Red Deer and Sylvan Lake in central Alberta and prompted the AER to order producer Vesta Energy Ltd. to suspend fracking at its well site, report all previous seismic activity and file a plan to eliminate or reduce future seismic activity from fracking.

“Earthquakes induced by hydraulic fracturing have not been observed or reported near the Brazeau dam,” the AER says on the website.

“While there is no immediate risk to public safety or the environment, we have developed these requirements as a precaution to limit the potential for an induced earthquake to happen near the Brazeau dam.”

READ MORE: AER orders Vesta Energy to stop fracking ops immediately after Sylvan Lake earthquake

Watch below: (From March 6, 2019): Monday’s quake near Sylvan Lake was likely triggered by fracking, according to officials. As Christa Dao reports, while there were no injuries or damage, one geoscientist said there is cause for concern.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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