The oil and gas industry wants to reassure the public that fracking is safe.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has followed through on their promise to develop new operating practices for assessment, monitoring, mitigation and response when it comes to hydraulic fracturing and anomalous induced seismicity in the oil patch.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) released a report on August 30, 2012 indicating that there was a link between fracturing and a series of minor earthquakes that occurred in a section of the Horn River Basin shale gas play of northeast British Columbia between April 2009 and December 2011.
CAPP responded at that time with a promise that they would be introducing relevant new practices to be adopted by their member companies this fall, which they did on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
"Certainly, one of the most important finds of the OGC report was that there was never any harm or damage to the environment, people – including workers – or property [from those earthquakes]," said Geoff Morrison, CAPP's operations manager in B.C.
"Hydraulic fracturing is still safe," he continued. "It remains safe. And we're committed to ensuring that in the future. And that's the purpose of this practice, is to bring that reassurance to the public that this industry is committed … to operating and working safely."
This new practice is the latest addition to a set of six hydraulic fracturing practices introduced by CAPP in January, 2012 and the first to focus specifically on the problem of induced seismicity. The initial practices mostly concern issues related to fracturing fluids such as water management and disclosure of chemical additives in those fluids.
This practice encourages natural gas producers to assess the potential for induced seismic activity in the areas where they are planning to conduct fracturing operations and react accordingly if the possibility of seismic activity does exist. That includes proper wellbore placement and design as well as the development of adequate mitigation and response measures in case seismic events should occur.
"This practice was constructed in cooperation with our members and through a task force," said Morrison.
"The CAPP practices and principles are expected to be used by all our members throughout Canada."
However, that doesn't suggest that the possibility of seismic activity caused by fracturing is national in scope or poses a considerable threat to the public or the environment.
Indeed, the OGC report revealed that only one of the 272 seismic events examined through the course of their study was felt at surface. Additionally, all of those tremors occurred within a small and isolated area in the Horn River Basin.
"The OGC study identified some new information about the potential for anomalous induced seismicity that previously was unknown and it certainly seems to be initially restricted to the geology of the Horn River Basin," said Morrison.
"But more study needs to be done," he added.
CAPP will be expecting their member companies to confirm their use of the practice by demonstrating that they have developed appropriate procedures for assessing seismic potential. CAPP will also be looking at wellbore placement and design, communication with onsite personnel and monitoring and mitigation procedures in cases where seismic potential has been identified through that preliminary assessment.
CAPP is asking that companies make all those procedures publicly available.
"CAPP doesn't spell out how they should do that," said Morrison.
"Some companies choose to make them available on their websites and other companies choose to have you inquire about them. But we do expect them to be publicly available in some format.
"We want to maintain that open relationship with the public."