May 22, 2024

Has Industrial Activity Triggered Earthquakes in Canada?

Natural disasters

February 21, 2024

By Bettina Rector

Reading Time: Approximately 4 minutes

An unusual series of earthquakes in Canada may have been triggered by underground industrial activity. A study by German researchers has now confirmed this suspicion.

Digging and extraction activities and discharge of waste water underground can trigger earthquakes. This has now been discovered by German researchers.
Photo: Boswell

The discharge of industrial wastewater into the subsoil may have caused a series of earthquakes in the northern Canadian province of Alberta. There, especially in the area around the city of Peace River, there was a strong underground noise in 2022 and 2023.

A study by researchers led by Hannes Vasyura-Bathke and Torsten Dahm of the German Research Center (GFZ) in Potsdam and experts from Canada suggests that the observed seismic activity could be caused by the discharge of industrial wastewater. The research team relied on detailed analysis of earthquakes using seismographs and satellite-based radar data (InSAR). The study is published in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Are the series of earthquakes near Peace River man-made?

It all started in November 2022. Before the main quake reached 5.2 megawatts on November 30, the seismically quiet area around the Peace River was rocked by “smaller” earthquakes greater than 4.0. A series of aftershocks occurred on March 16, 2023, including two aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 and 4.6 megawatts. It is worth noting that extensive industrial activities have taken place in the area – such as massive sewage disposal and steam injection at different rock depths. , to take heavy oil. Activities such as fracking are probably excluded.

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Reading tip: Lessons from the severe earthquake in Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023

First, it should be noted that earthquakes can certainly be triggered by human activity. They usually occur in areas of weakness in the rock, and their course is similar to that of natural earthquakes. But they usually start at a shallower depth. Although the area is seismically quiet, an earthquake has occurred about 500 km from Peace River.