Comprehensive Investigation of Injection-Induced Earthquakes in Northeastern British Columbia

Lead Researcher(s):  H. Kao

Project ID:  2019-007

Key Research Organization(s):  University of Victoria

Project Location:  Northeast BC

Strategic Focus Area:  Energy-Oil and Gas


This project manages a network of nine seismographs that monitor ground motion which was previously installed for a McGill University project (the ‘McGill Array’) in British Columbia’s Northeast Region. The project is one of a series of for four research projects launched in December 2019 to further investigate how and why, in certain circumstances, earthquakes can be caused by hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal during natural gas development. In-kind support for the project was provided by geoLOGIC.

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Research Statement

Numerous factors influence the potential for the hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal activities used for natural gas development to cause earthquakes, a phenomenon known as induced seismicity.

Geoscience BC has been funding research projects since 2012 to better understand when, where and why induced seismicity occurs. The results and ongoing research are informing decision-makers in industry, government and communities so that the likelihood of future induced seismicity events can be reduced.

Arrays (networks) of seismographs – highly sensitive instruments that record the motion of the ground during an earthquake – are installed in BC’s Northeast Region to monitor seismicity. The McGill Array is a network of nine seismographs installed in the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek area. It is a critical piece of infrastructure for studying seismicity in the Montney Play, a gas-prone area within the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in BC’s Northeast Region that contains some of North America’s most significant natural gas deposits. The McGill Array was installed in 2017 but the funding to manage its operation was due to expire in 2020.

This project uses funding from Geoscience BC and partners Natural Resources Canada, McGill University, Ruhr University and the BC Oil and Gas Commission, to maintain and operate the seismographs in the McGill Array to provide real-time public seismicity data to operators, regulators and the general public.


This Energy project fits under Geoscience BC’s Strategic Objective of ‘Facilitating Responsible Natural Resource Development’ and our goal to:

  • Maintain joint research with partners examining seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing in northeastern BC to provide new science to better understand induced seismicity, mitigate risks and further improve regulation and industry practices.

Specifically, this project is:

  • improving the availability of real-time seismicity data in BC’s Northeast Region;
  • researching source characteristics of significant events;
  • using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze geological, tectonic, hydrological, geomechanical and operational parameters and to predict seismicity; and
  • improving determination of earthquake centres.



Benefits of this research include:

  • Public data about earthquakes in BC’s Northeast Region to inform regulator and others;
  • increased volume of peer-reviewed literature to build understanding of seismicity;
  • subject matter experts (SMEs)/highly qualified persons (HQPs) trained; and
  • a reduction in felt events.

Location Details

The McGill Array is in the Fort St. John – Dawson Creek area in BC’s Northeast Region.