Despite a lack of evidence showing that there is a correlation between hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and increased seismic activity, British Columbia (BC) provincial authorities want to study the issue, focusing on BC’s Horn River Basin shale play.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission has raised the question of whether there is a connection between the fracking at Horn River and recent small earthquakes recorded in Canada’s westernmost province. Spokesman Hardy Friedrich told NGI’s Shale Daily “the commission is aware of stories related to earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing, and it is investigating it.”

Recent research by the commission has indicated that “a small cluster of low-level seismic events” occurred within a few kilometers of a shale gas development area in the east-central portion of the Horn River. Friedrich said fracking activity was completed in that area more than two years ago in April 2009.

At this point, an “abundance of caution” is driving the commission toward more study of the possible correlation, Friedrich said.

“The commission has seen no evidence of a correlation between hydraulic fracturing and seismic activity,” said Friedrich, adding that monitoring of seismic activity in northeast BC is done by the Geological Survey of Canada’s Pacific Geoscience Centre to better understand what is going on.

While the Horn River Basin is quite a bit more remote than other North American plays, which makes the economics somewhat more difficult, it also has some advantages. Analysts and industry executives have said the Horn has excellent shale permeability, a vast amount of gas in place and no expiring lease issues (see Shale Daily, Nov. 22, 2010; Nov. 19, 2010). According to research published earlier this year by Calgary-based Peters & Co., the play has the potential to reach production of 5 Bcf/d within 10 years.

Based on the advantages of the play, a number of large producers are betting big. Exxon Mobil Corp. is currently the largest in the play with 340,000 net acres. According to company reports and calculations by NGI‘s Shale Daily, the top five is rounded out with Nexen Energy (300,000 net acres), Encana (278,000 net acres), Apache Corp. (210,000 net acres) and Devon Energy (174,000 net acres).