Nanometrics ISM Network Implemented In Duvernay; Athabasca Oil Becomes First Adopter
Athabasca Oil Corporation has become the first operator to adopt a new frac-monitoring subscription network in the Duvernay near Fox Creek that uses highly-sensitive and accurate induced-seismicity monitoring (ISM) technology to help subscribing operators comply with regulatory requirements.
Data from the Nanometrics Inc.’s ISM array — implemented on July 1 — enables operators to understand the impact of induced seismicity on infrastructure, wellsites and nearby communities. According to a Nanometrics news release, Athabasca Oilshould benefit from cost savings for real-time monitoring of seismic events during hydraulic-fracturing operations.
“What we are measuring are earthquakes when earthquakes are generated as the result of oilfield operations — they are small earthquakes, but they are earthquakes just the same,” David Shorey, vice-president of the oil and gas division at Nanometrics, told the Bulletin.
With the ISM array, operators can view seismic events and notifications via private customized web portals. Data includes magnitude estimates using local Richter magnitude scales, with event cross-referencing to regional and National Resources Canada postings. The system also uses seismic data from regional networks.
Outlined in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Subsurface Order 2 are the stages at which operators must take action when seismic activity is observed. The AER imposed monitoring requirements on Duvernay operators following a 4.4 seismic event on Jan. 22, which occurred approximately 33 kilometres west of the town of Fox Creek (DOB, Feb. 20, 2015).
Last month, a second seismic event for the year measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale hit near Fox Creek, with the latest incident forcing the industry player active in that area to cease operations in accordance with a newly-instituted subsurface order (DOB, June 16, 2015).
Under the newly-adopted subsurface order, licensees adhere to a traffic light-style process with staged thresholds. If no seismic events are observed, then operations can proceed according to the AER’s usual requirements (green light). The order requires licensees to immediately report to the AER any seismic events measuring two or greater magnitude, and at this point those companies must invoke their response plans (yellow light).
If a seismic event of four magnitude or greater is detected in the vicinity of operations, then the order requires operators to cease hydraulic fracturing operations altogether (red light). In these circumstances, licensees will not be permitted to resume operations until receiving AER consent.
With approximately 20 seismometers in the Duvernay area subject to the subsurface order, Shorey said Nanometrics services more companies than just Athabasca Oil. However, certain operators opt for a private array as opposed to a subscription one such as the one implemented this month.
“Some companies have elected to do their own monitoring and keeping the information in house. But we see there is also a need for companies that want to be a part of the shared network to lower their operating costs, and so we put this subscription array in place.”
Nanometrics installs continuously-monitoring, permanent networks that provide immediate, real-time feedback on seismicity and the environment where operators are producing. Proprietary broadband seismometers can detect, identify and locate low-frequency events, unlike typical geophones. A constantly staffed data centre provides ongoing analysis for the Duvernay ISM network.
For the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, Shorey said, Nanometrics is also active in the Montney and in the Northwest Territories. The company provides arrays for most of the government regulatory agencies, as well as for operators. He added: “We are looking at putting in another subscription array into the North Montney — that has not started yet, but it should soon. That is another area where there is a fair amount of activity.”
Subscription arrays are not only useful during hydraulic fracturing, but can be used to monitor induced seismicity from water disposal as well, Shorey noted: “The scalability of what we do could be an array of monitors around a specific injection well, all the way up to the arrays used to monitor global, regional and whatever scale you like.”
Alireza Babaie Mahani, with the Induced Seismicity Monitoring Project, recently told a Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources technical luncheon that the magnitude of induced seismicity appears to increase in areas of continuous operations, which means once a high seismic level is detected the operator might have to wait longer than is currently mandated in order to prevent even larger, potentially-damaging manmade earthquakes (DOB, June 19, 2015).
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Jul 20, 2015