Posts Tagged ‘hydraulic fracturing’
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 05:02 PM gHale
Discussion flows over the benefits of fracking over the environmental issues it may or may not cause, but there continues to a limit on quality data and unreliable estimates on air pollution from oil and natural gas production and that is a problem for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it deals with the drilling boom.
Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said the EPA failed to directly measure emissions from some pieces of equipment and processes, and some estimates it does have are of “questionable quality.”
“With limited data, human health risks are uncertain, states may design incorrect or ineffective emission control strategies, and EPA’s decisions about regulating industry may be misinformed,” Elkins said.
The EPA, under President Barack Obama, has stepped up regulation of natural gas drilling, which has been booming thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. About 25,000 wells a year are undergoing fracking, which is a process in which water, chemicals and sand end up injected at high pressure underground to release trapped natural gas.
Obama also wants to expand natural gas production, as long as it doesn’t damage the environment.
The oil and gas industry has said the EPA overestimated emissions of methane and argued they already were working to reduce pollution, without the agency’s intervention.
The EPA last year issued the first-ever standards to control smog- and soot-forming gases from gas wells site, and updated existing rules to reduce cancer-causing pollution, such as benzene, from other equipment.
The agency, in response to the report, agreed to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve its pollution figures.
Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 05:02 PM gHale
In a move to increase its presence in the North American shale gas industry, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) will pay $1.02 billion to purchase half of Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s Mississippi Lime oil and gas properties in Oklahoma.
Output from shale fields in the United States and Canada has jumped over the last three years due to the advent of drilling methods such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Companies in China, which has the largest shale reserves in the world, are chomping at the bit to get as much drilling information as possible in unconventional fields.
Along those lines, China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. bought Canadian oil and gas company Nexen Inc. for $15.1 billion, while Pioneer Natural Resources Co said last month it would sell a stake in its assets in the Wolfcamp shale field of Texas to Sinochem Group SINOC.UL for $1.7 billion.
Sinopec, Asia’s largest oil refiner, will buy 50 percent of Chesapeake’s 850,000 acres of net oil and natural gas leasehold properties in the Mississippi Lime shale field in northern Oklahoma, the companies said.
Chesapeake has about 2.1 million net acres of leasehold in the Mississippi Lime region, which straddles northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
Chesapeake’s production from the Mississippi Lime region jumped 208 percent to an average of 32,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the fourth quarter, the company reported this month.
About 45 percent of the total output was oil, 46 percent was natural gas and the rest was natural gas liquids.
Sinopec’s deal with Chesapeake, the second-largest gas producer in the United States, will help the Oklahoma City-based company cut down its debt, which stood at $12 billion as of December 31.
Chesapeake, which closed $12 billion of asset sales last year, is targeting asset sales of $4 billion to $7 billion in 2013, the company said in a presentation earlier this month.
Chesapeake said in December it would sell most of its natural gas processing and gathering assets for $2.16 billion to Access Midstream Partners LP.
Sinopec struck a deal with Devon Energy Corp. in January 2012 to buy a third of the U.S. oil and natural gas producer’s interest in five developing fields for about $2.2 billion.
Monday, February 18, 2013 @ 06:02 PM gHale
There are high levels of methane in a Dimock Township, PA, water well in an area of the community still off-limits to some natural gas drilling operations because of a past methane incident and state environmental regulators want to find out why.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began the investigation after it received a complaint of turbid water in a private well and later found “high levels” of methane dissolved in the water and airborne gas accumulating in the well, spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.
Tests at four other water wells did not show elevated levels of the gas, she said, but the state plans to continue monitoring.
The home is near the Costello and Gesford well sites operated by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. the state is evaluating as part of its investigation, she said. It is also in a 9-square-mile area where the DEP has barred Cabot from drilling new wells until methane the state first linked to the company’s operations in 2009 subsides in 18 water supplies.
The water well now under investigation was not part of the earlier incident, Connolly said.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said crews discovered a line that vents shallow methane from the Costello well froze during a recent period of cold weather. Since the plug cleared, levels of gas in the water well have decreased.
“It appears to be a small and localized event,” he said and added that Cabot will now monitor all its vent lines during extreme weather events.
The company is providing the home with bottled water.
The Gesford wells under evaluation underwent hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in November after the state lifted some of its restrictions on Cabot’s operations in the area. The process of injecting chemically treated water and sand into rock formations at high pressure releases the gas trapped in the shale.
Fracking has not been the direct cause of gas migration incidents in the region. Instead, past problems ended up tied to faulty construction of gas wells.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 @ 03:01 PM gHale
After a valve turned wrong and a pipe became disconnected, a 49-year-old Duluth, MN, died in a hydraulic fracturing accident in North Dakota.
Mike Krajewski died about 3:30 p.m. Saturday at a Halliburton location about 24 miles north of Watford City, ND, said the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office.
The North Dakota Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Krajewski’s death an accident caused by oilfield equipment dislodged by high pressure, striking him in the chest.
While the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is in the process of investigating the incident, a preliminary report indicates a valve turned wrong and a pipe disconnected and hit him in the head, said Sgt. Matt Johansen. Krajewski’s job involved pumping fluids at high pressures.
A Halliburton spokeswoman says the company will continue to work with local authorities as they investigate the incident. “This is a very difficult time for all of us at Halliburton, and our thoughts and prayers are with our employee’s loved ones,” the company said in a statement.
Another worker, Brad Hong, 55, of Halliday, N.D., also suffered an injury Saturday and went to the McKenzie County Hospital for injuries believed to be minor, Johansen said.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013 @ 03:01 PM gHale
It took two days, but an oil well that went out of control the Friday before Christmas five miles west of Watford City, ND, ended up plugged early Sunday night.
A crew from Wild Well Control was able to install a temporary plug at the well and all flow of fluids ceased, said Keith Schmidt, spokesman for well owner Newfield Exploration Co.
A workover rig crew lost control of the oil well while trying to bring it from hydraulic fracturing stages into oil production.
The well had been blowing a geyser of oil, gas and salt water some 95 feet into the air and spreading contamination more than a mile downwind from the well site.
Kris Roberts, environmental geologist with the state Health Department, said the initial height of the blowout was the result of intense pressure from the well and because the blowout forced the well pipe up out of the well and it ended up caught in the workover rigging.
Schmidt said the flow reduced considerably Sunday ahead of the temporary plug.
Roberts said the elevation and the wind caused much of the contamination to drift away from the well, covering a large area of agricultural land.
He said the workover crew had been flowing back frack fluids for five or six days, so it wasn’t clear whether any of the escaped fluids are from fracking, or were the oil, natural gas and salt water from the oil formation.
Roberts said he will take samples to identify the spilled fluids.
This is the second well blowout in the area this month. A Slawson Exploration Co. well near Lake Sakakawea, ND, spilled about 1,500 barrels of oil, gas and salt water. The company said they recovered most of the fluids and an environmental cleanup was under way.
Thursday, December 13, 2012 @ 07:12 PM gHale
Fracking is coming back to Britain as its government lifted its ban on the controversial mining process.
Companies can now continue their exploration of shale gas reserves, but Energy Secretary Edward Davey said the decision was subject to new controls to limit the risks of seismic activity.
There was a halt to fracking last year after two small earthquakes in Lancashire, northwestern England, where Cuadrilla Resources was exploring for shale gas.
The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into shale formations deep beneath the Earth’s surface, causing the fracturing of the rock and the release of natural gas.
It has proved controversial across the pond in the United States, where supporters say it provides cheap energy but critics fear the potential for chemicals to seep into the drinking water supply.
The new controls imposed by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change include a requirement to carry out a seismic survey before work starts.
Firms involved must also draw up a plan showing how they will limit the seismic risks, and monitor seismic activity before, during and after the exploration.
Cuadrilla Resources said Thursday’s decision marked a significant step for Britain’s future onshore gas industry.
“Today’s news is a turning point for the country’s energy future. Shale gas has the potential to create jobs, generate tax revenues, reduce our reliance on imported gas, and improve our balance of payments,” chief executive Francis Egan said.
Egan said they could practice fracking “safely and sensibly” in Britain and there are huge reserves to exploit.
The company believes there is about 200 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ground just within its license area in Lancashire. To put that figure into context, the United Kingdom uses about 3 trillion cubic feet of gas a year, Egan said.
Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 04:11 PM gHale
An oil executive pleaded not guilty Monday at the Stark County, ND, Courthouse to a felony charge that he threatened area drinking water with his company’s hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” wastewater disposal practices.
Earlier this year, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office charged Nathan Garber with a Class C felony, arguing a company led by Garber knowingly attempted to deceive Industrial Commission inspectors.
Following the brief hearing before Stark County Judge H. Patrick Weir, neither Garber nor his attorney, Monte Rogneby of the Bismarck-based Vogel Law Firm, wished to make a comment. A Stark County official said a date for a pretrial conference would be set later.
In a case that represents the first of its kind brought against an oil executive in North Dakota, the state is claiming Garber, president of Executive Drilling LLC at the time of the drilling, directed employees of another company to modify their fracking wastewater disposal practices, which officials watch closely because of environmental concerns.
Garber directed the injection of salt water used in the fracking process — a drilling practice commonly used by energy companies to retrieve deep shale oil and gas reserves — into a well that not properly insulated from groundwater near the Lodgepole formation in Stark County, according to court documents.
It remains unknown at this time if drinking water ended up contaminated. Also, officials would not release any findings related to groundwater testing until a trial, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. A civil suit related to the case was also filed in Burleigh County against Halek Operating LLC, which is related to Executive Drilling.
A Class C felony in North Dakota carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 @ 09:10 AM gHale
A New York state judge invalidated Binghamton’s two-year moratorium on natural gas drilling, which marks the first time a court struck down a local law banning fracking in New York.
State Supreme Court Justice Ferris D. Lebous became the latest New York judge to weigh in on local bans or moratoriums, ruling the city law approved December 2011 failed to meet the standards of a properly enacted moratorium. Lebous said the city never established there was a “dire emergency” regarding a practice still not allowed in New York.
“There can be no showing of dire need since the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not published the new regulations that are required before any natural gas exploration or drilling can occur in this state,” Lebous wrote in his decision.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is considering whether to allow natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process involving the injection of wells with chemically treated water.
As the DEC review continues, more than 30 upstate municipalities have passed bans on gas drilling and more than 80 have enacted moratoriums. The laws enacted by towns sitting atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation are typically in response to fears fracking could contaminate water supplies, though the energy industry says the process has safely been in use for years.
Local bans in Dryden and Middlefield have already passed muster with state courts. Lebous referred to those two previous court decisions as “well-reasoned” and focused his decision on Binghamton’s actions. Despite the loss for Binghamton, environmentalists said the ruling reaffirms the legal right for local bans. Lawyers for environmental groups said they don’t believe this ruling would imperil the other local bans.
Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan said Wednesday an appeal is likely. He said the city could try to pass a similar law that would not run afoul of the court.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012 @ 02:08 PM gHale
Most earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region of North Texas occur within a few miles of one or more injection wells used to dispose of wastes associated with petroleum production such as hydraulic fracturing fluids, new research said.
While that news is shocking enough, at least none of the quakes identified in the two-year study were strong enough to pose a danger to the public.
“You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,” said Cliff Frohlich, senior research scientist at the University of Texas-Austin Institute for Geophysics. “But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”
Frohlich analyzed seismic data collected between November 2009 and September 2011 through the EarthScope USArray Program, a National Science Foundation-funded network of broadband seismometers from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the high density of instruments (twenty-five in or near the Barnett Shale), Frohlich was able to detect earthquakes down to magnitude 1.5, far too weak for people to feel at the surface.
He found that the most reliably located earthquakes — those accurate to within about 0.9 miles (1.5 kilometers) — occurred in eight groups, all within two miles (3.2 kilometers) of one or more injection wells. Before this study, the National Earthquake Information Center had only identified two earthquake groups in the area strongly associated with specific injection wells. This suggests injection-triggered earthquakes are far more common than generally recognized.
The Barnett Shale is a geological formation in North Texas bearing a large amount of natural gas that was difficult to recover prior to recent technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
The formation lies beneath Dallas and Fort Worth and extends over several counties, mostly to the west of those cities. Development of the Barnett Shale and other unconventional plays — such as the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia — have spurred dramatic growth in domestic natural gas production.
This study comes as some policymakers and the public are expressing concern about possible environmental and health effects of fracking. Most earthquakes identified in the study ranged in magnitude from 1.5 to 2.5, meaning they posed no danger to the public.
“I didn’t find any higher risks from disposal of hydraulic fracturing fluids than was thought before,” Frohlich said. “My study found more small quakes, nearly all less than magnitude 3.0, but just more of the smaller ones than were previously known. The risk is all from big quakes, which don’t seem to occur here.”
All the wells nearest to the eight earthquake groups reported high injection rates (maximum monthly injection rates exceeding 150,000 barrels of water). Yet in many other areas where wells had similarly high injection rates, there were no earthquakes. Frohlich tried to address those differences.
“It might be that an injection can only trigger an earthquake if injected fluids reach and relieve friction on a nearby fault that is already ready to slip,” Frohlich said. “That just isn’t the situation in many places.”
Fracking is an industrial process in which water and various chemicals pump deep underground under high pressure in order to fracture rock, allowing oil or gas to more easily flow to a well. As petroleum ends up at the surface, most hydraulic fracturing fluids return to the surface too.
Frohlich is careful to point out that he did not evaluate the possible correlation of earthquakes with the actual hydraulic fracturing process, but rather the effects of disposing of fracturing fluids and other wastes in these injection wells.
Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 05:06 PM gHale
There is now a hazard alert aimed at protecting workers at hydraulic fracturing operations from silica exposure, federal officials said.
Hydraulic fracturing involves blasting rock with water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas. Crystalline silica is part of sand.
Workers who regularly breathe it are at greater risk of developing silicosis, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They said silica also has links to lung cancer and tuberculosis. The hazard alert they issued describes how engineering controls, work practices, protective equipment, worker training and product substitution can protect employees.
OSHA released statements from officials with the Association of Energy Service Companies and the AFL-CIO saying they support efforts to raise awareness of the hazard.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth.
Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration. In fact, 3D imaging helps scientists determine the precise locations for drilling.
Horizontal drilling (along with traditional vertical drilling) allows for the injection of highly pressurized fracking fluids into the shale area.
This creates new channels within the rock from which driller can extract natural gas at higher than traditional rates. This drilling process can take up to a month, while the drilling teams delve more than a mile into the Earth’s surface. After which, the well is cased with cement to ensure groundwater protection, and the shale is hydraulically fractured with water and other fracking fluids.