Posts Tagged ‘hydraulic fracturing’

Monday, January 6, 2014 @ 03:01 PM gHale

A new year means new rules take effect and that is exactly what happened in Oklahoma when it comes to fracking chemicals.

The rule requires all oil and gas well operators in the state to report the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Previously, only operators of horizontal drilling wells had to disclose fracking chemicals. That rule took effect at the beginning of 2013. This new rule is an extension to that.

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Operators must report fracking chemicals to, or to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which will add the information to on behalf of the operator. went live in 2011, and many operators began voluntarily reporting chemical makeup at that time.

Hydraulic fracturing remains a controversial topic with the public because of the chemicals involved in the process.

Although most operators maintain the bulk (typically 99 percent) of fracking fluid is made of water and sand, the remaining chemical composition has been the target of repeated inquiry.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 @ 01:12 PM gHale

Goodrich Petroleum Corp., one of the largest leaseholders in the emerging Tuscaloosa Marine Shale area, has problems with one of its key wells.

Test results for a well located in Amite County, MS, near the Louisiana border face a delay until early next year as the company works to unclog it. The well, called Huff 18-7H-1, was near completion and was producing oil and gas when it ended up clogged with debris during the drilling process.

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The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale oil region covers central Louisiana and southwest Mississippi.

Houston-based Goodrich is trying to use new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques to tap into oil and gas trapped in the hard layer of rock that makes up the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. During fracking, drillers pump a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure, cracking open the rock to release oil and gas. Horizontal drilling allows companies to frack multiple sections of an oil reserve from a single well.

Experts estimate the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale holds 2.7 billion barrels of oil spanning much of central Louisiana, from Vernon Parish on the western side into Washington and St. Tammany parishes as well as a section of southwest Mississippi to the east.

But companies have struggled to find the right formula to drill profitable wells. Oil in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale is deeper underground and the rock is full of naturally-occurring cracks that make it easier for debris to fall into and clog wells. The cost of drilling a well in the Tuscaloosa remains much higher than in other parts of the country.

Goodrich made a big move into the area in August when it purchased more than 270,000 acres located largely in Louisiana from Devon Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City for $26.7 million. Goodrich has a history of using new techniques to lower the cost of drilling in areas such as the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas and the Haynesville Shale in northwest Louisiana. Company executives said they can do the same in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

Monday, December 16, 2013 @ 01:12 PM gHale

Fracking is coming to Oman as BP will drill wells to push out gas trapped deep under the Omani desert over the next 15 years in a $16 billion project.

The Khazzan tight gas project, which aims to extract around one billion cubic feet (bcf) per day of gas from sandstone at depths of up to 4,500 meters in central Oman, is a showcase for BP’s tight gas extraction technology.

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“Today’s signing is an important step in the Sultanate of Oman’s plans to meet growing demand for energy over the coming decades and to contribute to economic development in Oman,” said the country’s oil and gas minister, Mohammed Al Rumhy.

“The Khazzan project is the largest new upstream project in Oman and a pioneering development in the region in unlocking technically challenging tight gas through technology.”

BP will have a 60 percent operating stake in the project, which involves a 15-year program of drilling into sandstone to extract gas using hydraulic fracturing technology, or fracking, developed in the United States.

BP expects to invest around $9.6 billion over the full field development, in accordance with its 60 percent stake in the $16 billion project, a BP spokesman said. State-owned Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production (OOCEP) will have a 40 percent stake. The $16 billion total investment estimate includes around $1.5 billion already spent.

“We are a company who have said that we will use a very disciplined capital framework and for the rest of the decade we will keep BP’s capital investments between $24 and $27 billion a year,” said BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley.

“There are other projects that we have put aside but this is one that is big, it is important and it is a good partnership… It fits with our strategy as a company to develop large reservoirs.”

Construction should begin in 2014, with first gas expected in late 2017 and plateau production of around 1 bcf, or 28.3 million cubic meters, per day expected in 2018.

This would be enough to meet around a third of the country’s current domestic gas needs. But Omani energy demand is rising rapidly and Muscat also hopes to import Iranian gas in a 25-year deal signed in August.

BP expects to develop around 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in the Khazzan project, and to pump around 25,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gas condensate, a light oil, helping ensure a good rate of return from the investment.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 @ 01:11 PM gHale

There are new rules in Wyoming that will require companies drilling for oil and gas in the state to first test for pollution in nearby water wells and other water sources.

The goal of the new rules adopted by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is to document the condition of groundwater near oil and gas wells. That could help state regulators determine the source of any groundwater pollution that turns up later.

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One example of a place where testing might have helped is the Pavillion gas field. Local homeowners and gas field owner Encana Corp. have been disputing for years the cause of foul-smelling well water there.

The five-member commission chaired by Gov. Matt Mead met in Casper. Three years ago, the commission adopted rules that made Wyoming the first state to require companies to disclose the ingredients in the specially formulated fluids they use during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of pumping pressurized water, fine sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells to shatter rock and boost the flow of oil and gas.

“This is another example of Wyoming leading the nation in striking the right balance between producing needed energy and protecting our natural resources,” Mead said.

The rules require companies to test water sources within the year before beginning to drill. Companies will then need to conduct follow-up testing starting at least a year after drilling finishes.

Companies must sample water wells and other water sources within a half-mile radius of a planned oil or gas well, or the first of multiple gas wells planned from a concentrated location. Up to four such water sources have to undergo testing.

The tests will need to look for bacteria, hydrocarbons, BTEX compounds, naphthalene, dissolved gases and other substances.

The rules require follow-up testing if dissolved methane exceeds a certain threshold. Follow-up testing will determine if the dissolved methane originates from bacteria or is the same thermogenic, or fossil-fuel, methane companies are drilling for.

The presence of thermogenic methane could indicate a problem with gas targeted for development seeping into groundwater.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 @ 04:10 PM gHale

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas in the Utica shale has not created any major problems with Ohio’s drinking water, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has investigated 183 water-well complaints that Ohio landowners filed from 2010 through mid-October. Only six water supplies suffered any kind of impact by drilling over the nearly four-year period, state spokesman Mark Bruce said.

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All of those problems stemmed from old, vertical-only wells, not today’s big horizontal wells that rely on fracking to free natural gas, oil and other liquids from rocks deep underground, he said.

To date, Ohio approved 927 horizontal wells in the Utica shale formation, of which 577 ended up drilled as of Oct. 12. There are 164 Utica wells in production. Thirty drilling rigs are in Ohio.

“None of the impacted water supplies were related to hydraulic fracturing or horizontal shale drilling,” Bruce said.

Senate Bill 165 tightened Ohio’s rules on well construction and should further reduce the risk when those rules end up adopted, said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for Energy in Depth-Ohio, a pro-industry drilling group.

Activists worry that 5 million gallons of water used to frack a well and drillers cannot clean and reuse that water and it ends up injected into rocks below ground in Ohio, said Mary Greer of Shalersville Township, a spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens Ohio.

One Ohio complaint came in 2011 from Carroll County, where the state found high levels of salt in a well in Brown Township. The state traced the problem to a leak from a nearby drilling rig’s temporary disposal pit. The company involved, EnerVest, supplied clean drinking water for several months until the salt levels dropped.

In comparison, Pennsylvania, where drilling began in the Marcellus shale earlier than Ohio’s drilling, has received 969 complaints since 2008, according to its Department of Environmental Protection. Drilling and leaks/spills linked to 106 water problems, the agency said.

Monday, October 21, 2013 @ 06:10 PM gHale

Fracking is more widespread and sees more frequent use on offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous coastal communities than state officials thought.

In some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions, oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press.

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Just this year in Long Beach Harbor, the nation’s second-largest container port, an oil company with exclusive rights to drill there completed five fracks on man-made islands. Other companies fracked more than a dozen times from old oil platforms off Huntington Beach and Seal Beach over the past five years.

There is no evidence offshore hydraulic fracturing has led to any spills or chemical leaks, but the practice occurs with little state or federal oversight of the operations.

The state agency that leases lands and waters to oil companies said officials found new instances of fracking after searching records this summer. The fracking occurred in federal waters off California, an area from three miles to 200 miles offshore. The state oil permitting agency said it doesn’t track fracking.

The state is continuing its investigation into the extent of fracking and develops ways to increase oversight under a law that takes effect in 2015.

No one really knows the effects on the marine environment of fracking, which shoots water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to clear old wells or crack rock formations to free oil. Yet neither state nor federal environmental regulators have had any role in overseeing the practice as it increased to revitalize old wells.

There have been no new oil leases off the state’s shores since a 1969 oil platform blowout off Santa Barbara, which fouled miles of coastline and gave rise to the modern environmental movement. With no room for physical expansion, oil companies instead have turned to fracking to keep the oil flowing.

The state launched an investigation into the extent of offshore fracking after an AP report in August. California officials initially said at the time there was no record of fracking in the nearshore waters it oversees. Now, as the State Lands Commission and other agencies review records and find more instances of fracking, officials remain confused over who exactly is in charge of ensuring the technique ends up monitored and performed safely.

Nowhere is the fracking more concentrated than in Long Beach, an oil town with a half-million residents and tourist draws such as the Queen Mary.

The city’s oil arrangement stems from a deal drawn up in 1911, when California granted the tidelands and other water-covered areas to the city as it developed its harbor. When they discovered oil in the 1930s, the money started coming in.

Long Beach transferred $352 million of $581 million in profits to state coffers in fiscal year 2013 from onshore and offshore operations, according to the city’s Gas and Oil Department. Most of the oil recovery comes from traditional drilling while fracking accounts for about 10 percent of the work.

The department says fracking is safe. It has a spill contingency plan and monitors pipelines. State oil regulators approved well construction designs. The designs can be for conventional drilling and fracking. And the oil industry says offshore fracks are much smaller operations than onshore jobs, involving only a fraction of the chemicals and water used on land.

City oil officials see themselves as partners with Occidental Petroleum Corp. — not regulators — though officials participate in the company’s internal audits and technical reviews by the state.

Occidental and the city briefly took a fracking timeout after passage of the state’s new rules. Long Beach oil operations manager Kevin Tougas said there are plans to frack again later this year. Occidental spokeswoman Susie Geiger said in an email that the company doesn’t discuss its operations due to “competitive and proprietary reasons.”

No one is tracking the amounts or precise composition of any fracking chemicals that enter the marine environment, though in September the state passed a law that starting in 2015 would require disclosure of agents used during the procedures.

Fracking fluids consist of hundreds of chemicals — some known and others not since they end up protected as trade secrets. Some of these chemicals are toxic to fish larvae and crustaceans, bottom dwellers most at risk from drilling activities, according to government health disclosure documents.

Monday, October 14, 2013 @ 03:10 PM gHale

Fracking took a hit in Europe last week as France’s highest court on Friday upheld a government ban on the oil and gas drilling technique.

The Constitutional Council ruled against a challenge by Schuepbach Energy, an American company, whose exploration permits ended up revoked after the French Parliament banned the practice.

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Fracking pumps water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into shale formations deep underground to crush the rock and release trapped oil and natural gas deposits. The success of the technique over the last decade has led the United States to now claim to be 87 percent self-sufficient in natural gas.

What is now happening in the U.S. and in Europe is environmental groups are saying there is not enough data to support rampant fracking across the country. So, the government should get involved and slow things down until there is a clear understand of the environmental impact to the land and to humans.

Environmental groups in Europe slowed adoption of the practice, and the center-right government of former President Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law prohibiting it in 2011.

Schuepbach Energy said the law violated its rights, unfairly singled out fracking and was unconstitutional. The court rejected those arguments.

In addition to France, Bulgaria banned fracking. Britain has allowed modest experiments. The fracking industry hopes Germany, which decided to end its atomic power after the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster in Japan, would be receptive to fracking. However, that has not come to pass as yet.

The United States Energy Information Agency estimates there are 137 trillion cubic feet of “technically recoverable” gas in France, equivalent to quite a few decades worth of national consumption.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 @ 03:10 PM gHale

Fracking is a hot topic across the United States and both sides continue with dueling studies that show how safe it is or the dangers involved. As with most disputes, the real answer is somewhere in between.

But with the U.S. quickly regaining its status as the world’s largest oil and gas producer, the reality is fracking is not going to stop anytime soon. That means instead of fighting against the brick wall of skyrocketing revenues that boost the economy, why not find a way to make that technology much safer for the workers, the environment and the surrounding neighbors.

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Take one Pennsylvania group that is working on keeping fracking safe.

Breathe Easy Susquehanna County (BESC), a citizens’ advocacy organization, represents drilling advocates and individuals who support a moratorium on fracking.

“We can sit here and argue over whether fracking should stop, but that’s a moot point—it’s happening,” Rebecca Roter, the chairwoman of BESC, said in a National Journal Daily report. “And the collective reality is, we’re all experiencing the same impacts so we need to work together.”

BESC wants drillers to better control greenhouse-gas and chemical emissions from fracking and has organized meetings with representatives from energy companies operating wells in the area. Nothing concrete has emerged from these talks, but Roter said she’s encouraged that the conversation is happening at all. “This is a process,” Roter said. “But the fact that the industry is having a dialogue with us is amazing.”

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) is also attempting to broker compromise. CSSD is a nonprofit based in Pittsburgh consisting of partner organizations ranging from Chevron and Shell to the Environmental Defense Fund. In March, the organization released a set of performance standards for the oil and natural-gas industry, and companies that voluntarily adopt them will begin using the new criteria this fall.

Friday, October 4, 2013 @ 04:10 PM gHale

Despite undergoing treatment, waste water from fracking and other forms of gas and oil extraction can leave elevated levels of contaminants in streambeds at the discharge point as well as downstream, a new study said.

Among the potentially harmful effects of the waste-water discharges, the study found, is the creation of radioactive hot spots from naturally occurring radium that settles out of the treated water and into streambed sediments.

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While the debate rages over whether fracking is safe for the environment and for humans, this study shows one side of the fracking question, there have been other studies of late that show a different story.

The study, which tracked contaminants once they become part of a stream’s flow, examined the outflow from a waste water-treatment facility on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania and its effects on the creek’s water and bottom sediments.

The facility is one of three in the region involved in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May that resulted in an $83,000 penalty for the owner, Fluid Recovery Services, LLC, for violating provisions of its water-treatment discharge permit.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health found high levels of barium, benzene, chlorides, strontium, and other contaminants at the end of the outflow pipe in excess of state and federal water-quality standards.

They presented their results at an EPA workshop on the fate and transport of waste water from fracking in March 2011 and formally published their results last March in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Four months after the EPA workshop, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection collected sediment samples from inside the discharge pipe at the site and found radium-226 levels some 44 times higher than drinking-water standards allow. Several tens of yards downstream, levels were 66 times higher than standards allow. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping liquids at high pressure into underground rock formations to break up the rock and get at oil or gas deposits that otherwise would be uneconomical to exploit.

The northeastern quadrant of the United States has become a hotbed of production using this technique, with the activity centered largely on the Marcellus Shale deposits buried beneath New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

The extraction industry in Pennsylvania reused some 70 percent of its waste water in 2011, notes the new study, conducted by Nathaniel Warner, a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth University, Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh, and two other colleagues.

They said, however, that depending on the contents of the waste water – brines that flow back up from depth, or drilling fluids, for example – between 8 and 20 percent of the waste goes to treatment plants, with the outflow entering local streams. The remainder of the waste ends up disposed of using other approaches, such as deep-well injection.

The question the team was trying to help address: “What’s the larger, overall impact of all this new shale-gas development,” Dr. Warner said. “We looked at interactions with shallow ground water and didn’t find major impacts. But what happens with surface-water disposal?”

They started about 1,000 feet upstream of the outflow pipe and took repeated water and creek-bottom sediment samples for another mile below the outflow point. The upstream samples and soil samples taken away from the creek helped establish the background levels of the compounds they team was interested in examining. The team also took water samples from three major rivers in the region to help establish background levels.

The team gathered the complete set of samples along Blacklick Creek five times between August 2010 and November 2012. They used chemical and isotopic analysis to pinpoint the Marcellus Shale formation as the source of a large proportion of the wastes released in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, Pennsylvania environmental officials asked treatment plants stop accepting waste water from operations in the Marcellus formation.

Overall, the team found over the study period, the plant had removed more than 90 percent of the barium and radium in the original wastewater.

Still, chloride concentrations as far as a mile downstream were from two to 20 times higher than anything the team recorded upstream or in any other stream it sampled. Of concern were elevated levels downstream of bromine, which has the potential to combine with chlorine in drinking-water treatment plants to form compounds that public-health specialists have linked to certain cancers.

As for the radium, the researchers measured levels of radium-226 at the outflow some 200 times higher that levels found upstream or in soils around the stream. That level exceeds the threshold at which radioactive-waste-disposal regulations kick in, the scientists said.

Based on the relative abundance of radium-226 and its far-shorter-lived relative radium-228, the team said it was able to identify fracking wastes as the main source for the radium it detected. That coincided with previous studies noting that more than half the waste the facility took in between 2010 and 2011 came from the Marcellus formation.

The team also offered an explanation for the radioactive hot spot it and Pennsylvania environmental officials found in the creek. Dissolved radium attaches to sediments grains more readily as water shifts from salty to fresh, the researchers note. That’s precisely what happens at the end of the outflow pipe, as the briny waste mixes with fresh water from upstream. Thus, even though the treatment plant significantly reduced the amount of radium entering the stream, chemistry took over to concentrate the radium near the outflow point.

Given the 1,600-year half life of radium-226, the researchers suggest more work needs to occur to gauge the effect such hot spots can have on aquatic plants and animals in and around them, since freshwater fish and other freshwater organisms accumulate any radium they take up.

As for Fluid Recovery Services, it has built two new plants designed to meet tougher waste water-treatment discharge standards. In addition, the company is spending up to $30 million on upgrades to the three plants that were the focus of the EPA settlement.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 @ 09:10 AM gHale

A list of toxic chemicals used by Ohio shale drillers must be available locally to governments, first responders and residents under a new state directive.

Ohio officials notified companies that a federal chemical disclosure law trumps a 2001 state law requiring producers to only file the information with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The state gave companies until Sept. 21 to begin complying with the federal law.

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The guidance affecting the state’s growing hydraulic fracturing industry follows an April letter in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made clear Ohio’s chemical-reporting laws don’t supersede federal right-to-know requirements.

The letter came in response to a complaint by a coalition of environmental and community groups involving a January chemical emergency near St. Marys in Auglaize County.

The reporting change will benefit residents in areas of Ohio where fracking is much more frequent, said Teresa Mills, whose Center for Health, Environment and Justice spearheaded the complaint.

“They can go to their local emergency planning commission and ask for these records,” she said.

Her group, Progress Ohio and the Buckeye Forest Council have also called on the federal government to consider suspending Ohio’s authority to oversee deep wells used for disposal of the chemically laced wastewater that results from using the hydraulic fracturing method to drill for oil and gas. They cited a Youngstown-area businessman’s federal indictment for Clean Water Act violations and a spate of eastern Ohio earthquakes tied to deep injection.

The technique helps extract gas from the Marcellus Shale, which lies deep underneath parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.

The federal right-to-know law allows oil and gas companies to shield some chemicals from the inventories it releases as trade secrets. Among chemicals used in the process that may end up listed are: ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, a possible carcinogen.

A leader of Ohio’s oil and gas association said the meaning behind the state chemical disclosure law was to centralize and ease access to information about the chemicals used in drilling.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association vice president Tom Stewart said the new directive will make it more difficult for firefighters to learn what chemical hazards they might encounter at a shale well fire.

“We changed the law so fire departments could rely on the annual reports we make to (Natural Resources), which would be inserted into an emergency response website,” Stewart said.

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