What's FRACKING?

What's FRACKING?

Postby Oscar » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:56 am

What's FRACKING?

http://www.bctwa.org/Frack-BCArticles.html

Feature Stories, News Articles

1) Frack Attack.
Watershed Sentinel, March/April 2010, article by author Joyce Nelson.

http://www.bctwa.org/FrkBC-WatershedSen ... ar2010.pdf

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MORE Articles:
http://www.bctwa.org/Frack-BCArticles.html

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Frack Attack. New, dirty gas drilling method threatens drinking water

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/public ... ack-attack

by Joyce Nelson National Office | The Monitor
Issue(s): Energy policy, Environment and sustainability December 1, 2009

A technology used by the oil and gas industry to obtain natural gas is raising major concerns across the United States and is equally suspect for areas being drilled in Western Canada. Called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” in the trade), it allows drilling companies to access “unconventional” natural gas deposits trapped in shale, coal-bed, and tight-sand formations – potentially at the expense of underground water supplies.

On August 27, 2009, Reuters reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had found toxic chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near gas-drilling operations in Pavillion, Wyoming, where EnCana has 248 natural gas wells. Calgary-based EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now a major player in B.C., with hundreds of new natural gas wells in the province.

Eleven of 39 water-wells tested in Wyoming by the EPA earlier this year showed chemicals that can cause cancer, kidney failure, anaemia, and fertility problems. Among the contaminants in three of the wells was 2-butoxyehanol (2-BE), a highly toxic solvent often used in fracking.

The ongoing EPA investigation is significant because it is the first time the U.S. federal agency has investigated and documented such well-water contamination close to natural gas drilling sites, although, according to research by the U.S. journal ProPublica, in the last few years there have been more than a thousand similar cases documented by courts and local governments across the U.S.

Currently, companion legislation (S.1215/H.R. 2766) is before both houses of Congress to require regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the federal U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. On Sept. 10, 160 national, regional, state, and local organizations jointly issued a letter to Congressional representatives, urging them to co-sponsor the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act,” introduced on June 9. Their letter stated: “Our organizations represent communities across the country that are concerned about drinking water contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Canada has no national water standards and collects little information about groundwater.

Hydraulic Fracturing

Invented in the 1950s by Halliburton Co., hydraulic fracking was initially used for drilling only about one in a hundred natural gas wells, but now it’s being applied to most production in North America. Before the end of 2009, the industry plans to complete at least 4,000 hydraulic fracturing jobs in northern B.C. alone – mostly in the Motney shale region of northeastern B.C. and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson.

According to the Oil & Gas Inquirer (June 2009), fracking is also “in high demand” in the Bakken natural gas field in southern Saskatchewan.

Once the well-bore has been drilled and prepared, hydraulic fracturing is used to create fractures that extend into the surrounding rock or shale formation, allowing the gas to travel more easily from the rock pores to the production well. To create these fractures, a mixture of water, proppants (sand or ceramic beads), and chemical fracking fluid “stimulants” is injected under extreme pressure into the formation in several stages.

One “frac-job” of a single well can utilize millions of gallons of water and sand, mixed with tens of thousands of gallons of fracking fluid chemicals.

Eventually, the underground formation is not able to absorb the huge amount of fluids as quickly as it is being injected, and the pressure causes it to crack. These fractures are held open by the proppants, and the gas is then able to flow along the lubricated fissures to the well.

Some of the fracturing fluids are pumped out of the well and into surface pits or holding tanks during the process of extracting the gas and contaminated water, but even the industry admits that as much as 70% of the original fracturing fluid volume may remain underground.

Fracking fluids and natural gas can both migrate underground from the fracture site. According to Business Week (Nov. 11, 2008), a 2004 EPA study found that “fracturing fluids migrated unpredictably through rock layers in half the cases studied,” and the injected fluids are “likely transported by groundwater.”

More recent research indicates that such injected fluids have been known to travel underground as far as 3,000 feet from a natural gas well.
In Alberta, where fracking of coal-bed methane natural gas deposits has been common practice for more than four years, there have been cases in which landowners can literally light their well-water on fire. The Pembina Institute notes that, “in some [Alberta] communities, oil and gas companies are therefore now providing water to residents.”

Trade Secrets

Following the release last August of the EPA’s initial report on the contamination, EnCana spokesman Randy Teeuwen conceded that a source of the Wyoming well-water contaminants “could be oil and gas development,” but told Reuters that many of the chemical substances “tentatively identified” by the EPA were “naturally occurring and some are commonly found in household products and agricultural degreasers.”

In 2006, when EnCana was fined $266,000 by the state of Colorado for “failure to protect water-bearing formations,” a company spokesman complained to the press that environmentalists had been spreading “misinformation” about fracking and creating a climate of fear about hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The public, however, has no way of knowing what’s in the fracking fluids because the chemicals used are considered a “trade secret” – or rather, many trade secrets.

Oil and gas companies like EnCana, Imperial Oil, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, Nexen, etc., generally don’t do the hydraulic fracturing themselves, but instead hire speciality services to do it. Each of the big players in the multi-billion-dollar fracking industry – Halliburton, Calfrac Well Services, Schlumberger, BJ Services (all of which operate in Western Canada) – has its own recipe for fracking fluids, of which it is fiercely protective.

As Halliburton spokeswoman Diana Gabriel has told the press, “If these formulas were to become available to other companies, it is possible that we could lose our competitive advantage... not only [here], but throughout the world.”

The precise nature and concentrations of the chemicals in these “proprietary fluids” are not even fully known to government regulatory agencies, though in its 2004 study the EPA found biocides and lubricants that “can cause kidney, liver, heart, blood, and brain damage through prolonged or repeated exposure.”

By examining drillers’ patent applications and government worker health and safety records, some environmentalists and regulators in the U.S. have been able to piece together a list of some of the fracking fluid ingredients. These include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel (which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and naphthalene), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers, hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide. According to Business Week, “Of more than 300 chemicals thought to be in use by drillers, more than 60 are listed as hazardous.”

But that proprietary secrecy may be about to change.

Government Action

The pending U.S. FRAC Act, besides regulating hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act, would also require public disclosure of the chemicals used in fracturing fluids.

Of course, industry has been lobbying fiercely against the FRAC Act, claiming that its chemical fracking solutions constitute less than 2% of the large volume of water and proppant mixture injected into natural gas wells and are therefore diluted. On the other hand, industry also claims that “disclosure would only make people nervous,” Business Week reported: “’We have a proven process in place to protect groundwater,’ says Doug Hock, a spokesman for EnCana... ‘Information about the chemicals used in fracturing is complex and could unnecessarily frighten the public,’ he adds.”

Several state and local governments aren’t waiting for the pending FRAC Act, but are already taking action to tighten rules on the use of hydraulic fracturing, which has been expanding rapidly across the U.S. By 2007, there were 449,000 natural gas wells in 32 U.S. states – an increase of more than 30% since 2000 -- with serious episodes of groundwater contamination near drilling sites documented in seven states.

Given the massive development set for the huge Marcellus Shale area -- which stretches from upstate New York through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and eastern Ohio -- several New York City councillors (and a New York Times editorial) are now calling for a ban on hydraulic fracturing throughout the watershed from which the city obtains most of its drinking water.

Meanwhile, in Western Canada, because of the economic downturn, the industry has forecast “only 10,000” new wells to be drilled in 2009.

The B.C. government has been pushing drilling for unconventional sources of natural gas since at least 2005, offering $50,000 royalty credits for every well drilled before December 2008, and selling oil and gas “sub-surface rights” (see sidebar) at a fever pitch. In 2006, researchers for West Coast Environmental Law published a report noting that the oil and gas industry had identified at least six areas of B.C. holding coal-bed methane natural gas potential: Peace country in the northeast; Elk Valley in the southeast; Vancouver Island; the south-central interior (around Merritt and Princeton); northwestern B.C. (around Telkwa and Iskut); and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Both B.C. and Saskatchewan have been courting the industry with lax or no environmental regulations and promises of low royalties charged to the companies. Alberta has recently promised a one-year extension on incentives to boost drilling, including royalty credits of C$200 for each meter of new well depth drilled.

Critics are calling this natural gas development a “massive industrialization of rural landscapes and lives,” but it is also a threat to communities’ drinking water. The provincial government of B.C. allows companies to drill and frack natural gas wells within 100 metres of people’s homes.

The American Petroleum Institute website displays a “Hydraulic Fracturing Q & A’s” page that includes this paragraph: “Isn’t there [also] a risk that hydraulic fracturing will use up an area’s water supplies? No. Local authorities control water use and can restrict it if necessary. In many areas, water is recycled and reused; in some cases companies pay for the water they use, which comes from a variety of sources.”

The huge volumes of water used in fracking are taken from rivers, lakes, private water sources, or municipal water sources.

We appear to be trading the safety and security of our water for the safety and security of the natural gas industry. While natural gas is touted as a “clean energy” source, the method of extracting this fossil fuel is dirty, indeed.

(Joyce Nelson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and the author of five books.)

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Study: Fracking a contamination risk

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/
2010/01/20/am-fracking/

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A new study finds hydraulic fracturing, a process energy companies use to free up oil and gas reserves from rocks, can also contaminate ground water with known carcinogens. Environmental advocates want the process regulated. Sam Eaton reports.

Steve Chiotakis: Well this morning, Congress is scheduled to look into ExxonMobil's planned purchase of natural gas giant XTO Energy. But the hearing may be less about the buy-out than controversial drilling practices natural gas producers use. From the Marketplace sustainability desk, here's Sam Eaton.

Sam Eaton: It's called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Energy companies inject water, sand and chemicals into rock formations. That creates thousands of cracks in the rock freeing up hard-to-reach oil and gas reserves.

But a new study by the Environmental Working Group says the process can also contaminate ground water with known carcinogens, like benzene. That's why the report's author, Dusty Horwitt, says Congress needs to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Right now, oil and gas companies are exempt.

Dusty Horwitt: You know, the industry has talked about the cost that, you know, it will have to pay to comply with these laws that everyone else has to comply with. But they don't talk so much about the cost of cleaning up contaminated water, which can be astronomical.

Horwitt says water contamination in upstate New York, for example, would force New York City to spend billions of dollars building a new treatment plant. The oil industry says fracking is completely safe.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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Fracking Fluids Part I: A controversy coming to an energy investment near you

http://www.resourceinvestor.com/News/2010/3/Pages/
Fracking-Fluids-Part-I-A-controversy-coming-to-an-energy-investment-near-you.aspx

Keith Schaefer, oilandgas-investments.com Published 3/8/2010

The controversy surrounding fracking fluids is getting louder. Websites and media savvy organizations are getting more press on this issue, using a very simple and powerful pitch – are the chemicals used in fracking fluids in oil and gas wells contaminating our drinking water?

North American investors have not been directly hit by this issue yet, meaning that a company’s stock hasn’t plummeted because they had to stop drilling over these concerns – yet.

“Fracking” is sending a specially designed fluid down an oil or gas well at ultra-high pressure. The fluid, usually water – but can contain some chemicals with very long names – gets blown out into the reservoir rock, creating cracks and channels to allow the oil & gas to get to the well.

The technologies of horizontal drilling and fracking has allowed the industry to access huge untapped resources of oil and gas in shale rock, which is called “tight” because shale is more dense, or tight, than the sand formations which has produced almost all the oil & gas in the world. All the shale gas plays in the US and Canada, and the Bakken oil shale play in North Dakota and Saskatchewan have created billions of dollars of shareholder wealth and given North America self sufficiency and independence in natural gas.

Fracking and horizontal drilling ended the big bull run of natural gas prices from 2002-2008, where prices went from under $2/mcf to over $14/mcf. And many industry experts are now saying so much natural gas has been discovered because of newly developed fracking ability that prices won’t see double digit prices for many years.

(I wrote a story on the growing importance of fracking – to the industry and to investors – which you can read here: http://tinyurl.com/yjxexl6)

But the fracking-fluids-potentially-contaminating-water issue has legs – which really surprises me that I haven’t heard more pro-active PR from the industry about their side of this story. Investors ought to be aware of this issue, especially in shale gas/oil plays close to large population centres, such as the Marcellus Shale Gas play in New York state (where one gas stock in particular has me very, very intrigued….). I fear this could be a PR disaster for the industry if they don’t handle this properly. (Of course, this would be bullish for natural gas prices across North America….there’s a silver lining everywhere. A cynic might even say this issue – which is mostly heard in the US - could be one of the saviours of the Western Canadian gas industry.)

I asked a friend of mine at a Canadian fracking company – who for obvious reasons wants to stay anonymous – to explain this issue for me in simple terms. He says sometimes there are some “nasty” chemicals used in fracking, but he estimated that 70% of frack jobs use ingredients you buy at a grocery store.

In my next story – Fracking Fluids Part II, he will share his “secret” recipe, outlining how he makes homemade frac sand from ingredients at the grocery store.

“I make a frac gel using household items – MacGyver style,” he told me. “I am literally using items my wife buys regularly and can in a few moments generate a stable frac gel that the kids can hold and play with. For less than 20 bucks you can whip this together and cover frack gels for ~70+% of all work done in fracturing.”

Stay tuned; MacGyver will tell all in Part II.

Keith Schaefer is publisher of www.oilandgas-investments.com.

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Alberta firm eyes Ontario's untapped shale gas

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/
782552--alberta-firm-eyes-ontario-s-untapped-shale-gas.

While U.S. northeast, Quebec capture the spotlight, Mooncor is securing rights to quantify deposit here

By Tyler Hamilton Energy and Technology Columnist March 20, 2010

A junior oil and gas company from Alberta has been quietly scooping up land rights in southwestern Ontario, part of an audacious plan to bring Alberta-style exploration to the birthplace of Canada's petroleum industry.

MORE:
http://www.thestar.com/business/article/
782552--alberta-firm-eyes-ontario-s-untapped-shale-gas.

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Shale gas 'fracking' in Ontario brings water concerns

From: <bpatterson@canadians.org>
Sent: Saturday, March 20, 2010 7:20 AM

The Toronto Star reports that Calgary-based Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. has been buying land rights in southwestern Ontario for shale gas drilling.

Mooncor intends to drill in the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale in Lambton and Kent counties, and the Collingwood/Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale.

"It has already locked up nearly 23,000 acres (9.30776 hectares) of land in Lambton and Kent counties..."

"Shale gas is called an unconventional natural gas because extracting it isn't as easy as drilling a deep hole into a reservoir and simply pumping its contents to the surface. Instead, the gas is trapped in cracks, pores and organic material within a sedimentary rock called shale, which is made mostly of clay minerals. The resource may be widely dispersed, but getting at it is tricky. It must often be coaxed out using a horizontal drilling technique that hydraulically fractures ('fracking') (emphasis added. Ed.) the rock and causes the gas to flow toward a vertical collection well."

As described by Environmental Leader news, "the hydraulic fracturing process involves taking water from the ground, pumping fracturing fluids and sands into the wells under pressure, then separating and managing the leftover water after withdrawing the gas."

The Toronto Star report continues, "As the rest of the industry rushes to develop shale-gas projects in the prolific Marcellus shale deposits of the U.S. northeast (from New York State and Pennsylvania to West Virginia) and the Utica shales of Quebec, Mooncor is gaining a solid foothold in Ontario."

The article notes that the gas can presently cause an "egg smell' in well water, but also that "the rush to develop the Marcellus Shale has led to widespread concern about the hydraulic fracturing process and how the use of toxic chemicals in that process could affect the local watershed and make residents who rely on well water sick."

"New York State has banned high-volume drilling of horizontal wells until it can thoroughly study the concerns. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also weighed in and could soon have more industry oversight as a result of a congressional investigation of the practice."

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that this past Thursday the EPA "launched a study to determine whether (hydraulic fracturing) is contaminating water supplies."

The WSJ notes, "Last month, Steve Heare, director of EPA's Drinking Water Protection Division, said at a conference he hadn't seen any documented cases that the fracking process was contaminating water supplies. Bill Kappel, a US Geological Survey official, said at the same conference that contamination of water supplies is more likely to happen as companies process the waste water from hydrofracking. In some instances, municipal water systems that treat the water have reported higher levels of heavy metals and radioactivity."

The Toronto Star article notes that, "A green light from regulators, however, could unleash a wave of shale-gas development in Ontario." In fact, Natural Resources Canada and Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources promote shale gas drilling in Ontario.

Mooncor is also "preparing to spin off a separate company called DRGN Resources that will focus its efforts on both conventional and unconventional gas drilling."

The full article - which largely presents this drilling as a good opportunity for the province - is at:

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/
782552--alberta-firm-eyes-ontario-s-untapped-shale-gas.

Brent Patterson
The Council of Canadians
www.canadians.org/campaignblog
Oscar
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