Posts tagged "Safe Drinking Water Act"
Seriously? Are We Really Fact-Checking Jim from “The Office” Now?
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | 1 Comment
**Cross posted from EnergyinDepth.org**
Folks who stayed up after Led Zeppelin’s interview and guest performance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” last night were treated to a short segment featuring the talented actor John Krasinski, known by most for his role as “Jim” on “The Office,” but now carving out some new credentials as the writer of the screenplay for “Promised Land,” a film in which he co-stars with the dreamy (notwithstanding that buzz-cut he’s currently sporting) Matt Damon.
Heretofore, the promotional activities associated with the soon-to-be-released movie have been pretty low-key – a few interviews with the film and entertainment rags, a Facebook post or two, a quick sit-down with The Today Show, and a fairly subdued online chat with the New York Times. And the funny thing is, for a movie that’s supposed to be some sort of polemic about “hydraulic fracturing,” that topic really hasn’t come up a whole lot yet as part of the interviews they’ve done. Indeed, Krasinski (and Damon too) continue to go to great lengths to assure us that this film isn’t about hydraulic fracturing at all – insisting instead that it’s a story about “American identity,” which we assume is something really profound that only folks in Hollywood would fully understand.
Anyway, Krasinski’s interview with Letterman was going along just fine last night – lots of talk about how Led Zeppelin’s the greatest band ever (we agree); good bit of chatter about how Krasinski’s career has really taken off; some friendly banter about how gorgeous Matt Damon is, the usual stuff. But then the topic turned to hydraulic fracturing, and, as sometimes they do on Letterman, things turned really silly really quickly from there – with Letterman querying whether he could ask the decidedly non-technical Krasinski “a technical question” about hydraulic fracturing, leading to a two-minute, fact-free explanation of a process about which neither participant proved to have any real, actual, discernible knowledge.
So then: since it can be assumed that John Krasinski will be doing more of these promotional interviews in the weeks and months to come – and likely will be fielding additional questions about what hydraulic fracturing is, how it’s done, and how it’s regulated – here below, a quick “cheat sheet” with information on everything he talked about last night … so that next time, he can get it right.
Krasinski: Hydraulic fracturing is “drilling into shale deposits rather than oil deposits.”
- First of all, hydraulic fracturing is not a drilling technique. When companies want to develop oil and natural gas from shale, and after they have conducted all of the preliminary geologic monitoring and testing, they drill down to what’s known as the target formation, which is the geologic area from which they will be producing oil or natural gas. For hydraulic fracturing to occur, however, the drilling equipment must first leave the well pad. Trucks and other equipment enter the well pad after the drilling rig has left, and then the process of hydraulic fracturing can commence. So when Krasinski says of hydraulic fracturing: “basically it’s just a long drill,” that’s clearly not the case.
- As the director of Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, Herschel McDivitt, has said: “Remember that drilling is drilling, well construction is well construction…producing is producing, and fracing is fracing.”
- Secondly, a shale deposit and an oil deposit are not mutually exclusive things. Indeed, the massive Bakken oil field in North Dakota and large parts of the Eagle Ford shale in south Texas, for example, are oil deposits. Shale and other “tight” reservoirs are the source rock for oil and natural gas, and the fact that the industry can produce from these formations is proof that they are, in fact, oil and natural gas deposits. After all, the oil and natural gas produced from shale formations is no different than the oil and natural gas produced in what some call “conventional” wells – deposits that don’t need added stimulation like hydraulic fracturing.
Letterman: “Now let me ask you a technical question. There is the ‘deep fracking’ that you go deep, and then, and then, horizontal – and then there is the more shallow version of it. … And it’s my understanding that the more shallow version of it is the more dangerous – the more …”
Krasinski: “Yes. Because it’s releasing gases, um, they’re not able to trap it as much, um, it’s coming right through the ground.”
- Whether the well is shallow or deep, the fracturing process really doesn’t change a whole lot. Sure, the volume of pressure and water needed may differ, with deeper wells requiring more and shallower ones less, but the basic mechanics of a fracturing operation don’t change based on depth: no matter how you slice it, it’s about delivering water, sand and pressure downhole, to create millimeter-sized conduits in rock for hydrocarbons to access the wellbore. Some folks would like you to believe that shale “fracking” is different from conventional stimulation – so that they can convince you that the former is more dangerous than the latter, or maybe the other way around? We don’t remember. But it’s not.
- Of course, shallow or deep, hydraulic fracturing has been applied more than 1.2 million times since 1947, and there is not a single confirmed case of water contamination. How do we know that? Well, for one, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – under three separate administrations – has said so. Here’s what Lisa Jackson, current EPA administrator, said earlier this year: “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.” That’s one heck of a record.
- We’re not really sure what Krasinski means when he says “it’s releasing gases” and that the industry can’t “trap it as much,” though – we think he may just be free-styling there. What he may be referring to, however, is the fact that shallow geologic formations often contain deposits of methane. These are also often the same deposits that have naturally entered into water wells, a phenomenon that has been documented for centuries. In many parts of Pennsylvania, for example, methane bubbles to the surface in small rivers and creeks – all due to natural processes. What the industry usually targets for shale development, however, are formations a mile or more below groundwater supplies, and obviously much further from the surface.
Letterman: “And chemicals are used to blow it back out of the shale.”
Letterman: “And chemicals which not necessarily need to be identified …”
Krasinski: “Ahhhh, who needs that?”
Letterman: “So. And a provision removed from the EPA Clean Water bill …”
Krasinski: “You’ve done your homework …”
Letterman: “So these oil companies and go ahead and use whatever they want. And would only have to reveal what was in there if there was a problem.”
- Oof. Unfortuantely, there’s clearly much more homework to be done here!
- Regarding the claim that the chemicals don’t need to be identified, that’s not true. States across the country have mandatory disclosure laws on the books, and other states are moving forward with similar such laws, typically with the support of the industry. Many operators, however, already use FracFocus.org, which is an online database of the additives used during hydraulic fracturing. Visitors to that site can search on a well-by-well basis to discover what is and isn’t in the specific fracturing fluid used at a particular well site.
- FracFocus has been highly praised, too. For example, here’s how President Obama’s energy and climate change advisorHeather Zichal described it: “As an administration, we believe that FracFocus is an important tool that provides transparency to the American people.”
- Also, the “EPA Clean Water bill” (which is actually the Safe Drinking Water Act) was amended in 2005 to affirm that the strong regulatory regime already in place at the state level – which the current EPA has applauded for doing a “good job” of protecting the environment – should remain the primary means of regulation for hydraulic fracturing. Nothing was “removed” from SDWA, which has been the law of the land for nearly forty years – and, by the way, was never designed to cover hydraulic fracturing.
Letterman: “And that’s where we see the stories of … ‘er, turn on the water, ma’ … whoosh. And you know, the sink explodes.”
Krasinski: “Yeah. Gives new meaning to ‘fire water.’”
- Flaming water? We can only guess this is coming from that emblematic scene in Gasland where a Weld County, Colorado man lights his tap water on fire.
- What did that film leave out? Well, Colorado regulators were interested in that incident and decided to investigate. They even released a fact sheet in response to the film. Those same regulators said this particular case “was not related to oil and gas activity,” but rather a result of what’s known as biogenic methane – that is, methane that occurs naturally in groundwater.
Letterman: “But the thing about the film. I know it happens. There are towns in the north and the west where people are divided. Because some towns are in desperate economic need. And some towns want to preserve the culture that they like about their hometown.”
Krasinski: “100 percent.”
- The great news here is that shale development is not a barrier to towns who want to “preserve the culture that they like about their hometown.” In fact, the small businesses that populate Main Street in towns across the country are often some of the biggest beneficiaries of shale development. People who work for the industry need places to eat, apartments to sleep in, and other stores to do their shopping. These workers are also members of the community, and they like to support local businesses just as much as their fellow citizens.
- But the bigger point here is that the “division” between economic benefits and environmental protection is one that has been invented by opponents of development. Yes, there are risks inherent with all forms of energy. And residents have a right to ask questions and demand answers – based in fact – about what the impacts may or may not be in their communities. The industry frequently holds open forums and information sessions in towns across the country to engage in this dialogue and address concerns.
- What opponents have done, however, is undermine that good faith discussion by trying to convince landowners that the industry is only looking out for “profits” and will pollute the water, cause earthquakes, and countless other problems. They have lodged accusations designed to secure headlines, and tragically, they have been very successful.
- The reality is that shale development is done under tight regulatory regimes in every state, and higher operating standards help ensure that these processes are done efficiently and responsibly.
- That means we don’t have to pick between a healthy environment and strong local economies, though we also acknowledge that the best Hollywood movies are based on conflict, not harmony – even if that conflict has been largely manufactured.
Energy In Depth Ohio Injects Itself Into a Disposal Well
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 | 1 Comment
Energy In Depth Ohio recently visited a Class II injection well to get a first-hand look at the disposal well process. Our host, Dave Hill, President of David R. Hill, Inc, gave us an all access tour of his facilities and showed us the numerous safety and environmental safeguards in place at these facilities. We share that experience with you on this blog to help Ohioans gain a better sense of how this asset safely disposes byproducts from oil and natural gas development.
Injection Well Background
Injection wells have been regulated by the U.S. EPA for nearly 40 years under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In that time there have been over 144,000 Class II injection wells permitted and constructed in the United States. Here in Ohio, our Class II Injection well program is regulated under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after they received primacy from the US EPA in 1985. Ohio has permitted 181 injection wells for disposal of produced water from oil and natural gas development.
Steps Involved in the Injection Well Process
There are primarily four steps that go into the injection well process at Mr. Hill’s facility.
Once the water leaves the water trucks, it is pumped into the storage tanks. It is allowed to settle out by gravity, then the water is pumped into the pumped house. We have two large Triplex pumps that take the water and pump the water back into the ground in a well just a few feet behind us at 8,900 feet deep. After the trucks unload the brine, it is pumped into large storage tanks on site where it settles out by using gravity. – Dave Hill
Although the process seems simple enough, it is actually a very delicate process that all begins when a brine truck comes to the site and parks in the bay. Once in the bay, the driver hooks a hose to the brine tank on the truck and pumps the produced water into the well’s storage tanks.
When the trucks are finished pumping they fill out a report detailing what was hauled and the natural gas well site where the liquids originated among other items. The report is in essence a timeline from pick up to delivery – much like the system in place to track a Fed Ex or UPS package.
It contains the UIC number, who the truck owner is. The day they picked it up. The time they picked it up. Who the drive is and where they took it. They brought it to our well, our permit number. API permit number. It has to have the API permit number where it came from, whether its pit water or production water and then the time they dispose it. So it is literally like a chain of custody. – Dave Hill
There are 21 tanks on Mr. Hill’s operation including four large storage tanks where produced water is pumped. The water is then cycled through the remaining 14 tanks until it is transferred into the pump house. The gravity allows most of the dirt or rocks to settle before being transferred to the pump house.
With these storage tanks holding produced water, an operator takes great measure to ensure proper protections are in place. The storage tanks actually sit within a berm with thick plastic lining the area. The berm is designed to hold the entire amount of liquid held in the storage tanks if all of it were to escape- a very unlikely proposition.
If, in the very rare circumstance there is a leak, there is a sump pump designed to pump the leaked liquid back into the storage tanks for proper disposal.
Once in the pump house, the produced water is filtered to remove any dirt and rocks remaining in the water as those remnants could plug the well. Once the produced water is filtered it then goes to one of the Triplex pumps for disposal.
The disposal well itself contains multiple layers of steel and concrete designed to protect the water aquifer from potential contamination. Dave Hill explains the well’s safeguards in the video below including the levels of redundancy designed to exceed those in place in the airline industry for example.
8,902 feet deep is the total depth. We have three layers of casing, surrounded by three layers of cement. So if there was to be an issue here, the water would literally have to break through 4 layers of steel and 3 layers of cement to contaminate the fresh water. – Dave Hill
The well itself is outside the pump house and is smack dab in the middle of a functioning cow pasture. When walking to the well you couldn’t help but notice that the cattle graze all around the fenced in well. Luckily I missed stepping in more than a few cow patties.
The disposal site is roughly the size of a parking spot fenced in to make sure the cows do not disturb the operation. As you can see in the video below the cows graze right beside the fenced in area and are not bothered by the operation.
The elaborate set of pipes takes the produced water from the pump and injects it into the cased and cemented well. At the site is also a telemetry device that enables remote monitoring of the well which allows the well to be monitored inside of the pump house as well as from other remote locations.
A disposal well tour is not something most folks have an opportunity to do. However, it is a worthwhile activity as it provides perspective one could never get otherwise. That is the understanding that disposal wells are a sophisticated and environmentally friendly way of disposing produced water and are a testament to the high safety measures operators take in developing our natural resources.
*UPDATE II* Going Off The Rails On A Hagan Train
Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 | 1 Comment
UPDATE II (2/21/12, 8:00 A.M.):
We know a group of protestors disrupted the Governor’s State of the State address last week, but we didn’t know much about those protestors until today. Via The Dispatch, below is footage of one of the protestors who was removed for disrupting the address. This activist went to great lengths -and great volume – to disrupt the Governor’s speech, and provided an interesting perspective on natural resources recovery in Ohio. It’s unclear if this protestor was one of the attendees bussed to the event by State Representative Hagan, for his sake we hope there is no connection.
UPDATE (2/14/12, 4:00 p.m.) He’s back.
The Columbus Dispatch broke a story this week that Rep. Hagan actively sought to disrupt Governor Kasich’s State of the State Address. According to the Dispatch, Hagan provided transportation to 35 protestors to help them disrupt the Governor’s remarks. The Representative was also reportedly seen handing out tickets to local Occupy protestors so they could disrupt the event as well. All of this occurring as the Governor was highlighting the need for public officials to work together to ensure Ohio remains on an upward track in tackling the challenges that face residents throughout the Buckeye State.
As most know by now, on New Year’s Eve a 4.0 earthquake struck near Youngstown prompting Governor Kasich and ODNR to halt injections at Youngstown area UIC wells until more facts come to light. While investigations continue, the decision by Governor Kasich and ODNR was the right course of action and was fully supported by all stakeholders, including the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. However, Rep. Bob Hagan has used this unique event, to incorrectly disparage an industry that is already reviving Ohio’s Steel Industry and is providing thousands of good paying-jobs for Ohioans with up to 200,000 more expected over the next few years. After hearing the Representative say some statements out of touch with the facts on the ground in Ohio we wanted to take a minute to correct the record and help provide some understanding to the situation at hand.
Rep. Hagan: “56% of the chemicals,the toxic chemicals that are being shipped from out of state are being shipped into our state. Why? That question has to be answered.” (Rep. Bob Hagan, January 11th, Covelli Centre, Youngstown)
- Ohio, like every other state, must accept produced water because of the Dormant Commerce clause, which is part of the Interstate Commerce Clause. The best example goes back to the ruling in Philadelphia vs. New Jersey When the Supreme Court ordered New Jersey to accept waste, liquid or solid, from other states. As a result, all states including Ohio, can’t block shipments of disposal products like produced water.
- Produced water is not hazardous waste as defined by the EPA. If the EPA determined the produced water to be hazardous it would be disposed of in Class I injection wells.
- It’s also worth mentioning that in 1983 then Rep. Bob Hagan, Sr. led the effort to mandate Class II injection wells as the preferred method of oil and gas waste disposal in Ohio. This led to their preferred use, and phenomenal success rate in Ohio, as well as their status as the primary means of safely disposing of brine and other materials from oil and gas development activities.
Rep. Hagan: “The New York Times did a study here and that they found out, its not even being asked in Ohio, that there is radiation poisoning in these wells.” (Rep. Bob Hagan, January 11th, Covelli Centre, Youngstown, 0.18)
- A radiological survey report by the Co-Physics Corporation in New York recently concluded rock cuttings from the gas drilling operations, as sampled during this project, have radionuclide levels that do not pose any environmental health problems.
- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recent Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement On The Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program revised on September 2011 states: that based upon currently available information it is anticipated that flowback water do not contain levels of NORM of significance
- The radioactive waste Rep. Hagan references is not as dangerous as he makes seem. NORM or Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material is surprisingly pervasive in every day life. It even occurs in our bodies in the form of radioactive potassium. You can find it in public drinking water, Brazil nuts, peanut butter or the air to name a few. On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 620 millirem each year. None of these levels are dangerous to human health
ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Chief Rick Simmers explains there are no health implications from disposing of fluid or cuttings from exploration in Ohio:
radioactive materials that can be associated with oil and gas or injection operations are sometimes referred to as NORM or Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material or TENORM Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material. These type of radioactive isotopes are literally in everything, including us.
The Ohio Department of Health is the agency that regulates NORM, TENORM and radioactive issues as a whole. The Ohio Department of Health has tested locations throughout the Utica Shale. They have looked at drill cuttings. They have looked at fluids and have found there are very low levels of NORM well within the established limits by the federal government and reflected in state law. Rick Simmers (January 11th, Covelli Centre, Youngstown)
Rep. Hagan: ”I want to know why it’s such a big secret that we can’t get information from the Governor. We can’t get information from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. We can’t get information from the Ohio EPA, the US EPA and the Ohio Geological Society. All of them are hiding. And why are they hiding. Because money is making them hide.” (Rally at the Ohio Statehouse January 10th, Columbus, 1:01 )
- No one is hiding. ODNR was in fact scheduled to appear in Youngstown the very next day to address concerns of the citizens of Mahoning County with Rep. Bob Hagan at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.
- Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Dave Hall has scheduled a hearing at Youngstown State University on January 16th regarding the topic of disposal wells and seismology.
- The House of Representatives, and ODNR, are both stepping up to address the situation and to accuse them of completely ignoring the situation is purely political on the Representatives part.
- ODNR is currently producing a study in regards to these seismic events. It would be irresponsible to rush this study until they have conclusive evidence for or against the disposal well operator. They have already shut down 5 disposal wells as a proactive approach until the study is complete.
Rep Hagan: “Under the Clean Water Act introduced and passed under the Bush Administration in 2005, it precluded any of the gas and oil industry people from being charged from being charged they pollute water or water table itself. So the Clean Water Act certainly was supposed to be something that protected all of our aquifers and our clean water for the protection of the people and our drinking water as well Mike. Second part is the mystery of what chemical they are mixing. 97-98% is water,1-2% is sand and the mystery of what those other chemicals are… “(Rep. Bob Hagan on Sound of Ideas, 3:17 of this link)
“That is the answer we don’t even know what those chemicals are. We have no idea.” (Rep. Bob Hagan, January 11th, Covelli Centre, Youngstown, 0.11)
- Nothing of this magnitude was precluded in the Clean Water Act. The use of injection wells is regulated under the Underground Injection Control program of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, passed by Congress in 1974. EPA administers the UIC program, and delegates regulatory authority over SDWA to the state of Ohio. The underground injection program is regulated under Section 1422 of the Safe Drinking Water Act where it has always been regulated.
- The main objective of the UIC program requires Class II wells to ensure the protection on underground sources of drinking water.
- Hydraulic fracturing solution is not an unknown mystery. For starters, 99.5% of it is water and sand. The remaining .5% is comprised of additives commonly found at home or under your sink, including guar gum – commonly used as a dairy thickener in yogurt and ice-cream.
- FracFocus.org is a great resource which provides an in depth analysis of hydraulic fracturing fluids being used on a well-pad by well-pad basis. You can use this resources to see the stimulation fluids producers are using to enhance production on a well-by-well basis. It’s so secretive it’s only a mouse click away.
Rep Hagan: “Remember this, remember it loud and clear: We never had an earthquake until John Kasich was elected governor.” (0:01)
- Ohio has always had a history of seismic events dating back to June 18, 1875. All of this activity has monitored, researched and documented by the Ohio Seismic Network.
- One would assume that he would remember the earthquake in Northeast Ohio on January 31, 1986. The earthquake registered 5.0 on the Richter scale and was felt throughout Ohio and neighboring states.
- There were over 25 earthquakes of 2.0 or greater during the Strickland Administration.
Given the importance of what is at stake it is critical that we have a discussion based on fact and science. This week, the residents of Youngstown will have another opportunity to hear about shale development and have their concerns addressed by experts studying the issue (be sure to follow Energy in Depth – Ohio for more coverage on Tuesday’s event). We hope concerned citizens will attend to hear these experts and will hopefully gain some perspective on the issue.
Tags: Class II Wells, Columbus Dispatch, Hydraulic fracturing, NORM, ODNR, Ohio energy, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Ohio jobs, Produced Water, Rep. Bob Hagan, Safe Drinking Water Act, State of the State, Youngstown Business Journal
Athens County Commission Will Embrace Shale or Stagnation
Friday, February 3rd, 2012 | 5 Comments
I have a unique connection to Athens – it is home to Ohio University, mine and my parents’ alma mater– and of course it remains the home of friends, family and fond memories. I had all of this in mind when the Athens County Commissioners considered a proposal to restrict natural gas development.
The restrictions, of course, are being proposed by groups using false statements based in fear and speculation to halt natural gas development before it can even begin. Opposition groups use this tactic knowing that once development begins, and the benefits begin racking up, communities take notice and support shale development overwhelmingly. Especially communities like ours which have a long history of poverty, high unemployment and economic decline. Luckily for us, we already have a strong contingent of shale supporters- the not so silent majority- who will fight actions like the ones being proposed.
While at the meeting a lot of bad information was thrown around. Given that the Utica Shale has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and help return prosperity to Athens I feel compelled to correct some of the accusations thrown around as the stakes are pretty high in this game. Look no further than a new study which confirms that states, and communities, that responsibly develop their homegrown energy resources tend to do better economically than areas that do not.
At the meeting many claimed hydraulic fracturing is a new process. While the conversation is new, the process is not. As the old adage goes, folks are entitled to their own opinion not their own facts. The facts, according to ODNR and others, show that fracturing has been used in more than 15,000 Ohio wells since 1990 and in over 85,000 Ohio wells since 1953.
In all of these applications, and in over 1.2 million applications worldwide, there has never been a confirmed case of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing. This has been reaffirmed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Groundwater Protection Council and state regulators across the nation among many others.
The same process that has been used for years is used today, only now it’s more refined, precise and includes significant environmental safeguards. Fracturing solutions are composed of 99.5% water and sand with 0.5 % of solution. This is injected under pressure into shale formations to create tiny fissures allowing the oil and gas to escape. It is the same technique as used in the more common Clinton or Berea wells that have been developed in Ohio and Athens since the 1950’s.
It has been argued that horizontal exploration is new, and somehow alters the process into something entirely different. Again, this is not the case. Commercial use of horizontal well development was first practiced in France in 1983. Developing a well horizontally allows qn operator to access reserves while decreasing their environmental footprint. With one horizontally well, operators are now able to access the equivalent of what would have previously taken thirty-two wells.
Some tend to refer to the whole process of development as called hydraulic fracturing. It is important to point out hydraulic fracturing is only one step used in development and lasts just a few days, 3-5 to be exact.
There are several other misconceptions. One is that hydraulic fracturing solution is secret, kept behind lock and key. This is simply not true. Want to know what’s in fracturing fluid? Well, visit fracfocus.org to find a searchable well-by-well database of what’s being used in the fracturing process; you can also visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources web page. Here in Ohio, State law stipulates that companies file a completion report, including the content of hydraulic fracturing solutions, to the state regulatory agency.
Another misconception is that groundwater is at risk during development. Section 1509.221 of Ohio Code clearly states:
“A well shall be constructed using sufficient steel or conductor casing in a manner that supports unconsolidated sediments, that protects and isolates all underground sources of drinking water as defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act”.
ODNR will only issue a permit if it concludes the extraction of oil and gas will not result in the presence of any contaminant in underground water where the presence of that contaminant may result in the system’s not complying with any national primary drinking water regulation or may otherwise adversely affect the health of persons. In fact, many operators in Ohio are currently exceeding the regulations in place to provide additional protections against groundwater contamination.
To be clear – there is NO “Haliburton loophole”. It has been suggested (incorrectly) that hydraulic fracturing was once regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and was strategically removed from SDWA. This is simply not the case. Hydraulic fracturing has never been regulated under the SDWA by the EPA in the history of the law or the agency. For the oil and gas industry, SDWA deals with the regulation of produced waters being disposed of via the underground injection control (UIC) program. Hydraulic fracturing has always been regulated by states.
The development of oil and gas is also regulated by the Clean Air Act and no less than six federal environmental laws. Under the Clean Air Act in particular, oil and gas operations are subject to the National Primary and Secondary Ambient Air Quality Standards and Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources portions of the Clean Air Act just to name a few. In fact, Ohio EPA is currently in the process of implementing new air quality rules on oil and gas development.
I am hopeful my testimony was helpful in separating science and experience from speculation and falsehoods. I am hopeful that Athens County will act in the best interest of all its citizens and embrace the economic hope that natural gas development will bring to our region.
Injecting Some Facts, History into the Conversation over Seismicity
Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 | 2 Comments
For nearly 40 years now, the state of Ohio has relied upon federally regulated underground injection wells as a safe and effective means for disposing of wastewater deep underground. Injection wells have been used in the United States since the early 1930s, and around the world dating all the way back to 300 A.D., according to EPA.
But if your only source of information on this issue is what you’ve read in the papers or seen on the news the past couple days, this is probably the first time you’re hearing this. You might even think that hydraulic fracturing is somehow to blame, notwithstanding statement after statement from federal scientists indicating it did not play, and physically could not have played, a role in the low-intensity seismic event that was felt in the Mahoning Valley over the holidays.
The two of us have a combined 65 years’ worth of experience when it comes to the siting, construction, permitting, use and policy implications of underground injection wells. Both of us were around in the ancient days of the 1980s when Ohio was first granted primacy by EPA to administer on its behalf what’s called the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program – a designation that was never given to our neighbors in Pennsylvania.
And we were also around in 1983, when state Rep. Robert E. Hagan of Lake County introduced House Bill 501, which called for a moratorium on all oil and gas activity in Ohio until the Division of Oil and Gas could certify that a sufficient number of underground injection wells existed to handle all produced brine. Thankfully, there were, and the bill was signed into law by Democratic governor Dick Celeste in 1985. Ever since, injection wells have been the law of the land in Ohio – not just a disposal option for producers, but one that is mandated under law.
Nearly 30 years removed from the passage of HB 501, Ohio today is home to nearly 180 “Class II” injection wells, which covers all liquid-based wastes associated with oil and natural gas development. Sounds like a lot – until you consider that more than 144,000 Class II wells are currently in operation in America, accepting more than two billion gallons of brine for permanent disposal each day. In 2011, Ohio accepted an estimated 1.03 million gallons a day – or about five-hundredths of one percent of the nation’s total.
Given the current media coverage of the seismic events in Youngstown, an understanding of the history and process of utilizing injection wells as a disposal method is imperative. While no clear linkage has been established connecting these injection wells with the seismic events themselves, it is important to recognize this conversation is limited to a single injection well in the Mahoning Valley, and not the centuries-old method of waste disposal itself – or the hundreds of other wells permitted and in operation all across the state.
Injection of produced fluids deep underground has proven to be safe and highly-effective means of protecting the environment, while generating much-needed revenue for the state of Ohio. Unfortunately, some of the folks speaking with the loudest voices right now in opposition to these wells appear to be among the folks with the least awareness of the decades-long history associated with the UIC program.
Of course, both of us respect the decision by Governor Kasich and ODNR to temporary halt injections at the Youngstown UIC well until more facts come to light. Our industry is committed to ensuring this matter is resolved in the proper manner, with facts – and not hyperbole – informing any decisions that will be made in the future.
What’s unfortunate is that some folks are attempting to use these events as a justification for stopping oil and natural gas development in Ohio – kind of like trying to argue that the auto industry should be shut down just because a scrap tire dump caught fire somewhere. Hopefully, though, the facts will prevail and a reasonable course of action will be pursued. Ohioans deserve nothing less, and we ask for nothing more.
Tags: Artex Oil, Celeste, Class II Wells, Dave Hill, David R. Hill Inc, Energy In Depth Ohio, EPA, HB 501, Injection Wells, Jerry James, Kasich, Mahoning Valley, ODNR, OEPA, Ohio, Ohio Govenor Dick Celeste, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Safe Drinking Water Act, UIC, Youngstown
The Myths and Realities of Natural Gas Production
Saturday, November 5th, 2011 | 3 Comments
Dr. Robert Chase, Chair of Marietta Colleges Petroleum Engineering program recently wrote an outstanding Op-Ed for the Marietta Times on the myths and realities of natural gas development in Ohio. In the piece, Dr. Chase details the often quoted misconceptions attached to hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development and provides readers with a thorough education on the the safety and environmental protection inherent in natural gas development.
Marietta College’s Petroleum Engineering program has been a leader in oilfield research and education since 1955 when the program was founded. With a 100% placement for its graduates, it continues to be renowned as one of the top petroleum engineering programs in the country. It is also the largest petroleum engineering undergraduate program in the Eastern United States.
Dr. Bob Chase joined the program in 1978 and has educated countless students during his tenure at the University. His graduates have secured positions in many, if not all, of the largest exploration companies across the world. Essentially, Dr. Chase is the go to expert in Ohio for petroleum engineering.
During our meeting on Thursday, Dr. Chase discussed the recent Op-Ed he wrote on hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas production process. Thankfully, he provided the Op-Ed for our blog because this important piece needed to reach a wider audience. In addition to link provided above we share the piece in its entirety below.
The Myths and Realities of Horizontal Drilling and Fracing in Ohio
There has been much clamor over the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing,” to unlock vast resources of not only natural gas but also oil in Ohio. Several myths have been circulating about this process which is absolutely essential to making the horizontal wells being drilled in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations productive.
Some groups and individuals have been quick to predict apocalypse from fracing, claiming that the practice poses an extreme danger to underground water systems. But such hysteria has been fueled by much misinformation. This article is being written to dispel some of the misconceptions about fracing.
One such misconception is that fracing is dangerous when, in fact, it is not when done responsibly. Energy companies planning to drill for oil and gas in the Utica shale that underlies parts of Ohio have placed the highest priority on safeguarding underground water sources. In fact, there will be a minimum of five layers of protection through the shallow zones from which people obtain their drinking water.
The Ohio Revised Code 1509 which spells out all requirements for oil and gas drilling states: “a well shall be constructed using sufficient steel or conductor casing in a manner that supports unconsolidated sediments, that protects and isolates all underground sources of drinking water as defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and that provides a base for a blowout preventer or other well control equipment that is necessary to control formation pressures and fluids used during the drilling of the well and other operations to complete the well.” The myth that drilling and fracing operations aren’t subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act is indeed just that – a myth.
Companies that will be drilling Utica shale wells in Ohio will generally start out by pile driving a very large diameter piece of pipe or casing, usually about 26 inches in diameter and 40 feet long, into the earth. As an alternative to pile driving this casing, a borehole 30 inches in diameter may be drilled and the same casing is run in the hole and cemented in place. This is called conductor casing and serves as the foundation for the well.
Next, a company will typically drill a large diameter borehole about 17 ½ inches in diameter, using air or fresh water through the deepest fresh water zone and continuing a minimum of 50 feet below it. A second string of pipe usually about 13 3/8 inches in diameter called surface casing is run in the hole and cemented over its entire length back to the surface. During this process, an inspector from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is required to be on location to monitor the casing and cementing operation to ensure that clean cement is circulated back to the surface. This process instantly provides two layers of protection across the fresh water zones.
Next a vertical borehole approximately 12 1/4 inches in diameter is drilled down to a depth of approximately 1,000 feet above the targeted producing zone, i.e. the Utica shale which is expected to vary in depth from about 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet in Ohio. Another string of pipe called an intermediate casing string is run in the hole and cemented back to the surface. Again, an inspector from the ODNR must be notified and given the option of coming on location to ensure once again that clean cement is circulated back to the surface. This ensures a third and fourth layer of protection across the fresh water zones. The bottom of the intermediate casing string represents the approximate kickoff point from which the process of drilling the horizontal borehole begins.
A special drilling assembly is then used to build a curve over approximately the next 500 to 1,000 feet of depth to the point where the drill bit enters the shale formation horizontally. The horizontal section of the borehole having a diameter of approximately 8 ¾ inches is then drilled approximately 5,000 to 7,000 feet into the shale. At that point, another string of pipe usually 5 ½ inches in diameter called production casing (one more layer of protection) is run in the hole and cemented in place from the end of the horizontal section clear up into the vertical section of the intermediate casing.
The spent frac fluid, oil, salt water native to the shale, natural gas liquids, and natural gas extracted from the formation will generally be produced through yet another string of metal pipe called production tubing that is run inside the production casing. This can provide yet a sixth layer of protection through the shallow fresh water aquifer. A diagram of a typical horizontal well completion is shown in attached figure.
With the well properly cased and cemented, the process of fracing can now be addressed. The fracing process has been in use since the 1940’s to extract natural gas and oil from rocks. It was not until 2003, however, that a Texas oil and gas company began using multiple stage frac treatments coupled with the technique of horizontal drilling to recover vast amounts of shale gas in north Texas. Horizontal wells and multi-stage fracing have since been used to unlock natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia, and in other shale formations in North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Fracing is a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected under high pressure through perforations or holes created in the production casing that has been cemented in place in the shale.
It is done in the shale far below the water table at depths of 7,000 to 9,000 feet. The frac fluid injected into a well does not mix with the groundwater due to the fact that the aquifer has been protected with four to six layers of steel casing and cement.
The fracing process creates a vertical crack or fracture in the rock that is generally about a 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in width, less than a few hundred feet in height, and extends less than 500 to 800 feet in length away from the horizontal wellbore to access oil and gas in the rock that would otherwise be inaccessible. Some people worry that the fracture created will extend all the way back up to the fresh water aquifer or even to the surface of the earth. This is another myth. The fact of the matter is that all of the service companies working in Ohio that perform frac treatments couldn’t pump enough water, sand, and chemicals under a high enough pressure to create such a fracture.
If it is impossible to create a fracture that extends back to the surface, how then might frac fluid get into the fresh water aquifer?
For the water and chemicals used in the fracturing treatment to contaminate the fresh water aquifer, the fluid would somehow have to penetrate several layers of steel casing (production tubing, production casing, intermediate casing, surface casing) and cement. In a few vertical wells across the country where only one string of surface casing was cemented to surface and no intermediate string was run (only two layers of protection) a few incidents have been reported. In almost every incidence, however, the cause of the contamination was traced to an inadequate casing cement job. This concern is alleviated by having companies run special survey tools on the casing and cement after it is given a chance to harden to ensure that there is a competent cement bond around the outside of the pipe.
In the case of the Utica shale wells, an ODNR inspector is notified and has the option to be on location when any casing is run and cemented to make sure that the cement job is properly executed and clean cement is circulated back to the surface. Results of the cement bond surveys are also supplied to the ODNR.
The disposal of waste water from the fracing process is, of course, a concern. Spent frac water may not be produced back to the surface and pumped into creeks, lakes, sewage treatment plants, etc. in Ohio. That practice is absolutely forbidden under Ohio oil and gas law. Spent frac water must be flowed back into plastic-lined pits approved by the ODNR and the Ohio EPA or into containment trailers located on the well site. It must then be hauled off location and properly disposed of in a manner that satisfies ODNR and EPA regulations. No exceptions!
Though there have been no documented cases of ground water contamination in Ohio due to fracing and only a small number of other surface water contamination episodes, companies are taking extra precautions to make sure the disposal of wastewater from the fracing process is done safely. The energy industry has developed methods to recycle injection fluids, thereby cutting back on the amount of wastewater requiring treatment and disposal.
Companies are also publicly documenting the chemicals they use in their frac fluids. Though some of the chemicals in their pure form are toxic, they generally account for less than one half of one percent of the injected frac fluids. The chemicals are diluted even further because they are mixed with salt water or brine that is native to the shale formation when produced back after the frac job. Research is under way by several companies to come up with even more benign chemicals for use in fracing. In Ohio, companies are required to submit a copy of the ticket from their frac jobs that details chemicals used along with volumes of fluids and treatment pressures to the ODNR. A website called www.fracfocus.org is also available to the public to examine what companies are using in their frac treatments.
Barring an increase in taxes on oil companies, investment in fracing (along with horizontal drilling) will surely grow while generating huge economic and fiscal benefits for companies, landowners, and states alike. Oil companies plan to use the same drilling technique to produce oil elsewhere in the country. Among the areas that possess great potential for additional oil recovery are Alaska, North Dakota, Montana, California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Louisiana.
In a recently-published study, the National Petroleum Council cited the importance of fracing. It said fracing is partly responsible for the dramatic turnaround in U.S. oil and gas production in recent years, and concluded that “under the most optimistic assumptions the U.S. and Canada combined could produce up to 22.5 million barrels per day, with oil shale formations producing 3.3 million barrels of oil per day.”
Today 95% of wells drilled in the U.S. require fracing to make them productive. The practice has already been used about a million times in the U.S. over the course of 60 years. It is closely monitored and regulated. Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that fracing can be done responsibly to develop the energy resources we need.
If America wants to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and develop its own sources of reliable and affordable oil and natural gas, we must ramp up domestic shale production utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods and do it in a responsible manner. There will always be a modest amount of risk, but the benefits to Ohio’s economy and our nation far outweigh them.
Dr. Robert Chase, Chair and Professor of the Petroleum Engineering Department at Marietta College
We normally wouldn’t repost an article in its entirety however this piece is succinct and highlights the expertise we have here in Ohio. I would like to thank Dr. Chase for providing us his article for our blog. Hopefully this will help educate folks uncertain of the extensive environmental protections and regulated systems these companies employ in safely and responsibly developing our natural gas resources.