Here we go again! After all the buzz that’s surrounding the new EPA report there is something that I must set straight from both pro-environmental protesters that don’t want “contamination,” to occur in their water, and for the oil & gas companies carrying this nation’s economy on their backs to provide jobs from the boom of hydraulic fracturing. We all thought that the EPA would produce such a dramatic study that would halt the utilization of “fracking” techniques due to the contamination from chemicals into Americans water supply. Well, we will go over 1 or 2 of the reasons in a minute, but first, why did the EPA produce a report like this that would prove such justice for their disdain for the oil and gas industry? Before we get all nitty-gritty, let’s note up right now that the EPA fracking report — Yes! The one that was just released — isn’t the final statement from EPA on their policy on fracking or coupled or the Obama administration’s final effort on drastically slowing down the nation’s energy agenda.
First, let’s take a look at the history of hydraulic fracturing, why we use this protocol in oil & gas, the benefits of this technology, and why there is so much misinformation on this valuable procedure in order to harness renewable energy out of the ground to better our American lives.
Discovering the myths and facts about hydraulic fracturing
It is no longer a secret that oil and natural gas are seen as the most crucial resources for everyone in the country. In fact, these two resources have become important parts of many people around the globe. It is almost impossible, so far, for any of us to live a single day on earth without these vital resources. Having a shortage of any of these resources is more likely to lead us experiencing major problems to our day-to-day lives. It would be nearly impossible for you to cook or prepare your food for breakfast without that the natural gas that runs through your stoves. How can you leave your house and head to the office when have no gas or petrol in your tank? Seeing that these two resources are just too important for our country and all the people in it, we have to do whatever it takes to make sure that we have enough resources at all costs. All over the world, millions of people are working in this elaborate industry to always find ways to get more oil out of the ground, faster, cheaper, and with better quality. Since the shale boom of 2008, the most effective ways to get these fossil fuels from within our landscape, is through hydraulic fracturing. We drill deeper and deeper each year so that we can get more oil and gas to use in our daily lives.
For many decades, we have discovered many different efficient technologies that are utilized to get hydrocarbons out of the ground and hydraulic fracturing is only one of the tools that is very effective at achieving this protocol. It is interesting talking about hydraulic fracturing in the sense that due to the recent media that has been draw from this method in the oil & gas industry, one would think that this use of technology hasn’t been around that long. However, it’s been practiced since the 1940’s. Not only that, this technology promises better results to our drilling efforts and has been the reason why so many oil & gas companies have become so profitable within the last few years. One of the hottest issues about this production technology is though that it contaminates water supply by the way it penetrates the underground with such force. Before we go further revealing that hot issue, let us have a better understanding about hydraulic fracturing first.
What is exactly hydraulic fracturing?
(Use this link to zoom in on image for a better view: http://bit.ly/1Nb9xLZ)
It is strongly believed that our planet still has enormous amount of natural gas and oil beneath the ground. Again, one of the most effective ways to get those precious resources is to drill deep while angling the drill horizontally to obtain the most capture of hydrocarbons. Hydraulic fracturing utilizes that basic process. Then casing with cement is applied to keep the formation in place from caving into the drilling area. There may be several tubes of casing in the process to protect the integrity of the desired stage area. Then a perforating gun is lowered to blast several areas in the formation within the casing to open up minor fractures within the rock. During this process, there will be fractures in the rock and rock formations as the technology features an interjection a mixture of water and sand. This mix is interjected into the fractures so that we can open the area underneath the ground. This causes a web like fracture due to the pressure of the rock and proppant (sand) that are being used to cause pressure to open up the fractures even deeper. That is the basic form of hydraulic fracturing.
The process of fracking is meant to release the fossil fuels from the rock formations. These shale formations are filled with rich hydrocarbons that the well collect all the released fossil fuels. Due to the obtained from the fluids, which contains both proppant and water, the fractures remain open. That way, the fuels are extracted from the wells in a way that captures a larger amount. It is the larger fissures that make the fuels flow out of the formation and end in the wells, this is the location where the extraction begins.
The importance of hydraulic fracturing
This drilling technique has been used frequently in the oil & gas industry. It plays a major role in creating a more cost-effective solution as it offers a great consistency in the extraction. A number of studies have been conducted to reveal the facts about hydraulic fracturing, and most of them have concluded that this drilling technique has turned out to be a more effective way to extract the natural gas and oil from the ground. Considering that we have a large amount of untapped shale fuels underneath the United State soils, hydraulic fracturing may come in very handy to help decrease, if not completely be energy independent.
The end users of the fossil fuels can gain more benefits from this production method. There has been a large volume of shale gas successfully extracted from the United States underground over the past decade. In the end, the rate of the fuels in this country has dropped significantly. The significant drop in price of the crude oil has boosted the use of natural gas for energy in this country. The Obama Administration has also benefited from hydraulic fracturing. Not only that this country has the power to decrease the amount of the imported natural gas, the United States has also increased the exports too, especially to China.
Discovering the controversies attached to hydraulic fracturing
Any issue related to the oil & gas industry development, and the hydraulic fracturing method that is being used as of late, should know that this industry employs 1 million workers in the U.S. Lately, there has been an interesting controversy about hydraulic fracturing. If it weren’t for hydraulic fracturing our economy due to The Great Recession would have collapsed. During 2009-2013, the oil & gas industry employed more workers than any other industry combined. It provided many Americans with high paying jobs, that carried The Obama Administration from the rut that the economy was experiencing to a slow, but consistent recovery.
Controversies to hydraulic fracturing and the development of oil and gas industry are not completely a new thing in our world. For quite some time, this technology has been misunderstood by many people due to media gripe. It should not be too surprising to have much backlash and many people questioning about the safety of this very effective technique due to its level of sharp impact in the ground. Pollution is all over the place now and it has significantly raised the health concerns in this world. The annoying issues that try to deflate fracking to the water pollution is not the only controversy that we have seen. There are many other controversies about hydraulic fracturing and yet most of them are nothing more than a myth. So why do these environmentalists protest about fracking? Why is the Obama Administration giving flack to these invaluable method of stimulating the economy in so many different areas?
You must have heard about the issue that says hydraulic fracturing has something to do with flammable and undrinkable water resources. It is really hard to believe that one would think that there is contamination of water until we see a large quantity of sick people calling to the ER. We should consider it as a myth due to the fact that the fractured shale deposits are actually situated way below the water aquifers. There is no way that the gas can leak into the water supply unless the hydraulic fracturing causes an enormous size of a fracture that it travels to a water source, which is very unlikely to happen. However, the flammable nature of the tap water is closely associated to the significant rise of methane levels in the water source and this condition has nothing to do with the process of hydraulic fracturing. According to a study by Environmental Science & Technology, found in 661 wells that there was little to no methane gas traveling from the borehole walls. The very few instances that there was methane gas traveling was due to poorly designed steel casing and cement walls that had leaks.
It is quite obvious to see that hydraulic fracturing involves enormous amount water and plenty of chemicals. There is no need for any of us to worry about having a shortage to our water supply as the freshwater consumption of the fracking process is only 0.3% of total amount of the country. Even the golf courses utilizes up to 0.5% of the total freshwater consumption. As for the chemicals used during the process of hydraulic fracturing, you need to understand that they are mixed into the fracking fluid and are meant to keep the fractures open. Thanks to these chemicals and the fracking fluid, we can enjoy a more efficient gas retrieval and put the losses and damages to the minimum levels. It is really important to note that all the chemicals are added in low quantities compared to the amount of water and proppant that are used. About give or take 2% on average are made up of chemicals compared to the total amount of water and sand used.
Drinking the EPA Kool-Aid
So why does the EPA have such a failed study as being part of a being a government entity especially under the reigns of the oil & gas resistant Obama Administration? Well, in 1974 the government decided to push The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) policy to maintain the pure and safe state of water for Americans. This includes having total control over the entire U.S. water supply, which includes even more STEEP regulations on the underground control of that water, which includes hydraulic fracturing.
So if the EPA had all this power over the nation’s water supply, what happened to the power over fracking? Well, the Bush Administration influenced a signing of The Energy Policy Act of 2005 which stripped the EPA’s power over underground water dealing with natural gas and hydraulic fracturing. Both of these clauses relieved the EPA’s massive control over the oil & gas industry.
Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exemptions
That’s what we like to see as Americans, less regulation and more commerce. Unfortunately there are already new policies being passed through congress right now that will increase the regulation on extraction of fossil fuels through fracking with the policies below.
A few of the amendments that seek to repeal the exemptions of Then Energy Policy Act of 2005
We can’t overlook the amount of toxic chemicals that are getting pumped downhole in a well that are absolutely damaging for the environment. These chemicals were the sole speculative reason why so many people believe that there is water contamination to begin with. Which leads us to why FracFocus.org was created in 2011. This site is the national hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure registry. Now more than 20 states are required to upload their information to FracFocus.org when using hydraulic fracturing and companies upload the chemicals that their using on wells, which are then uploaded onto the registry so this documentation can be reviewed by a third party regarding the chemicals chosen for that extraction from the well. This registry is not perfect by any means, and there could be some false chemical reports made by operators of the system, but it is 1 step forward in the right direction to keep track of monitoring the risk levels of chemical disclosure used in particular well locations.
FracFocus.org shows the chemical disclosures by each company and well
Explaining the long awaited study by the EPA on the possible impacts of fracking on freshwater pollution
If you read some headline on a reputable website that describes the correlation between hydraulic fracturing and water pollution based on the recent fracking report from the EPA, it would be ignorant to just take this matter for granted. In fact, the EPA did NOT come up with the reliable answers to these basic questions. The multi-million dollar research has failed to explain the pollution of drinking water from the fracking process.
Even though the EPA found some occurrences of water contamination that relates to this certain phase in the fracking process, it is so hard to understand the wordage considering that they came up with that conclusion without a large amount of new credible data. It’s like watching a Presidential debate of both parties dodge touchy questions by using 3-4 syllable words then going off a tangent into a topic that’s completely irrelevant to the same freakin’ question! Mind Blown!
Let us have a closer look at a smaller scale study on a more specific place. Hopefully, we can come up with a clearer conclusion regarding to this interesting issue. The Department of Energy documented a study on fracking, which has been conducted on a drilling site in Western Pennsylvania. The landmark study by the Department of Energy has come to a conclusion that states, “the fracking process in this area is not related to the any kind of water pollution. There is no clear evidence that the chemicals or brine water from the hydraulic fracturing process has moved upward and cause any sort of contamination on the drinking water.” In fact, from Then National Academy of Sciences, 133 wells were examined for water contamination and the reason why there was polluted water to begin with, is because contamination was naturally occurring, or the well construction was flawed with leaks. The researchers from the Department of Energy have also found that the chemicals used in the making of the fracking fluid remain underground 5,000 feet away from the entire water supply source in the area.
Back to the EPA, the conclusion of the study found no “widespread” contamination of drinking water from the usage of fracking. Wait a minute, so protesters and the anti-fracking movie GasLand proclaimed that fracking causes polluted toxic water that can kill you, and flames skyrocketing out of the sink faucet, right? Let’s take an even CLOSER look at what is going on with this report from the EPA.
With one of the biggest environmental movements with its infancy stage starting in the post-Eagle Ford shale discovery of 2008, the EPA with the help of the Obama administration has been ruthless in tightening the nation’s oil & gas policies. This is mind-boggling because from 2008-2013 the oil & gas industry created more jobs than any other industry combined. Yet a study done by Institute of Energy Research pointed out that most drilling was performed in the Gulf of Mexico which was severely cut in 2011-2012 due to the knee-jerk reaction to the British Petroleum oil spill. The final 3 years of Bush’s presidency totaled 9,661 ‘new leases’ while Obama from 2009-2012 only increased 5,568 new leases. That’s a 42.4% decrease in permits. From 2009-2014 the oil production of onshore projects declined 6% while natural gas dropped an even steeper 28%. Which is WHY, most of the drilling was performed in the Gulf of Mexico, non-federal territory, because these production increases were at a sharp rise of 61% for oil and 33% for natural gas.
The report also states that natural gas is a cleaner source of energy than coal which causes reduces global warming and a healthier alternative. This leaves the green-warriors (anti-fracking groups) beating their heads against the wall because the Obama administration, once again, leaves Americans baffled with the decisions being made behind the curtains of the government. The administration wants to stall the Keystone XL pipeline that will place 42,000 jobs for workers (according to TransCanada) and wanted to remove oil tax breaks on oil & gas companies; yet, much of the Atlantic and Arctic coast will be open for permits to begin offshore drilling activities.
Also, the pro-fracking groups will be using this report as a staple against the Obama administration’s slightest regulation on fracking, including the restriction on public lands. The states and people surrounding the area that are having oil and natural gas extracted out of the ground should be calling the shots whether or not that production of energy should be occurring in the first place. Hydraulic fracturing has been in existence since 1947 without any accurate report of well water contamination, so let the American people within the hydraulic fracturing area make the decision to use this method of energy extraction to increase the well-being of their lives in these low-income rural areas.
Point is, make sure that the contractors who are part of well integrity are monitoring the well site to make sure that there are no leaks or repairs to be had on the construction of the well before beginning to extract fossil fuels from the ground. This can lead to the contamination of the water supply, not hydraulic fracturing.
The controversy related to the hydraulic fracturing and its possibility in contaminating our drinking water supplies has become a national issue. Even a prominent figure like Congressman Gene Green has found his importance to convey or confirm his views as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a progress report concerning this issue. The potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on freshwater sources has been turned down by the latest study. It has revealed that there is no correlation between contamination on drinking water and the process of drilling natural gas and oil using hydraulic fracturing technique.
The study conducted by the EPA has failed to point out direct connection between fracking and drinking water pollution. The Congressman declared that he refused to give any approval to the request of EPA to start this study a few years ago. Now he is pleased to find that EPA did not come up with destructive conclusion. It is very obvious to see that the location of the source of our drinking water is vastly remote from the activities of hydraulic fracturing. The scientific research has shown thousands of feet of geologic distance between these 2 places. There is no way that any activity of hydraulic fracturing and its involved chemicals can go through such a vast distance to cause any kind of contamination to the source of our drinking water.
It is more likely that the opposite conclusion comes from a number of anti-fracking groups who are against the impressive development of the United States energy production. They certainly wish to enjoy a totally different conclusion from the researchers. Solar and wind energy, anyone?
Now that we have a clear discussion on the correlation between drinking water contamination and fracking activities, which doesn’t exist, it would be more useful that we shift our focus on the significant benefits that come from this promising drilling technique to our lives, as well as our country. Should you find yourself questioning about the benefits of fracking technique, then you might be misinformed. One of the most obvious benefits can be seen on the economic aspect of our country. Not only has hydraulic fracturing become an extremely useful method in getting more enormous amount of fossil fuels out of the ground, but the drilling technology has helped us create thousands new jobs both for the white-collar and blue-collar professionals. Considering that it will also significantly raise the employment opportunities in many other industries like hospitality, restaurants and grocery, there would be more than 2.1 million of new jobs generated approximately.
It is strongly believed that hydraulic fracturing in the industry of oil and natural gas of our country will lead us to a much better balance of exporting and importing this particular commodity. In 2005, the rate of the imported oil and natural gas of the United States reached 60%. It will be greatly reduced to 25% only by the year of 2016. Simply put, the conclusion of the EPA study is more likely to confirm the significant role and benefits that come from using hydraulic fracturing activities in our effort to get enough natural resources for the sake of our being.
The environmental disasters that are connected with fracking are mostly due to the stringent government stranglehold on an industry or the complete absence of any regulation. The thought that the oil & gas industry or markets that are self-automated will work on the ‘best practices’ method is just plain nonsense. Smart regulation plans, implemented for the entire oil & gas industry that are controlled in a step-by-step process, is the key focus point in avoiding environmental disasters.
Let’s imagine that we could potentially have the best leaders in place to implement these ‘best practices’ theory explained above in the oil & gas industry. These leaders would examine the water that was used out in the field which played a part in the fracture of the formation. The only thing they would find is pond water and sand. Just like every oilfield service frac company, they are going to tell the asset owner that the chemicals they will be pumping downhole will have better production flow, well integrity, etc. than the other competitor. Frac chemicals are basic chemistries, even though they are becoming more biodegradable, the formulas are very easy to replicate. The % of chemicals being pumped downhole compared to water and sand are around the degree of 2%. Reps from companies are doing their best to win work to capture market share, which is fine, but by using this protocol isn’t necessarily in the best interest for the environment. You could replace the actual formulas of chemicals of the MSDS from any other formula of a similar chemical and the amount of change would be nearly unchanged. On another note, nobody can find out what goes on when coming from the heel to the horizontal area. If any oil and gas operator had their hands on a chemical or group of chemistries that increased their production, every operator would be taking that MSDS and copying it. There’s no clear outliers of huge winners from this side of the frac world. They are essentially told to have more frac stages, use more water, sand, and chemicals, to add more revenue to OUR bottom line!
Forget the chemicals for a minute. The problem here folks is the pollution of drinking water or aquifers. These are from the chemicals themselves, more or less from getting production out of the well. Let’s visualize a blow-out underground, where the shale formation producing the fossil fuels doesn’t gush out from the well, and at the above ground level. The fuels explode up from the rocks up the well from the well bore to fracture then shoot up another frac stage which in an extreme situation that would be an aquifer used as a water supply source. The trail from the well bore can be re-mediated with the controlling of solid cementing regulations, this would greatly decline the possibility of a bad quality cement project from the pipeline and reservoir rock face in the well. Again, flawed casing and well construction is the immediate problems with contamination of the well.
The second scenario is the oil and gas trail through a fracture from the well that the frac company creates and starts to stream into an aquifer. This scenario can be very difficult, but there are approaches treat these problems. If the well is deeper than 2,000 feet, you can almost guarantee that the aquifer will contain salt water. This water would never reach the surface for how deep it is in the ground and is not consumable drinking water. You still don’t want your gas or oil moving into a different formation, hard to make money unless the oil and gas comes up the pipe. Less of an environmental concern and more of an economic, operational issue for the oil company. This is easy to overcome.
Trying to frac formations less than 2000 feet in depth are problematic and would
require a lot more diligence prior to beginning the drill. This is the top zone
where you will be drilling through surface ground water formations and fresh
water aquifers. There are real risks associated with the fracking of a short stage
oil or gas reservoir. Some of the issues include: old water wells that have never been previously recorded, mine shafts, wells that were never lined properly with pipe due to super old methods previously performed, and natural fractures that occur to the surface.
In other words, if we want to continue our growth as an economy, we have to keep moving forward to become more efficient with our extraction technology to SAFELY obtain fossil fuels out of the ground. Yes, we do understand that we must keep the environment safe, but the solution isn’t banning such an immediate gain of wealth to our economy. It’s constantly becoming more efficient with well integrity while at the same time dropping OpEX costs of pumping production out of the ground. Because as far as market share is concerned, the Saudi’s have the reigns to control the price and aren’t showing signs of slowing down their substantial 900+ billion in reserves. Do we want to become energy independent and lift the stranglehold of OPEC or do we want global freedom to make our own choices on how we consume our OWN energy?