Hydraulic fracturing

October 9, 2013

Duke researchers publish new paper on gas-drilling waste

Source: The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), October 6, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Duke University researchers say they’ve documented elevated levels of a radioactive element where a western Pennsylvania waste plant discharged treated water previously used in natural-gas drilling.

Published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the findings came from a team led by Nicholas School of the Environment professors Avner Vengosh and Rob Jackson.

The key finding, of elevated levels of radium in streambed sediments just below the plant’s discharge point, came even though it was clear that the treated water leaving the plant met the industrial discharge limit for radioactivity, the paper said.

The effluent nonetheless has a “significant impact” on the sediments. To wit, “most of the radium appears to be absorbed and retained in them” instead of flowing downstream, the paper said.

And the resulting concentrations are high enough that if the sediments themselves were treated, regulations “would require you to take them a licensed radioactive-waste facility,” Jackson said.

The team also found that the plant’s discharge appeared to contribute to elevated levels of salts in the stream’s water downstream of the facility, despite the diluting effect of the stream’s much larger flow.…

September 26, 2013

Floods Exacerbate Damage of Fracking in Colorado

Source: Targeted News Service, September 24, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

As floodwaters continue to rage across the Front Range, our first thoughts are with the victims and their families. And to add insult to injury, Coloradans now have reason to be concerned about their water quality. Oil and gas industry infrastructure in the region has been severely compromised. Toxic wastewater tanks have been spotted floating in the floodwaters, pipelines are broken and sagging, and the state is now tracking several oil and gas spills.

“We were concerned about fracking before the flooding,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate with Environment Colorado. “But now, oil and gas spilling into the floodwaters, contaminating drinking water, is an added exclamation point to the long list of dangers that fracking has brought to Colorado.”

The largest spill occurred on Wednesday when about 5,225 gallons of crude oil flowed into the South Platte River near Milliken. Nearly 2 million residents of Denver rely on the South Platte for their drinking water and just over 70 percent of Coloradans rely on the South Platte as their main water source.

“Toxic chemicals, such as cancer-causing benzene, have mixed with floodwaters posing a severe public health hazard,” said Wilson. “While we do not know the full extent of the contamination, we know that thousands of Coloradans’ drinking water could be affected.”

The oil and gas industry is currently exempt from some key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and our nation’s hazardous waste law. The thousands of gallons of drilling waste mixing with floodwaters reinforces the need to close these toxic loopholes that leave communities vulnerable to water contamination.

Environment Colorado will be releasing a report Oct. 3, entitled “Fracking by the Numbers,” which will quantify key measures of fracking threats to our environment and health.

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September 26, 2013

Pro-frackers try to stem leak claims

Sources: http://www.washingtontimes.com, September 25, 2013
By: Valerie Richardson

Anti-fracking groups drumming up alarm over oil leaks from last week’s epic Colorado floods are running into pushback from those who say the activists are overstating the problem to advance a political agenda.

Figures released Tuesday by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission show that 34,524 gallons of oil and condensate, or about 822 barrels, have leaked into floodwaters and rivers, stemming mainly from 11 notable tank ruptures that occurred during the historic floods.

As oil spills go, that’s pretty small — the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill exceeded 257,000 barrels — but anti-fracking activists have seized on the leaks to demand a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, insisting the leaks represent “widespread contamination” that “place the public and environment in immediate danger.”

Such claims draw attention from real post-flood problems, says Amy Oliver Cooke, director of the Energy Policy Center at the free-market Independence Institute in Denver, who accused the anti-fracking groups of “taking a play from the Rahm Emanuel playbook: ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.’”

“[T]he eco-left is claiming the sky is falling because 35,000 gallons of oil have also spilled into the flood waters,” said Ms. Cooke. “That’s like worrying about a single drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

The Colorado flooding comes as one of the first real-world tests of the booming fracking industry’s ability to survive a natural disaster, which could influence the national debate over the safety of a technique that has touched off a global energy revolution.…

September 25, 2013

Sites sought for region's fracking residue

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, September 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

With more drilling and fracking expected, oil and gas companies will need to find the best locations to safely inject more waste, said Neeraj Gupta, senior research leader for Battelle’s subsurface-resources group.

“That’s one of our objectives. Where is the injection capacity?” Gupta said.

Right now, it’s in Ohio, where more than 14.2 million barrels of fracking fluids and related waste from oil and gas wells were pumped into 190 disposal wells last year. That was a 12 percent increase over 2011.

Much of the waste — 8.16 million barrels last year — came from Pennsylvania, which has seven active disposal wells. West Virginia has 63 disposal wells.

The fracking process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter shale and free its trapped oil and gas. Some of the fluid bubbles back up, along with ancient saltwater that contains toxic metals and radium.

Environmental advocates say they worry that old, poorly maintained disposal wells will leak pollutants to groundwater.…

August 6, 2013

Study: pathways for gas migration into groundwater not created by hydraulic fracturing

Source: http://www.lexology.com, July 30, 2013
By: Wayne J. D’Angelo, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

The image of water flowing from a tap being ignited with a lighter has become heavily associated with hydraulic fracturing in the minds of the public. But a research paper produced by the National Ground Water Association suggests this widespread image may be a mirage. The paper, published in the May/June issue of the journal Groundwater, details the results of a study of 1,701 water quality analyses from drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The study found that the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction has not created pathways for rapid gas migration into shallow groundwater. Rather, the concentration of methane in the region’s groundwater is disproportionally high in water wells located in valleys, regardless of their proximity to shale gas wells. The findings suggest that the topography of the region, rather than shale gas development, explains elevated methane levels in Susquehanna County water wells. The paper’s authors extrapolate that the findings have significant implications for the understanding of risks associated with shale gas extraction.

The authors also examined the results of isotropic and molecular analyses of hydrocarbon gases from 15 water wells in Susquehanna County by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA, and concluded that the gases in the water wells are most consistent with those found in the spaces around the casings of local gas wells. These gases originate in relatively shallow shale formations, and do not exhibit features consistent with gas produced from deeper Marcellus shale.

These findings, while significant, are very much consistent with numerous other studies across the nation, none of which have found an instance of methane contamination in water from the fracturing of shale well below the aquifer.

With assistance from Andrew McNamee

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July 30, 2013

Issues With Fracking Could Be Eased If Industry Was More Honest, Some Say

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com, July 28, 2013
By: Kevin Begos

The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“It’s a big issue for the industry. I have called for greater transparency. That is the only way to have an honest conversation with the public,” said John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil Co. president and author of “Why We Hate Oil Companies.”

As an example, Hofmeister said, some industry leaders have suggested that the fracking boom has never caused water pollution. But while the vast majority of wells don’t cause problems, “everybody knows that some wells go bad,” Hofmeister said.

Over the last five years, advances in technology have led to a surge of drilling in states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arkansas and North Dakota. Previously inaccessible deposits of shale oil and gas have been unlocked by fracking, a process in which large amounts of water and sand along with chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart the rock.

One of the biggest promoters of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania says that while fracking opponents have exaggerated some risks, the industry hasn’t always handled key issues well, either.…

July 25, 2013

Fracking Study Shows Water Not Contaminated by Chemicals

Read here about a study that showed that chemicals from natural gas drilling did not contaminate drinking water aquifers in Pennsylvania.…

July 16, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing in Illinois

Source: http://www.news-gazette.com, July 14, 2013
By: Bill Anaya

Last month, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (P.A. 098-0022). Others may continue to seek a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, but with the governor’s signature, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Illinois is merely a protest.

We can, however, expect challenges to the hydraulic fracturing practice, if not legal challenges to the law, and both sides are well advised to consider the impact of the administrative record in challenging or supporting compliance with this law and with the laws of the state — most notably, the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.

While the statute provides the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) with the authority to adopt rules, it is also clear that “[a]ny and all rules adopted under this Act by [IDNR] are not subject to the review, consultation, or advisement of the Oil and Gas Board.”

In addition, the statute creates a “Task Force On Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation” but the task force is limited to preparing a report due Sept. 15, 2016. Under the circumstances, it is clear that the Illinois General Assembly is comfortable with the current scope and specifics identified in the statute, and with IDNR’s capability in promulgating forms and rules — rules that will likely mirror the statutory requirements.…

July 3, 2013

EPA abandons investigation into alleged groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing

Source: http://www.lexology.com, June 25, 2013
By: Wayne J. D’Angelo and Andrew M. McNamee, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

The Environmental Protection Agency has abandoned its investigation into alleged groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations near Pavillion, Wyoming. The investigation will be continued by the state, funded by a $1.5 million grant from Encana Oil & Gas, Inc., the company that had been accused of contaminating the water. The agency will provide support to the state in its efforts to continue the investigation, but it will not finalize its study, seek peer review of its draft study, or rely on the conclusions of its draft report. The December 2011 report tentatively concluded that pollutants in the aquifer used for Pavillion’s drinking water likely came from hydraulic fracturing operations intended to draw gas from deeper geologic formations.

The Agency has been universally criticized for conducting an exceptionally flawed investigation and for publically releasing a draft report that was based on the flawed investigation, was not peer-reviewed, and which appeared to many to be drafted to fit a favored conclusion about the source of the contamination at Pavillion. As such, in many ways, the decision to abandon the probe was welcomed by many. Sens. Vitter (R-LA) and Inhofe (R-OK) commended the abandonment of the investigation, asserting that it lacked scientific credibility, and was driven by a political agenda to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Rep. Stewart (R-UT) issued a statement that he was glad the EPA “conceded that state-level expertise and capabilities are most appropriate for overseeing safe and responsible energy production.” Indeed, states are the primary regulators of oil and gas activity, including hydraulic fracturing. EPA’s missteps in the Pavillion investigation seem to suggest that, in addition to being the proper regulators of hydraulic fracturing activities, state entities may be best suited for investigation and enforcement of contamination allegedly caused by hydraulic fracturing.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will take control of the investigation. They are expected to conclude the investigation and release a final report by September 30, 2014.

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July 2, 2013

OH Fracking Waste Disposal Increasing

Read here about the increase of fracking waste in Ohio resulting from the shale gas and oil drilling process.…