EPA links hydraulic fracturing with groundwater pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday linked hydraulic fracturing with groundwater contamination in Wyoming _ a first-of-its-kind conclusion by the federal agency that could trigger new scrutiny of the practice used to extract oil and natural gas nationwide.

The EPA announced its findings as part of a three-year probe into possible groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo. In a draft report issued today, the agency said it had discovered synthetic chemicals — including glycols and alcohols — associated with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids inside deep water wells in the region.

Although the study is limited to a gas field in Wyoming and is only in a draft form, the EPA’s finding could be a game changer for the oil and gas industry, which has insisted that hydraulic fracturing is safe and should be regulated solely by state officials, rather than the federal government.

About a third of the United States’ natural gas production now comes from the hydraulic fracturing process, which involves blasting mixtures of water, sand and chemicals deep underground and at high pressures to break up dense shale rock and unlock trapped hydrocarbons.

Energy analysts say the hydraulic fracturing process is key to recovering a 100-year supply of natural gas from shale formations nationwide, including the Marcellus in New York and Pennsylvania and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

Environmentalists have long warned that the chemicals used in the process could contaminate local drinking water supplies and that natural gas can leach out of poorly designed and secured wells to pollute groundwater.

But until now, EPA officials said they had found no convincing evidence of such contamination. At Congress’ direction, the agency has launched a three-year study of the intersection of hydraulic fracturing and water.

The Wyoming study is sure to stoke calls for stepped-up regulation of fracturing and natural gas drilling. Already, some states are moving to clamp down on the practice. New York regulators are considering new rules for natural gas drilling and the Texas Railroad Commission is writing new mandates to force companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The EPA said its draft report would be available for public comment and submitted to an independent scientific review panel.

“We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process,” said Denver-based EPA regional administrator Jim Martin.

The agency also stressed that the findings are unique to Pavillion, where fracturing has taken place both in and below the drinking water aquifer and very close to drinking water wells — conditions that are not common elsewhere in the U.S. The region has been home to oil and gas drilling since the 1950s, and some of the 169 gas production wells in the area were fractured at points just 1,220 feet below the ground.

By contrast, in South Texas, energy companies are extracting natural gas from the Eagle Ford shale formation at depths ranging from 4,000 to 14,000 feet below the surface.

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones noted that “the geology of Texas is different.”

“Hydraulic fracturing does not go on close to the surface here and it would be impossible to migrate up from miles below the earth to a water table,” she said. Already “stringent rules on well construction” in Texas ensure “there is no reason to apply this EPA finding” in the Lone Star State, Jones added.

Industry representatives and their allies on Capitol Hill blasted the EPA’s report, with Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., calling it politically motivated and “premature.”

“It is irresponsible for EPA to release such an explosive announcement without objective peer review,” Inhofe said.
Chris Tucker, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, said the report was flawed with “a lot of basic things wrong.”

“Unfortunately, in the fun house mirror world of anti-fracturing advocacy, some will attempt to use this as a justification to shut down an entire industry, even if the issues out there have nothing to do with it,” Tucker said.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead also questioned the study’s soundness.

“The draft study could have a critical impact on the energy industry and on the country, so it is imperative that we not make conclusions based on only four data points,” Mead said in a statement. “It would not be appropriate to make a judgment without verifying all of the testing that has been done.”

Wyoming regulators have raised questions about some of the samples drawn by EPA’s deep test wells, after some of the results could not be replicated.

“More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning reports,” said Tom Doll, supervisor of Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation.

But environmentalists said the EPA’s report underscored concerns they have been raising for years, by concluding that poorly constructed and cemented wells, channels in underground rock and other conditions may have allowed chemicals to enter Pavillion’s water supplies.

“We’ve been concerned about the risks for a long time,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This study shows there are several different things that can go wrong.”
The EPA’s findings also highlight the importance of tough standards and drilling decisions that take local geology into account, Mall said.

“States have been playing catch up when people complained” about possible pollution, she said. For instance, after landowners in Dimock, Pa., and in Pavillion, Wyo., raised concerns, regulators imposed new rules on hydraulic fracturing and natural gas production. But, Mall said, “they’re catching up after something happens. They’re not ahead of the curve.”

Most of the gas wells around Pavillion are owned by Alberta, Canada-based Encana Corp., which has been providing drinking water to 21 families since August 2010. Other residents have been purchasing water on their own because of long-term concerns with water in the region.

Encana spokesman Doug Hock said the EPA’s findings are “inconclusive.” They indicate a “probability” — not a “conclusion,” Hock said.

“For an agency that deals in science, it’s kind of surprising that they would put something out that is really not definitive,” Hock added.

The EPA monitored the region from March 2009 through April 2011. After initially discovering methane and dissolved hydrocarbons in some water samples, the EPA broadened its testing of groundwater from wells in the area and installed its own deep monitoring wells.

Ultimately, the agency discovered high concentrations of benzene, diesel range organics and other chemicals in groundwater samples taken from shallow monitoring wells near 33 surface pits used to hold wastewater and drilling material — indicating that they could be a source of contamination.

Other synthetic compounds associated with hydraulic fracturing fluids also were detected in the groundwater. Those included chemicals tied to components of surfactants, foaming agents, fuel additives and other materials often used as part of the fracturing process, including at least one the EPA said “is not expected to occur naturally in ground water.”

The agency insisted that it considered a range of explanations, but that “the data indicates likely impact to groundwater that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing.”

Other results showing elevated levels of gas in the area’s groundwater, possibly because it had migrated from wells that the EPA said had only “sporadic” barriers or, in some cases, no cement at all over large vertical stretches.

Here is the report:

EPA Report Groundwater Contamination

85 Comments

  1. Jb

    The people at the EPA are working overtime on anything and everything to shut down ANY kind of oil industry in this country. Must be using 3, 8 hour shifts 7 days a week to keep the media fired up for the continuous brainwashing of America, with a bit of prodding from our “leader”.

    #1
  2. traintrack

    feds & epa a quick grab of headlines,bring them to the front to justify budget increase for them.Big brother is a red headed step child,beware !!!!!

    #2
  3. I don’t think anyone has to be phi beta kappa to figure put that if you pump 10′s of thousands of gallons of toxic material into the ground the possibility of it polluting the water supply is very high.

    #3
  4. Smedley

    Jb… How do you know that it is not you who is brainwashed? The oil industry is hardly saintly.

    #4
  5. Kinglyam

    Yes, Jb, how dare the EPA get all hot and bothered by a city having its ground water contaminated. Don’t those libtards in Wyoming understand that all good American have to make sacrifices for oil industry profits, er, I mean energy independence?

    #5
  6. A guy

    While this is certainly possible, I’m doubtful. If so, it will be the first time that any such leaks have been found that originated from fracking. (Don’t believe Gasland, all claims in the movie were known to be surface gas long before the movie aired)

    This determination has happened before, with the EPA shutting down wells over natural gas in water. It turned out to be a near-surface gas pocket that was venting due to reduced aquifer levels. The judge in the case called the EPA investigators both negligent and incompetent when he allowed the wells to reopen.

    #6
  7. onevois

    You’re a lost cause Jb.

    #7
  8. SaltWaterCroc

    Jb – tell you what. Let’s hop over to West Texas around Ozona. I can show you first hand what fracking does to the water table. And it’s not just deep gas wells, it includes shallow oil wells. Anyone who doesn’t think fracking can pollute ground water hasn’t been around wells in West Texas. I’m not saying all frack jobs create problems; however, the problems that are created the companies won’t own up to. Surprise! Why fix the problem when you can just take the oil and gas, then 10-50 years down the road abandon the well. Plugging it doesn’t fix the problem. Ever tried to “un” frack a well?

    #8
  9. John

    Nobody can be surprised by this finding. And, it won’t be the last. People in the industry privately admit they really don’t know where that pressurized concoction actually goes when it is forced into the Earth. Anyone who says ground water pollution can’t happen either works in that industry, is lying or both. Surely, those smart, overpaid guys in the O&G business can come up with a frac fluid that does not ruin groundwater. We need the energy but we cannot live without potable water.

    #9
  10. Gwen

    I was going to come at the EPA from just the opposite angle… what took them so long? Because of their legal obligations as a government bureaucracy, the EPA often seems to exist in a time-distortion bubble that causes them to be about five years behind the rest of us.

    If anything, Jb, the Obama administration has actively been tempering the EPA; remember how the White House shot down new ozone standards (even though they are legally required) because of worries about the economy?

    Here’s a link in case you need a reminder: http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/02/news/economy/regulations/index.htm

    Of course, this doesn’t mean the end of fracking, just that it is likely to be under more (well-deserved) scrutiny.

    Also, let a million “Battlestar Galactica” jokes bloom.

    #10
  11. SUX_2BU

    Jb apaprently supports the poisoning of our children. I wonder if he’s associated with Al Qaeda.

    #11
  12. JJS

    Agreed Jb, he is definitely trying to kill all oil industry in an effort to destroy jobs and drive up prices in the process. Once that is done and the economy is finally killed, he will reveal his true muslim past, and institute Sharia law. Thanks to people like you for pointing this out!

    #12
  13. Mayflowergirl

    Water is more important than oil/gas. Water will always be our most precious resource.

    #13
  14. Trail Tramp

    Stock up on blankets and candles. The EPA is fixing to shut off your gas and electricity.

    #14
  15. Betty

    Then by all means go have yourself a great big glass of water out of that groundwater. You want those residents to drink it…so how about you??

    “The EPA announced Thursday that it found compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals in the groundwater beneath a Wyoming community where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.

    Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.”

    #15
  16. Commandrea

    Gee, I wonder if you’re in the oil biz, JB?

    #16
  17. Justin S. Davis

    JB: Just Google videos with the search terms “fracking” and “water on fire”.

    I really don’t consider it brainwashing to want to avoid toxic, flammable drinking water.

    #17
  18. Dan X. McGraw

    Guys and Gals, please play it cool. No personal attacks.

    #18
  19. nspector

    Don’t worry trail tramp, you will be able to ignite your tap water for heat!

    #19
  20. pb

    Fracking is big business in texas right now. The industry has a lot to do with why the state’s economy is growing during tough economic times. Search “eagle ford shale” to learn more. Lots of natural gas that we couldn’t get to if it wasn’t for fracturing technology, and that is providing countless jobs. Regardless of opinions, the industry is here to stay in texas, so get over it or move away.

    #20
  21. Jill C.

    I am employed by a major player in the U.S. Hydraulic Fracturing market. On very many of our high profile Frac jobs we employ geo-phone sound recorders placed in multiple adjacent wells and use triangulation to determine a more precise picture of how and where in the formation the fractures are occurring. By using this process we help determine how to best produce the well and steer clear of possible groundwater contamination. Of course jobs where these technologies are employed bring added cost to the operator. But for us it’s additional services provided and more revenue. I believe that we in the fracing business would welcome more stringent rules and oversight of the process; it would mean even more services and greater advanced technologies to produce the hydrocarbons, more work for us and more jobs for your neighbors employed in the industry. And more expensive energy costs for the public at large.

    #21
  22. A guy

    Alright, now that the report is up (it wasn’t when I put up my initial comment), the EPA makes a compelling case. I find it odd that the casing was so shallow. It is standard practice to put casing much deeper than that. Also, the water disposal pits are assinine and the person who suggested using them should be shot. Any idiot knows that you have to treat wastewater before putting it into unlined pits.

    Also, the report does not mention or consider shallow gas pockets. It is well known that the region has shallow gas pockets that interfere with domestic wells (Pa Ingalls hit one while digging a well in Little House on the Prarie, so these aren’t exactly new). At the bottom of the aquifer, these are thermogenic gas, and when the water table drops, the reduced pressure allows gas to leach out into the water. This is the same thing that got the case thrown out of court the last time they tried to make this determination.

    So, while it is highly suspicious, it isn’t conclusive because they did not consider the most likely alternative, natural sources of gas. However, if the well is leaking, it is due to poor construction and failure to comply with basic standards. Similar to the BP failure in the Gulf. If you fail to do the work properly and skip safety steps, it isn’t safe.

    #22
  23. Driller531

    Whats the big deal, you can light a fart on fire too. All of your modern day amenities (plastics, computer chips, medications, etc…) are petroleum derived, so unless you want to live in the dark ages or pay double to heat your home and drive your car I suggest you enviro nut jobs give it rest.

    #23
  24. Trail Tramp

    ProPublica: “In interviews with ProPublica and at a public meeting this month in Pavillion’s community hall, [EPA] officials spoke cautiously about their preliminary findings. They were careful to say they’re investigating a broad array of sources for the contamination, including agricultural activity. They said the contaminant causing the most concern – a compound called 2-butoxyethanol, known as 2-BE – can be found in some common household cleaners, not just in fracturing fluids.”

    #24
  25. NowYouKnow

    This cries out for a government shutdown.

    #25
  26. Signal2Noise

    This was inevitable, which is the reason producers and service companies were steadfast against releasing what chems and compounds are used in fracking. Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call to operators and service companies to set standards, and to hold partners and even the smaller, less safety-concious, less scrupulous and less technically inclined companies to follow suit.

    I am all for oil & ng production from shale and in 90+ percent of operations, it’s safe, but any impact on spring water and natural aquifers should be met with very, very harshly. Between water and hydrocarbons, I’ll choose water every time.

    #26
  27. Jimbo

    It might be easy to throw stones at the EPA for these findings far away in Wyoming, but if your neighborhood water got tainted, and you and your kids drank it (with God only knows what kind of effects it could lead to), do you think you’d still be attacking the EPA?

    People need to wake up to what is going on all around this country. Our rights, liberties, and freedoms to clean air and water are being sh*tted on daily by scumbags out for personal profit, no matter what the consequences and side-effects.

    #27
  28. Ann

    @ Driller531 why does it have to be so black & white with you? Enviro nut jobs? Do you not see how important clean water is? I hate to break it to you, but it’s our livelihood! I understand the need to produce our own energy so we are not dependant on other countries and I DO support our oil & gas industry. As a matter of fact I own land in the Eagle Ford Shale and stand to make lots of money if they drill, but I am also in support of the O&G companies coming out of the “dark ages” too. This information is good to have so that maybe there is urgency to develop BETTER TECHNOLOGY! O&G companies owe it to our communities to not ruin the land they make BILLIONS off of.

    #28
  29. Signal2Noise

    “A guy” – natural gas pockets could not be the source for “synthetic chemicals — including glycols and alcohols — associated with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids in deep water wells in the region”.

    #29
  30. Jimbo

    For Driller531, I’d rather live in the Dark Ages than live in Petroleum-Fever Hell. At least in the Dark Ages, they had clean air, water, food, and all other basics that a healthy body needs. We can live without our stupid cars and pollution. Thousands of years have shown that. Who knows what the polluted waters and air will ultimately do to human health. We’re already seeing increases in mysterious cancers and tumors in industrial areas and cities, rising over time, that can’t be attributed to anything else.

    #30
  31. vikinghou

    The presence of glycols and alcohols in the water table is telling because they do not occur naturally in subterranean formations. This is different from methane that can be present in shallow zones owing to the decomposition of, for example, animal fecal or plant matter. Even though the water table and the hydrocarbon producing zone(s) may be separated by thousands of feet, communication may occur if the well’s hydraulic seal is comprised. The hydraulic seal is provided by the cement sheath, a mechanical device such as a packer, or both. If either fails, water-table contamination may occur.

    #31
  32. HaHA

    ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!

    Just kidding.

    A Guy-Bright thoughts; thanks! I think they do mention shallow gas pockets, though.

    Jill C-it’s nice to hear the other side of the coin from folks in industry. I feel like this point is often missed in the crazed political “discussions”; however, considering the price of gas and the economy, operators want to keep their costs down, as do consumers.
    Personally, I’m for safety and long term benefits first (while stimulating service sectors and other jobs related to reducing risks), but that’s because I can afford my bills either way.

    When ~30% of the gas in ND is flared because it is economical to do so, I have to wonder about the way our system works. An old, traditional saying, “Waste not, want not” comes to mind.

    #32
  33. Summer

    ““It is irresponsible for EPA to release such an explosive announcement without objective peer review,” Inhofe said.
    Inhofe insisted that the move was part of a broader campaign by the Obama administration to clamp down on fossil fuels”

    Someone please tell this politician that it is JUST as irresponsible to continue this process without insuring the environment and living things aren’t being poisoned. And what a tool to try and blame it on the President. No words.

    I’m astonished at some of the idiotic comments here. We are going to get nowhere in a hurry.

    #33
  34. Zombie Ayn Rand

    Looks like fracing will be a big job creator in the field of pediatric oncology.

    #34
  35. LaffyTaffy

    Goos luck getting from point A to point B without oil Smedley. Seriously are you really that fucking stupid?

    #35
  36. LaffyTaffy

    Sure Justin S. Davis…what they don’t tell you in your little google video is that it is water from a shallow well within spitting distance from the frac operation.

    #36
  37. Fracker

    Who cares let the fracking continue. Oil is more important. Let them drink milk.

    #37
  38. Pat

    I have a solution: Everybody who is yapping about the EPA…you go live where fracking solution and drinking water is mixed for the rest of your life and let your children grow up with it.

    Everybody else who can appreciate what the EPA is attempting to do here, clean water for us!

    #38
  39. harr1234

    If you go and ask the people living around where some of this fracking has been occuring you will find contaminated water and drinking water that is flamable. This has been going on for years. Please do not tell me that the EPA just found out about this environmental disaster. Fracking should have been outlawed years ago. We need to tar and feather everone of those oil company executives for lying to us all with their television adds showing how much they care about the us and the environment. Yea gonne with your lies and false advertisement.

    #39
  40. Deepwater Engineer

    Trail – Maybe you can help.

    The report should have been titled “Mom and Pop Oil and Gas Co. drill rinky dink, Mickey Mouse gas wells without setting surface casing below known potential freshwater aquifers. Wells were designed so cheap results turn out bad. How does the Government of Wyoming permitting authority allow this well design?”

    Who approves wells like this? I am not an onshore guy, but I always thought you had to protect known freshwater aquifers with a minimum of surface pipe. These wells don’t even do that. The permitting authority for the Government of Wyoming allows this? What a joke. I can see allowing this with additional testing and surveilence to ensure everything turned out properly, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they fracked into the aquifer. Too bad this report is going to give the resource plays a bad name. These are nothing more than Mickey Mouse wells with poor well design, and probably used poor cementing techniques. I may be missing something, but this report looks tainted because the cheap, poor well design is what likely led to this (if it indeed happened). Then again, it could also just be the Holy one trying to shut down more domestic exploration and production. Mission achieved offshore, time to move onshore!

    #40
  41. Jackalope

    “The agency also stressed that the findings are unique to Pavillion”
    -
    But that won’t stop the EPA from making rules changes for every geographic area based on Pavillion.

    #41
  42. richeyrich

    That’s what they concluded on CSI.

    #42
  43. AnimuX

    Who needs to pay for gas when you can burn your water right out of the faucet?

    You too can enjoy this free energy thanks to fracking!

    Just turn on your kitchen faucet, hold an open flame up to the stream of contaminate fluid and snap — You’re burnin’!

    It’s not like you need uncontaminated water to grow food, cook dinner, or wash. After all, there are plenty of free market alternatives!

    #43
  44. TexasResident

    I’m with Driller531. Screw clean every day drinking water that is needed to survive! I mean who in the world cares about clean drinking water when we have natural gas that may or may not affect me positively! All these SCIENTISTS with their numbers and facts, it sure makes me confused, scared, and angry!

    P.S. Driller 531. Just in case you started to take this seriously….sarcasm sir. Sarcasm.

    #44
  45. chemmajor

    “Frack” is just a five-letter term to get around the FCC rules on four-letter words on the nightly news.

    #45
  46. REPUB_RETARD

    I’m going to stick with Faux News who say science is all
    BS unless of course we need to go to the hospital or use microchips

    #46
  47. Robert F.

    If its so safe the industry and their cheerleaders should welcome the scrutiny.

    Instead they want to hide behind a “literature review” and exemptions that no other industry in the US has.

    If you are holding CHK, SWN or DVN stock, now would be a really good time to start dumping it.

    #47
  48. westtex

    Salt,
    I live in West Texas (actually just 2 hours down the road from Ozona) and I have yet to hear any of this pollution that you claim is around.
    -
    When done responsibly, fracing is a safe practice that fractures rocks TENS OF THOUSANDS of feet below the ground. Now, how will this frac fluid migrate UPWARD to the water table that is only 1 to two HUNDRED feet below the ground?
    -
    I need more proof than an Obama lackey saying it is true. And JB is correct: Obama is doing everything he can to shut down the oil industry (look up the whole sage brush lizzard lie!)!!

    #48
  49. Mike H.

    It’s not just Wyoming having water pollution from fracking. Reports from Dimock PA & the Ft. Worth area have shown the same problems. Those who doubt, trying moving to the impacted area of Dimock. Taste their water yourself, if you dare. It’s more than methane in the water there.

    Also, all that “Energy Independence” that is supposed to come from the increased gas production is mostly hot air. A number of LNG Import Terminals in the US are working on EXPORTING large amounts of natural gas.

    #49
  50. mike bone

    Wake up. Dick Cheney pushed thru a midnight bill EXEMPTING this industry from the clean air and water act. it is not only the water being poisened for your children, they now dump up to 50 % of the “spent” water and right on the surface as they please. No scrubbing, no cleaning- some “mist it” to assist in evaporation. Hint- Evaporation does not mean go awaay it mean s change to VAPOR. That is why WY now has large ozone fields where these large gas fields exist.
    Spare me any “you ignorant commie ” retorts. My dad was with Humble oil from the start and grew up in the oil gas biz- the old one- not this crap. We resapeced the Rice farmers in Katy- now you but your rice from Asia.
    Tha’s ok thought I know you newbie gotta have a TV in every room people would sell your kids lungs for an extra buck- you rate QUALITY OF LIFE with how much lectric crap you own.
    Short termers will do us in, and currently this intellectually dishonest biz leads the pack- Yep, burns Clean allright- but nothing, and i mean nothing is dirtier in production.
    Anyone who still cares whjat their kids willl have to live with and is open minded, can get a quick study by renting downloading a movie called GASLAND.
    The rest of you woud sell your grandparent lungs for another TV .

    #50
  51. tboyinhouston

    Thank god for the EPA. Had they not taken control of pollution our rivers would still be on fire.

    #51
  52. tboyinhouston

    There was a reason Cheney had the fracking industry exempted from the clean air and water acts and it ain’t because they intended to do the right thing.

    #52
  53. steve

    transparent and public review? we know better than that. how about ” it may have ” kinda like hope an change.
    glycols, an cool stuff? read the ingredient labels on the back of processed food boxes nowadays. kind of like what the green team is aiming for.
    we cannot use our industry for ourselves, we must import all industry from elswhere, and we will call it green!
    anti-freeze is green! it was used in chinese manufacture of food stuffs sent to the states, as a sweetning agent to roll across new fda standards. many animals died, many humans sick.
    mc donalds toys, an other producs, poisioning kids with the stuff to make colors, so the kids see colors? the ol yangtzee gut grab!
    imported pollution? 08, 09, 10. where were the environmentilists for this still on-going polluting of the of american health?
    writing for grants? on the green scene? picking on oil slicks? folk who work? americas decline to the third world ” in a green way? ” obamas green, hope an change. . sucks huh.
    they want funds, to shut down industry and income tax revenues, which fund their being, then they want to occupy things! they wont work for a living.
    the best part of this issue! an the new epa! there is none.
    noticed? thanx all! it was fun!

    #53
  54. hgnis

    Big surprise, a no name bubba company did not do things the right way and drilled a well near the water table. Get your pitchforks people, time to punish everyone who is involved in any kind of drilling.

    #54
  55. Dollar

    All the leftist crazies come out of the woodwork .

    Amazing.

    #55
  56. Tommy

    As others have stated, this is the direct result of poor well design and poor contractor oversight. I’m not sure what the overall agenda is in regards to the regulation of well intervention, but if you’re going to shut down shale gas plays then you better be ready for a HUGE loss in jobs. With the price of natural gas there is no way operators could draw a profit without the use of directional drilling coupled with fracturing and other intervention methods. So if the government wants to limit the shale plays then why not open up the Arctic? Wouldn’t it make more sense to drill more in a region that is remote and away from the masses?

    #56
  57. iFrac

    As with anything, there are benefits and disadvantages. One must be disillusioned to think there aren’t unintended consequences caused by Hydraulic Fracturing. The question is, are we willing, as a society, to allow certain injustices for the greater good? For everything negative about this technology there are scores of positives (Energy reliance, Economic prosperity, Job creation, etc.). There is no easy answer. We must acknowledge the facts as what they are, whatever they may be. Conclusions are ends to a beginning, and a beginning to new ends. Our disadvantages become beneficial. We progress.

    #57
  58. Kinglyam

    It’s not a surprise that this would happen. Look, what is fracking? It’s using a liquid at an ultra-high pressure, like in the 10-15k psi range, to crack rock. Once you cut that loose, you have no control over where those fractures go. The rock will fracture along pre-existing faults, wherever they may go. It will be limited only by the pressure of the earth around it.

    Usually, the pressure of the earth so deep down is enough to keep the crack from propagating. But in these shallower formations, there’s not as much weight, and not as far between the frack and the aquifer. It’s inevitable as these go along that some will find a fault that leads to the surface.

    Let’s not forget that there are natural fault lines that don’t even need to be pressurized. And what’s the impact going to be of repeated fracturing of the same formation? Will that alter the propagation? I don’t think we know.

    #58
  59. M

    Oh for pete’s sake. If you frac around the aquifer you’re liable to get frac fluid in the aquifer. That’s unremarkable.

    What the EPA is really hoping is that the moonbats will grab this and run with it like Gasland ahead of the news that this isn’t analogous to any of the big shale plays. This is just the latest in a string of similar intellectually dishonest efforts by the EPA and their fellow travelers to deal with their worst nightmare–lots of domestically available oil and gas. Since their pet alternative sources like wind, solar and bio are all wildly more expensive on a unit of energy of energy basis, they think they have to make oil and gas more expensive or the country will never go for the alternatives.

    #59
  60. bmcmanus

    Let me explain a few things to the EPA: First, less than 1% of fracking fluids are chemical additives which are commonly used in household products. Yes, benzene and n-nitroquinoline compounds are problematic but you have to understand that the fracking occurs 1000 ft below the potable watertable and there are many natural barriers as well as protection factors in place to prevent these fluids from entering into underground sources of drinking water. Second, the potential economic benefits ($30,000 acre) outweigh many of the environmental concerns which are largely misguided. Moratoriums preventing natural gas drilling (such as the one in New York State) are thwarting progress from foreign based energy sources (oil) to domestically based energy sources (gas).

    #60
  61. Trail_Tramp

    @Deepwater Engineer I only glanced through the report, but what caught my eye was that some wells were frac’d in shallow zones close to a deeper well that did not have cement across it. Still the surface cement should have provided a barrier.

    As I have said many times before, fracking is not the real issue. Any well, frac’d or not, can contaminate fresh water aquifers if it does not have a good cement job on the surface casing. Saltwater from shallow zones is a bigger threat to fresh water than any chemicals from a frac job. Finally, abandoned water wells are the biggest threat of all, because they provided a direct conduet for surface pollution to the aquifer.

    #61
  62. ntangle

    bm wrote: Moratoriums preventing natural gas drilling (such as the one in New York State) are thwarting progress from foreign based energy sources (oil) to domestically based energy sources (gas).
    ———–
    If you mean that it’s impeding the transition from oil to gas…how so? There’s already such an NG glut that it’s under $4 and companies are gearing up to export it via LNG tankers. How much lower does the price need to be to accelerate the transition from oil? And what displacement are you talking about? CNG buses & trucks? Is their conversion really on hold because of this pause? Home heating oil to NG? Are distribution lines really being held up, waiting for this?

    #62
  63. I had the same initial reaction as Trail_Tramp and Deepwater Engineer. Seems like Wyoming permit authority should have got the worst attention out of this report. I would assume the set minimum casing depths in the 60′s and have not updated their requirements as the water table dropped.I think it is on the state of Wyoming to review their requirements in this formation, otherwise EPA will be making the calls.

    #63
  64. Mike Ullrich

    Well I just hope Ron Paul wins the election then there will be no more EPA!!!

    #64
  65. SaltWaterCroc

    westtex – Most of the wells I worked around Ozona were San Andres. Shallow sour crude (700′-2600′ deep wells). Cheap to drill, often poorly cemented, fracked to increase the production to something over 10bbls/day. Lots of hydrogen sulfide in the oil. You can walk the fields and smell the sulfides. I’ve seen dead birds around the oil tanks. Seen sheep die from tainted water. Hike through some of those shallow fields and you can even see a sheen on some of the stock tanks. Not a good sign. I’m not saying don’t produce the oil, I’m saying set some tight regulations (and provide the regulators to enforce them). Oil can be produced safely with limited impact on the environment. Without regulations, it won’t be. Look at the incidents in Mobile Bay (pumping drilling mud directly into the bay) in the 1980s.

    #65
  66. Aaron

    Water is a FAR more precious resource than oil, and whether or not the public’s claims are true it needs to be properly investigated. Sure, we need oil for society to continue, but how long will society last without fresh water? If you think that’s an absurd thought, wait until it begins to happen…

    #66
  67. A guy

    Signal, if you noticed my point about the unlined water disposal wells and the shooting of the idiots responsible, THAT is a finding. Improper water disposal can account for the deposits of synthetic chemicals.

    There’s a reason we have a Clean Water Act and RCRA. The blatant stupidity of pumping contaminated water into unlined pits undermines everything that industry has done to clean up our environment. That was dumping of hazardous waste and those responsible should be punished. However, my comments on the possible natural origins of the natural gas still stand and must be addressed.

    The point is that the problems can be reasonably explained by a combination of natural sources and the illegal dumping that was shown in the report. The EPA fails to account for that possibility and blames the fracking itself without fair trial, and then they release this to the public without peer review. Then the news picks up on it and don’t even mention the illegal dumping or the insufficient casing and just blame fracking.

    #67
  68. Peeper

    There needs to be a moratoreum on Obama. How’s Solyndra going for ya? How about that gun control Holder? How’s the Poopupy protest going?

    #68
  69. mike

    “The agency also stressed that the findings are unique to Pavillion, where fracturing has taken place both in and below the drinking water aquifer and very close to drinking water wells — conditions that are not common elsewhere in the U.S.”

    You have to read 3/4 of the way through the story to find this little tidbit. Gee, what a surprise. If you p in your cornflakes you screw them up. If you frack in or near your water supply you may contaminate your water supply. I wonder how much this “report” will cost us.

    #69
  70. eiioi

    SaltWaterCroc,
    Tell you what – why don’t we save ourselves a trip to Ozona, and you just post whatever evidence you have right here? I’ve been to Ozona, I’ve had the water, and I still don’t know what you’re talking about.

    #70
  71. eiioi

    Justin Davis wrote:
    “JB: Just Google videos with the search terms “fracking” and “water on fire”.
    I really don’t consider it brainwashing to want to avoid toxic, flammable drinking water.”

    ===========================
    You’ve simply listed a collection of nouns and adjectives: fracking, fire, toxic, flammable, Google.

    The real world requires evidence. EPA needs scientific PEER-REVIEWED studies before making a law which will sustain legal challenges.

    You can also Google “coke worms pork video”. The video will show that Coke causes worms to come out of pork. You can also use Google to find all kinds of videos about aliens or Sasquatch or “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, but that doesn’t mean these things actually exist.

    #71
  72. eiioi

    A guy,

    That was my initial reaction too: this sure is a strange well which is not separated from the aquifer by either distance or an impermeable rock layer. WOGCC? Maybe they dropped the ball on permitting this well (in addition to Encana)?

    #72
  73. eiioi

    Ann,
    I think some people ARE enviro nut-jobs. The people who are looking for any excuse to stop drilling of any kind by protesting shale gas hydrofracking by pointing to a few water wells are pretty much extreme.

    You are correct though that protection of water resources is important too. Realize that not all oil and gas companies are the same though. Some still use open unlined pits for fracking fluids. Others have company rules allowing no pits of any kind (they truck out all of their fluids).

    It’s important for all to realize though that shale gas (and the hydrofracking needed to access it) is an answer to our prayers on energy. It will not provide all of our energy, but it is a blessing to this country.

    Others also need to realize that it is a blessing that a dry place like Pavillion, Wyoming has ANY clean, shallow groundwater at all. And that we are lucky that such a place, which is technically a desert with only 8 inches of rain per year, can sustain crops year after year (just check out a satellite image).

    #73
  74. eiioi

    SaltWaterCroc,

    Point taken about the sour sites in Crockett county, but I think that’s a separate issue. There are already regulations about how much sour gas can be vented, and above a certain limit, it must be controlled either by a flare or VRU. Yes, this rule came about as the result of a tragedy: the 9 people who died 1984 in Denver City. And I’m glad we have this rule in place.

    I don’t like seeing dead birds on location, but what can you reasonably do about that? The netting which is required by law to be put over sump areas for chemicals can actually end up trapping anything that gets in there.

    Sorry if I don’t believe the story about the sheep though. In Kazakhstan, people would claim all sorts of things about cows eating sulfur and then dying. Sometimes, the cows had been nowhere near any oil or sulfur operations, but hey, at least they tried to get some money out of it.

    Anywho, while the above is interesting to talk about, it has nothing to do with hydrofracking in Pavillion, WY.

    #74
  75. eiioi

    By the way, for this study, EPA’s monitoring wells were drilled in known gas-bearing zones. So of course they found hydrocarbons in the wells. Duh!

    Also, the samples from existing drinking water wells only found an additive used in plastics, not O&G industry-related hydrocarbons.

    I got more if you want.

    #75
  76. Ken Chapel

    The energy pundits point to the wyoming test results as being inconclusive….I suppose if other tests in other states where frakking is being used show similar results, these pundits will claim it’s a natural occurrence…..

    #76
  77. pacificoil

    too bad there are no historical water tests prior to the upswing in drilling in the mid 90′s. Does anyone maybe think the water in that area has been bad for years and with the recent attack on O&G and the release of the comical mockumentary “GasLand” these folks realized that if they screamed loud enough, they could get the EPA to release a report opening up endless litigation against the companies responsible for these wells? Granted the synthetics found in water samples are hard to explain away, but this report – whether valid or not will allow these people to sue every company involved for compensation.

    That being said…the engineers who designed these completions were idiots. These shoddy completions are going to bring down fire on industry in the form of this report and the backlash that will follow.

    Mike Bone – on a side note…did you really use Gas Land as a resource for people to use to learn about industry? Please say it ain’t so.

    #77
  78. bg

    This project has been ongong for a few years. It only gets this attention due to the wacko anti-frac media pawns. I agree that EnCana could not have picked a worse location to develop some crappy shallow tight gas sand reservoirs with minimal vertical separation from domestic wells. Let’s be realistic and consider the pre-shale gas mindset of 10 years ago for this type of development was quite different than it is today. I am sure EnCana would never have pursued these reservoirs today due to the proximity to domestic wells. Still, the anti-frac groups are going to get all the mileage they can out of this regardless of the geologic considerations of other basins and reservoirs. Can I ask that commentors refrain from the references to idiotic GasLand flaming water circus scene. That has been disproved as unrelated to any deep natural gas drilling activities.

    #78
  79. 3D02

    Trace amounts of Glycol and Alcohol in my water. Delicious! Thanks mother nature for providing your bounty.

    #79
  80. 3D02

    eiioi wrote:
    Others also need to realize that it is a blessing that a dry place like Pavillion, Wyoming has ANY clean, shallow groundwater at all. And that we are lucky that such a place, which is technically a desert with only 8 inches of rain per year, can sustain crops year after year (just check out a satellite image).

    The issue is whether the wells they have are being contaminated by fracking. I grew up in a place no different than Pavillion. High desert with ample supplies of ground and surface water. Luckily there was no issue with well contamination from local industry.

    #80
  81. eiioi

    Ken Chapel wrote:
    “The energy pundits point to the wyoming test results as being inconclusive….I suppose if other tests in other states where frakking is being used show similar results, these pundits will claim it’s a natural occurrence…..”
    ————-
    It sounds like you’ve written the story and the conclusions already. Why don’t you fabricate some more details and make a Hollywood “documentary” out of it?

    #81
  82. eiioi

    Great! Thanks, 3D02 for telling me what the issue is. If you’ll re-read my post (or maybe read the whole thing for the first time, which it appears you might not have done yet), you’ll see that I was simply advocating for a balanced view. Briefly:
    -not everyone asking for more studies and more regulations to protect drinking water is an “environmental wacko”.
    -one or even several cases of environmental problems caused by a couple companies doesn’t mean that all (or even most) companies are like this. And it doesn’t mean that a significant number of wells will have environmental problems either.

    #82
  83. olivia

    Channel 8 news reported this story last night. Sure the water may be bad, but the drilling company has added xxx number of jobs and put $….. dollars back in our society. What a deal!

    #83
  84. Riley

    This may well be another global-warming-type hoax. What kind of real scientist would sell his soul?

    #84
  85. Deepwater Engineer has a good point. These gas wells in question were not well cased and are much shallower than your average gas well. The fracking that’s going on in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, and perhaps some day New York is going to happen two miles underground, not at 1200 feet. As long as the well is properly cased, there is zero danger to the water supply.

    But having said that, if the critics of the gas industry would read the EPA’s report (all 125 pages of it) as I did, they would see that there are some serious flaws in the EPA’s methodology.

    1. There were only two wells drilled by the EPA to get deep water samples. These wells were deeper than the wells drilled by homeowners for domestic water supply.

    2. Those two test wells were drilled into a hydrocarbon bearing formation. If you drill into a pocket of gas, then gas is going to show up in your well, but the gas has nothing to do with fracking.

    3. The EPA only took two samples from each well, about a year apart.

    4. The chemicals of concern found in some cattle watering well samples can be easily explained by the presence of decades-old “legacy pits” nearby where old drill cuttings were disposed of. That has nothing to do with fracking either. It’s interesting that the EPA disposed of their own well cuttings by dumping them in a landfill.

    5. Of the residential drinking wells tested, the only chemical that was found to be above acceptable Federal Drinking Water Safety specifications was a chemical called 2-BE. That’s not a chemical associated with fracking. It is a chemical associated with plastic pipes and household cleaners, however. And of the three independent labs that tested the water samples, only one found the 2-BE.

    6. The EPA used “blank water” samples as a control. Blank water is ultra purified water which is transported out into the field and then put in the same kind of containers as the test well water at exactly the same time. It’s supposed to show if there was some sort of contamination of the water samples at the time of collection. It turns out the blank water samples tested positive for some of the substances of concern that the EPA says they found in the well water. In other words it looks like the EPA may have accidentally contaminated their own samples.

    It’s way to soon to say what has or has not happened to the water underneath Pavillion, WY.

    #85