Hydrofracking - are we nuts? (OT)


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Gym climber
left sac
Apr 19, 2011 - 01:59pm PT
If you read above, there is no way to frac a zone 5000 to 12000 feet deep and have the fractures get anywhere near the surface. Just math.

They don't have to reach the surface... they just have to reach an overlying unit with hydraulic connection to the surface. Just subsurface hydrogeology... all hypothetical.

It isn't uncommon for groundwater aquifers to extend a couple thousand feet... leaving ~3000' of material between the petroleum and groundwater. If that 3000' is mostly permeable material, it isn't hard to imagine an induced fracture near the bottom leading to petroleum migrating upward. If the permeable material is filled with high density brine, the density gradient would accelerate the upward migration of petroleum.

I'm not arguing with you BASE104, just throwing sh#t out there because I think it is super cool.

I 100% agree, contamination from the surface is a much bigger issue than hydrofracing.
Mark Not-circlehead

Martinez, CA
Apr 19, 2011 - 02:04pm PT
Now, I didn;t read all the psts (and all the responses in the lonoonnnggg posts), but I have this comment;

Most of the chemical everyone os afraid of getting into groundwater, were already in the ground (as crude) to begin with......The only connection to groundwater would be through the wellbore.

Am I off base?

Trad climber
Apr 19, 2011 - 02:16pm PT
We have a big energy problem on this planet. Nuclear looked good until the Japan incident, much of the world's oil has a big political issue, and wind&solar can't fill the gap. We should conserve and use less but this won't fix the problem.
Shale gas and shale oil will go a long way on this continent to helping us manage for longer. Shale gas in particular is abundant in some areas and should play a much bigger role in the future as it is probably less damaging than the alternatives. In fact we should stop using coal for electricity generation and use more gas.
Disclosure: I work in oil and gas exploration

Gym climber
left sac
Apr 19, 2011 - 02:17pm PT
The only connection to groundwater would be through the wellbore.

Depends on the size of the confining unit and the permeability of the material between the reservoir and the aquifer. Break the seal and less dense petroleum could easily migrate upward.

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 19, 2011 - 03:38pm PT
Thanks Base,

when I started this thread my main concern was in two areas; the potential for contamination to groundwater, and that the regulators actually do not require the fracking fluid to be identified. I saw that the "recipe's" are proprietary, and my response is that it is my earth too and I want to know what is being injected, pretty simple.
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Apr 19, 2011 - 03:42pm PT
+1 for Golsens point above.

Big Wall climber
Nor Nev
Apr 19, 2011 - 03:50pm PT
Base good work and thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Hows the recession in the Nat gas business? LOL

Trad climber
fort garland, colo
Apr 19, 2011 - 03:59pm PT
One of the CO nukes was near Silt ? I was reading a bit ago about the Book Cliffs shale stuff, seems a bit crazy since SO much goes into getting it out.

Op Ploughshare also wanted to nuke a new harbor in Alaska so they could mine and ship out coal. Even got Teller up there try and convince the locals to be coal miners instead of fishing

Trad climber
Mill Valley, CA
Apr 19, 2011 - 04:22pm PT
Base, you posit that oil business is not extracting oil in ways that may be dangerous because they are afraid of environmental costs. I counter that that fear of a possibility of punitive measures versus the certainty of profit now has led to many abuses. For example, what happened in the gulf.

My mom worked for an oil businessman and asked him if he wasn't concerned about global warming affecting the polar bears. He said, "Who cares about the polar bears?"

Trad climber
Indiana (the other Mideast)
Apr 19, 2011 - 05:52pm PT
I haven't seen anybody ask about what happens to the fluids after they are used in the fracking process for disposal?

Much of it is flushed through municipal wastewater treatment plants that is then flushed downstream in rivers used for drinking water of 18M people!

This fracking fluid contains BARIUM, STRONTIUM, AND OTHER RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS. And who knows what else is in the fluid as the O & G industry is not required to reveal what they use in their fracking fluid...

But hey, no big deal...people can buy bottled water if they are worried about their tap water being contaminated.


Social climber
kennewick, wa
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 19, 2011 - 06:29pm PT
Our drinking water is precious. One of the reasons that we Americans have good drinking water is not because of high tech water and wastewater treatment, but because we protect the raw water supplies (surface and ground).

It is sometiems scary what Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) can process through their wastewater treatment systems. Frequently, those technologies employed do not remove the contaminants, but through shear volume the dilution will then allow the POTW to meet effluent requirements.

At one Superfund Site I worked on, the Record of Decison (ROD) was to treat through Carbon Adsorption some 1 million gallons of pesticide (compounds such as Aldrin etc. now banned) contaminated water. I designed and specified a system for the contractor do do this. When the contractor was out getting ready to do the work he called me and wanted relief as he said that the local POTW that discharged into the Mississippi River would take the contaminated water with no pre-treatment. There would have been minimal treatment of these compounds in that plant. Given the logic, that the POTW would not have removed the contaminants, it was then a dilution process. Needless to say that contractor was unhappy as I disallowed his request.

The point here is that protecting our groundwater is essential. I totally understand that there are instances where the fracturing will have no impact on GW aquifers. However, for a regulatory process to not even understand what is being injected is unacceptable and not confidence inspiring.

Gym climber
left sac
Apr 19, 2011 - 07:05pm PT
You may know chemistry very well, but we are dealing with a temperature and pressure regime that a zillion doctorates have created.

That's interesting cuz I don't know sh#t about chemistry... my MS is in contact metamorphism and fracture controlled thermal buoyancy driven fluid flow (kinda relevant?)... my doctorate will be in heat and fluid transport in variably saturated media (again, kinda relevant?). If you don't know the name Jacob Bear, you don't know jack about multi-phase fluid flow in porous media.

A 2 million gallon frac sounds like a lot, but it is a drop of warm piss when compared to the overlying saltw#ter bearing zones above you.

That overlying sal-twat-er is presumably in a relatively permeable unit, no? That sal-twat-er is more dense than the underlying petroleum, no? And it is separated by the confining layer/trap, no? Connect the two via an unintended fracture through the impermeable layer and the sal-twat-er will flow down while the petroleum flows up, no?

Considering only the density effects from sal-twat-er at ~1250 kg/m3 and petroleum at ~800 kg/m3. The density difference alone produces a force per unit mass of 5.5 m/s2, more than half that of gravity... not insignificant. Add in capillary effects (water prefers the smaller pores of the recently fractured lower permeability unit due to higher surface tension) plus any background hydraulic gradient and it will likely be higher. I have to draw the line at actual flow rates, that's a career in itself.

I don't know if those fractures penetrate the cap rock... and I don't think the oil companies/hydrofrac'ers do either. I'm not saying it is currently an issue, I'm saying it may be an issue... one I seriously doubt oil companies spend much time contemplating... other than what will happen if brine enters their reservoir, in which case they shut it down and walk away... out of site, out of mind. But the buoyancy forces persist...

Trad climber
Terrible Taft
Apr 19, 2011 - 07:15pm PT
Base - good to hear from someone with experience in the drilling industry. I read through most of your posts (but hey, they're waaay long), and they nail it pretty well. When it really comes down to it, the probability of aquifer contamination from the actual fractures down-hole is extremely low.

Dick Luger brings up the more important point - where we are taking the contaminated fracking fluid. That's how it's getting into our drinking water. The article he posted is very informative.

Sort of off-topic, but sort of not: it seems that everyone forgets about geothermal energy as a sustainable almost zero emission source of energy/electricity. There is a technique called Enhanced Geothermal Systems that uses hydrofracturing to create fracture zones in "hot, dry rock" that, if someone can figure out how to get it to work, could open up huge potential all over the west for geothermal. Perhaps we can learn from the mistakes we're making now in hydrofracking when using the technique for other avenues...

Edit: Also to add: Studly - the companies that be are constantly monitoring the status of their existing wells, mostly to monitor their output. There's a special wireline caliper tool that can measure the thickness of the casing - if there is a spot in the casing that is showing more wear, or the possibility of cracking, the company will go to steps of repairing it.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
How do you like my new weather gear?
Apr 20, 2011 - 12:49am PT
Now thermohydrofracking sounds dangerous, like grow a new volcano in downtown LA dangerous, lol. None of that near the San Andreas family of faults if you please!

Paul Martzen

Trad climber
Apr 20, 2011 - 12:16pm PT
Base104, that was fascinating reading. Thanks for taking the time.

Boulder climber
Apr 20, 2011 - 06:33pm PT
Yes it's perfectly safe. . .


Social climber
Portland, Oregon
Jul 10, 2011 - 02:20pm PT
This week's This American Life episode spends the hour on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania:


Among other topics, examines the intertwining of the gas industry, state government and Penn State.

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 8, 2011 - 09:19pm PT

EPA Ties Fracking, Pollution
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 8, 2011 - 09:27pm PT
Did Base delete his post above defending Fracking?

No wonder the GOP wants to eliminate the EPA



An Oil Field
Dec 8, 2011 - 10:23pm PT
Yeah, I was on a tear of deleting my posts for a while. Sorry.

The problem is that the hysteria is so wrong. They don't even know why the Marcellus in the northeast is a terrible place to frac. I can explain it in two paragraphs. I am working, though.

I am on a long consulting contract with one of the biggest horizontal companies in the country, so I get to sit in on the engineering meetings and all that. I know pretty much every play in the country.

It isn't a problem in TX, LA, OK, ND, etc. We have the infrastructure and good geology to deal with the fluid disposal.

In the northeast they have no way of disposing of the water, which is bad when it flows back because it is mixed with formation water that is high in chlorides. Saltw#ter in the groundwater is the worst. You can't clean it up. I heard that they were using produced saltw#ter to salt roads in Pennsylvania or one of those Marcellus areas. You would go to prison in OK for doing that.

Frac jobs involve moving a lot of fluid around. It isn't that nasty, but I wouldn't drink it.

The real crime here is that 90% of the hysteria is based on zero science. Nobody noticed that Obama opened up the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea to drilling. Much of the Beafort area starts at the three mile limit offshore of ANWR. The eskimos are a maritime people, so they wanted the onshore drilling. They are freaking out about the offshore drilling permits and have joined in lawsuits.

Now. Those places have ice 9 months or so out of the year. How are you going to have a spill plan? The Chukchi is also really shallow, and at least near the shore, the ice bulldozes the sea bottom. I have no idea how they are going to protect the pipelines. That is the reason that the proposed gas line from AK to the lower 48 had its route changed. The Canadians wanted it to follow the coast and pick up the McKenzie Delta stranded gas. Too risky.

All this happened a while back, and nobody noticed. The leases in the Chukchi Sea (north of the Bering Sea) went for billions, so there must be some damn good geology over there.

Gasland is total crap. There is actually one part of it that is a real pollution problem.

Gas prices are in the toilet, so the drilling has really slowed down. It is all oil zones right now.
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