Hydrofracking - are we nuts? (OT)


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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.

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.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Dec 8, 2011 - 10:25pm PT
Base I really treasure your voice here. Thanks.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 9, 2011 - 02:04am PT
B104: 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.

Would it not have also picked up oil from the Canadian side of the Beaufort Sea, and perhaps farther east in the Arctic? IIRC, they did quite a lot of exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea, and found a fair bit of oil (and gas), with promise of more. It's been sitting since then, as it's too expensive to safely get out and ship, plus the tar sands came on stream. And no one really knows how much is there, plus our countries continue to squabble over where the Beaufort Sea boundary is.

bump - B104 always adds something informed and useful.
Rattlesnake Arch

Social climber
Home is where we park it
Dec 9, 2011 - 07:16am PT
Which sources should we develop to run our computers and electric cars?


California has already decided to generate electricity from natural gas and nuclear. Notice how tiny the contribution from alternative sources (except hydro - more dams anyone?)


Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Dec 9, 2011 - 12:10pm PT

The proposed line was a natural gas line, not an oil line. The economics simply aren't there for any route at this time. Who knows maybe they'll end up needing the gas to produce the massive heavy oil field that lays under prudhoe bay, but which is currently not technically or economically able to be produced. As it is the gas has been used to help with Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) for the past several decades, so it really has been better to recycle and use a portion of the gas to get the more valuable oil to market then to ship it South.

There currently is some production occuring in the Beufort, Endicott Island has been producing for decades, and Northstar has now been in production for a decade.

Social climber
Dec 9, 2011 - 12:22pm PT
Jfailing wrote

“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...”

Been some time but maybe two-three years ago they used this system if I recall just north of San Francisco, Napa Valley area? Drilled down to cap geothermal energy and their thinking was using crack systems would work better. Started a few earthquakes in the area and had to stop production so lost investment.

Core drilling for thermal storage is OK there is a difference. Software for soils underneath to show compostion where water and fines,rock and voids.

Doing one here myself will supply heat and cooling for three houses, if I go deeper add more bore holes can have my own utility company and supply 30-40 homes. Passive solar plus electric. Net zero but calculations going for -15. -15 meaning I can sell extra eletricity or have the swimming pool heated during the winter time 24 hours.


Social climber
kennewick, wa
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2011 - 12:27pm PT
Despite having had graduate level courses in Hydrogeology, I dont know enough to have a informed opinion on whether hydrofracking is alright or not. However, using fracking fluid that contains contaminants to our drinking water supplies is just plain wrong. You can't dump unknown fluids above ground or in surface water supplies and trust me, it is way more difficult to clean up if it is in the groundwater. At a minimum, hydrofracking fluids should be regulated to prevent the introduction of contaminants into the ground.

Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Dec 9, 2011 - 12:33pm PT
So Base regarding the EPA findings

Chemicals found in a Wyoming town's drinking water likely are associated with hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday, raising the stakes in a debate over a drilling technique that has created a boom in natural-gas production.

The agency's draft findings are among the first by the government to link the technique, dubbed "fracking," with groundwater contamination. The method—injecting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals to dislodge natural gas or oil—has been criticized by environmentalists for its potential to harm water supplies, which the industry disputes.

Are you saying the EPA is wrong or just a case of a good technique backfiring by being used in wrong places?

What to do? The industry moans about regulation but when unregulated, somebody abuses it until theres a deadly mess



An Oil Field
Dec 9, 2011 - 01:15pm PT
I saw the EPA release this morning. All of that stuff gets sent to me.

My "guess" is that it is probably real. I am pretty sure that where they are working is the Jonah field. That sucker has so many wells in it that it is like a pin cushion. It isn't a horizontal shale gas area, though.

I will tell you this. There is nothing as nasty as an old oil field. Wells that were drilled in the fifties and sixties are usually depleted and plugged by now, but they are famous for groundwater problems. The biggest problem by far is saltw#ter contamination from old water floods. There are huge problems with that, and it is mainly historic.

What freaks all of us out about the EPA is that in the older producing states we have a very strict regulatory structure on groundwater protection. It isn't very expensive to do, so I have never heard a peep.

The base of fresh water is known pretty much everywhere in the producing basins. The state requires that you case and cement off the fresh water. Most wells have several casing strings between the producing casing string and the annulus of the surface casing. The string over fresh water is called surface casing.

Anyway, to even get approval to drill a well, the state gives you orders on casing requirements to protect the groundwater. It is no big deal at all, technology or money wise. It is now super difficult to get approval for a waterflood. That is where you go into an old, depleted, field, and inject produced saltw#ter back into the formation to bring the reservoir pressure back up and then "sweep" it from the injection wells to the producers.

If there is an old well in the area that was drilled from the sixties or earlier, it probably doesn't have adequate surface casing. So as you pressure up the reservoir, that saltw#ter migrates right into that old wellbore and right up into the groundwater. To get approval, you have to go back in and plug those wells properly, which is often not possible because when they plugged a well back then, they threw all kinds of junk down the hole. So if you do have that problem, most companies won't even try it.

There are other things that are state specific. In southern Kansas, there is a salt layer that is 1000 feet thick in some places. It outcrops around Hutchison, KS, and there are big mines there.

So when you drill through it, your drilling mud chlorides go way up and if it doesn't get hauled off and handled properly, you can get chlorides in your groundwater just from leaking through the pit. So the state of Kansas, who has known about this problem from zillions of wells, makes you deal with it in a very specifically regulated way.

Another thing in Kansas. There is a zone in the mesozoic section called the Cedar Hills sandstone. Where it exists, the saltw#ter in it is notoriously corrosive. It will eat through your production casing in three years and you will totally lose your well. So in those areas, you have to run what is called a DV tool or port collar. It is just a device that you screw into your pipe when completing a well. After you do the initial cement job you have to come up and then do a second cement stage uphole over the Cedar Hills.

Also, in dry holes, when you plug them you are required to set a big cement plug over the Cedar Hills, because it is beneath the Dakota and Ogalalla aquifer. It doesn't cost jack to set that extra plug.

The problem is that you can't re-enter old dry holes in that area of Kansas because when you are drilling out the cement plugs to get down to some old, by-passed pay zone, the drill bit will not stay in the hole. It will hit that cement plug and kick off into the Cedar Hills 75% of the time. So nobody even tries it. They just drill a new well.

There is all kinds of specific stuff like this that the old producing states know about. In the modern age, nobody wants an environmental problem. It isn't a fine from the EPA or state you worry about. It is a landowner lawsuit for trashing his groundwater. Those are enourmous lawsuits and can bring a small company to its knees. They are a nightmare for big companies because it makes the press and the bad news is also a nightmare.

I tell ya. The bigger companies who drill in the U.S., which are almost all big "independents," have massive environmental compliance departments. If there is a blowout or spill, they show up all moon suited up within hours.

Bullwinkle has a link upthread to a shale gas well that somehow got loose when it was flowing its frac water back. That was a mess, but it was contained and cleaned up.

The big independents are the ones who developed the shale gas technology. Now the majors are in on it as either joint venture partners or by buying an existing company.

I hate watching the Exxon commercials about how we have all of this safe natural gas around. Well, yeah, we do have all of this natural gas in certain shale formations that we can now recover, but the guy has a sneer like a used car salesman. Plus, I don't like the major companies too much anyway. A lot of these companies are run by true believers who rip global warming and all kinds of environmental concerns.

Hell, I have been reading stuff on climate change for twenty years. I believe it. I certainly feel that it can't be discounted willy nilly like Rush Limbaugh does.

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