Hydrofracking - are we nuts? (OT)


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Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Jul 14, 2014 - 08:50pm PT
The Monterey Revolution ain't gonna happen, largely for the reasons outlined below in the abstract by Tom MacKinnon, former Chief Stratigrapher for Chevron. Several modern style hydrofracks have been attempted in the Monterey diatomite and chert in the last 10 years at South Belridge Field (see photo) with very limited success. Not sure how much more the land surface could be impacted at Belridge.

Geology of the Monterey Formation of California
With Comments on Recent Oilfield Developments

Dr. Thomas C. MacKinnon

Diatomaceous rocks and their diagenetic equivalents, chert, porcelanite and siliceous mudstone are abundant in Miocene deposits of the Pacific region. Of these, the Monterey Formation is the best known and most extensive. Its origin is tied to a fortuitous combination of tectonic, climatic and oceanographic events. In Oligocene-Early Miocene times, a change from subduction to a transform margin resulted in extension of the borderland and formation of new marine basins isolated from terrigenous input. In Miocene times, global cooling and changes in ocean circulation resulted in increased upwelling and productivity, and rapid accumulation of relatively undiluted biogenic sediment. Near the end of the Miocene, plate motion shifted from transtension to transpression, resulting in mountain building and a sudden influx of terrigenous material; this signaled the end of Monterey-style deposition in most areas of California. Rapid burial and basin-margin uplift continued through the Pliocene to the present, creating an ideal setting for oil field formation. As burial proceeded, soft diatomaceous rocks were converted to brittle chert, porcelanite, and siliceous mudstone. With further burial, organic-rich Monterey rocks generated hydrocarbons. Rocks overlying or adjacent to the Monterey included porous sandstones that made ideal reservoirs. Oil migration was aided by fractures in brittle Monterey rock types. Approximately 29 Billion barrels of oil have been produced in California, with roughly 90% probably sourced from the Monterey. Most of this oil has been produced from clastic rocks, leaving enormous amounts of oil still trapped in the matrix of low permeability Monterey rock types. In 2011 a report by INTEK, funded by the federal government, claimed that the Monterey Formation contained 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil, making it the largest resource base in the US. Using the INTEK numbers at face value, economists at USC predicted that California could experience an enormous economic boom. Both reports have been criticized as being wildly optimistic and not factually based, but not before they created a firestorm of public controversy resulting in new regulations on fracking. The main problem with the INTEK report was incorrectly assuming the Monterey would behave like the new tight oil and gas plays (i.e. Bakken, Marcellus) elsewhere in the U.S.; but the Monterey has little in common
with these plays. While it is clear that tremendous amounts of oil do remain within Monterey “shales” and diatomite, no easy way has been found to extract it. For decades operators have been using every available technique for enhancing production. This includes water flooding, steam flooding (lateral and huff-and- puff), CO2 flooding, and acidization, utilizing both vertical and horizontal injector and producing wells, some of which are fracked. There is no Monterey “Revolution”, however, operators will continue to seek better ways to extract the tremendous volume of oil remaining for many years to come.


RE the environmental impacts of hydrofracking in other States (e.g., Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania & New York, Bakken Fm in N Dakota, etc), I'd say the jury is still out.

IMO, the greatest risks to the environment from hydrofracking are...

1) the existence of poorly completed wells that can serve as vertical conduits for drilling mud, frack fluid (flow back), produced fluids, methane, condensate, etc. and gas blow outs during drilling or production operations. These wells may or may not be known to the operators;

2) inadequate or poor cement jobs in the vertical portion of new hydrofrack wells that can serve as vertical conduits. Sometimes these poor cement jobs are identified with cement bond logs and sometimes not;

3) mishandling of drilling, frack and produced fluids during drilling, well installation and fracking (especially by the smaller operators). Discharge of these fluids, that can contain elevated levels of naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM)*, metals, and hazardous chemicals, to natural surface water or discharge to unlined surface impoundments that infiltrate into shallow groundwater;

* http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/122-a50/


4) methane leaks to the atmosphere during drilling or from production facilities. Also the increase in methane flaring.

IMO, as long as the oil industry can keep hydrofracking as the focus of public debate, rather than how our society can transition away from a hydrocarbon-based economy, then they are winning and our children & grandchildren are losing.

J David Hughes, a Canadian geoscientist


Mark Zoback, Stanford Univ Geophysicist and expert in Rock Mechanics

are relatively unbiased sources for information about the Monterey Fm potential and the environmental impacts of hydrofracking.

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Jul 15, 2014 - 08:43am PT
Noble gas mass spectrometry will likely shed some light on these issues...

Goldschmidt Conference 2014 Abstracts

**The source and migration of natural
gas in shallow aquifers: Insights
provided by the integration of noble
gas and hydrocarbon isotopes**


1School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University,
Columbus, OH 43210, USA
2Dept. of Environmental Earth System Science, School of
Earth Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305
3Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of
Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA
4Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover,
NH 03755, USA
5Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the
Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have enhanced
energy production but raised concerns over drinking-water
contamination and other potential health risks. Specifically, the
presence and environmental implications of elevated methane
and aliphatic hydrocarbons (ethane, propane, etc.) in drinkingwater
remain highly controversial and require a distinction
between naturally occurring and anthropogenic sources.
Previous efforts to resolve these questions have generally
focused on identification of the genetic fingerprint of natural
gas using the molecular (e.g., C2H6/CH4) and stable isotopic
(e.g., δ13C-CH4, δ2H-CH4, or Δ13C=(δ13C-CH4 - δ13C-C2H6))
compositions of hydrocarbon gases. In many cases, these
techniques can resolve thermogenic and biogenic contributions
of natural gas and further differentiate between multiple
thermogenic sources (e.g., Marcellus production gases vs.
intermediate Upper Devonian gas pockets). However, these
parameters are subject to alteration by microbial activity and
oxidation and may not always uniquely identify the source or
mechanism of fluid migration. Moreover, they do not
necessarily identify the transport mechanisms by which
material would migrate into shallow aquifers. In contrast to
hydrocarbon gases, noble gases provide a suite of elemental
and isotopic tracers that are unaffected by chemical reactions
or microbial activity. Here we develop an integrated noble gas
and hydrocarbon isotope analysis to evaluate if elevated levels
of natural gas in drinking-water aquifers near gas wells are
derived from natural or anthropogenic sources and to
determine the mechanism by which stray gas contamination

Somewhere out there
Aug 3, 2014 - 09:11am PT
Do you want to know if you are in an area effected by fracking?


Hey, bookmark the page... you cash come back later to see if your area has been selected for the winning prize.

Credit: Jingy

With so much of the US going the way of the crackers... how long before we are all drinking nothing but bottled water everywhere... not just texas and new york?

Is your neck of the woods on the winners map of the US?
Is your neck of the woods on the winners map of the US?
Credit: Jingy

And how long before everyones favorite state is turned into frack central

Credit: Jingy

Why didn't LA get everyone to believe it is a jewel not to be f*#ked?

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 3, 2014 - 09:32am PT
LA Times had quite the article on the waste-disposal disaster that is North
Dakota a week or so ago. If yer interested it is easily accessed on their site.
Suffice it to say the N Dakota state agencies belong to the pass-the-buck
school of gubmint responsibility. The EPA doesn't come out looking much better.

Somewhere out there
Aug 3, 2014 - 09:38am PT
Suffice it to say the N Dakota state agencies belong to the pass-the-buck
school of gubmint responsibility.

 Don't you mean typical behavior of a certain political party bend?

Here's one of the skull/crossbones dots on the page above...
In July 2008, a hydrologist discovered that a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyoming contained foul smelling, oily brown water.

Lab tests revealed the well water contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people.

Subsequent tests showed contamination in 88 of the 220 wells examined in Sublette County, and the plume of contaminants stretched more than 28 miles.

When researchers returned to take additional samples, they couldn't even open the water wells; monitors indicated the wells were so full of flammable gas they were likely to explode.

Source: "Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?" Abrahm Lustgarten. ProPublica. November 13, 2008.

When might it happen to you?

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Sep 18, 2014 - 11:14am PT
National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) study finds no evidence of natural gas migration along fractures or faults upward through geologic strata from hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale. However, the study did conclude that monitoring indicated microseismicity 3,800 ft above the Marcellus Shale in overlying geologic strata. To date, tracer monitoring has not confirmed any migration of natural gas or fluids into the overlying strata.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has released a technical report on the results of a limited field study that monitored a hydraulic fracturing operation in Greene County, PA for upward fracture growth out of the target zone and upward gas and fluid migration. Results indicate that under the conditions of this study, for this specific location, fracture growth ceased more than 5,000 feet below drinking water aquifers and there was no detectable upward migration of gas or fluids from the hydraulically-fractured Marcellus Shale.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method used to improve gas and oil production from low permeability formations (shale and tight sand reservoirs). During hydraulic fracturing, large volumes of sand and water, with small volumes of chemical additives, are injected into low-permeability subsur-face formations. The injection pressure of the fluid creates fractures that increase oil and gas flow, while the sand holds the fractures open.

The research study, led by NETL’s Office of Research and Development, used natural and man-made tracers to look for evidence that fluid and gas in this area from the hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale had migrated at least 3,800 feet upward to a gas producing zone of Upper De-vonian/Lower Mississippian age shale, midway between the Marcellus Shale and the surface. Microseismic monitoring from geophone arrays placed in two vertical Marcellus Shale gas wells were used to determine the upper extent of induced fractures.

During hydraulic fracturing at the Greene County site, researchers detected microseismic signals using downhole geophones. All signals recorded were at least 2,000 feet beneath the Upper De-vonian/Lower Mississippian gas field, and more than 5,000 feet below drinking water aquifers. Gas samples from the Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian gas field were collected 2 months prior to hydraulic fracturing, and up to 8 months afterwards, and no evidence of gas migration was detected. Monitoring of the Upper Devonian gas field up to 5 months following fracturing produced no evidence of fluid migration.

This research was funded through oil and gas royalties from drilling on Federal lands legislatively directed to the Department of Energy under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Complementary Program. The work was conducted via collaboration between government, in-dustry, and academia, in order to provide an unbiased, science-based source of information with which future decisions about shale gas development may be guided.

This study finds evidence of stray natural gas in shallow aquifers from deeper sources and that the mechanism is likely poor cement job or casing failure in the vertical section of the well. Also, one example of a gas blow out.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 19, 2014 - 10:08am PT
OK. What do you guys want to know?

To be clear, I do own mineral and royalty interests in a few areas with shale gas horizontals on them. They are from wells earlier in my career. We were producing from shallower, conventional wells. All of a sudden my monthly check goes up, I go look at the area, and see that it has a new horizontal on it.

Other than that, all of my current work is conventional vertical drilling.

These are small interests. Farmers are getting rich off of the shale plays. Geologists get a small cut in some deals if they are lucky.


Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Sep 19, 2014 - 02:47pm PT
Aubry McClendon of Chesapeake Energy made lots of money from hydrofracking for natural gas that has nothing to do with geology. E.g., turning over natural gas properties, creative debt financing, screwing over business partners, charging property owners exorbitant fees for moving natural gas in local pipelines, etc.



Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 19, 2014 - 04:38pm PT
He mainly screwed the stockholders. Hence he and the BOD were punted.

I interviewed with him once. He isn't very beloved among other companies.

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Sep 19, 2014 - 10:18pm PT

The real father of modern hydrofracking is George P Mitchell who developed techniques for extracting natural gas from the Barnett Shale by improving the proppant suspension properties of frack fluids and fracking horizontal wells in multiple stages.

Daniel Yergin, the oil-industry analyst and historian, says Mitchell’s fracking technique is so far “the most important, and the biggest, energy innovation of this century.” It is also the most environmentally controversial.

McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
Sep 19, 2014 - 11:39pm PT
Credit: McHale's Navy

Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 20, 2014 - 08:04am PT
Yeah. Everybody knows the story of Mitcell Energy, which is now owned by Devon Energy.

Oklahoma City is the home of the most active horizontal companies. I read about them, go to technical meetings given by them. He'll, I had an old girlfriend who was Aubrey's first receptionist. I consulted for the biggest one for a year, a few years ago.

It is a technical process, and none of the popular media ever gets it right.

I was amazed that people latched on to fracking and made it a "problem."

Trad climber
Sep 20, 2014 - 08:19am PT
Obama's on board with it. The EPA was told to stand down. A slimy trail of money?

At least OK now can enjoy the excitement of earthquakes, in addition to the increasing violence of the atmosphere.


Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 20, 2014 - 12:17pm PT
Regarding the earthquakes rattling the snot out of Oklahoma, there is a lot of baloney out there on the web and in popular media.

When you frack a well, you have a bunch or high powered pump trucks that can inject the water/sand mixture at high pressure. After you are finished injecting, you open the wellhead and flow back all of that frack water. You get most of it right back, and you only affect downhole pressures for a short period.

That is why fracks don't cause very many earthquakes. There was a recent paper where there was an earthquake swarm associated with fracking a horizontal in southern Oklahoma. The were all less than mag 2.0.

Out of the other thousands of horizontal fracked wells, I'm not aware of any other earthquakes. I keep track of what is going on at the Survey, too.

On the other hand, injection wells have long been associated with earthquakes. In the past few years a couple of areas in Oklahoma have gone insane, with daily earthquakes in the 3.5 or less range. Still, 3.5 is a big deal, and Oklahoma is now having a lot more earthquakes than California. Injection wells are active for decades, and over time they can raise the pore pressure in the injection zone. Increasing this pore pressure is the culprit. Fracks only affect a tiny area for a few days. Injection wells affect bottom hole pressure til the end of time.

Almost all oil wells also produce saltwater. The saltwater is separated at the tank battery, and the oil goes into the oil tanks, while the saltwater goes into its tank. When the saltwater tank fills up, which might take years on some wells and days on others, you call up a company which manages a commercial saltwater disposal well. They truck away your saltwater and dispose of it in a highly regulated commercial injection well.

Those wells are closely watched and regulated, and have to have a mechanical integrity test (MIT) annually. They check casing integrity by setting a plug just above the injection perforations and pressuring up the casing. If you have a leak, you will see a rise in the pressure on the backside of the main casing string, at the annulus gauge on the wellhead.

Oklahoma injection wells now require daily records of volumes injected, and pressure readings between all of the casing strings.

The first area to begin having earthquakes was in an area that had no fracking going on at all. It was in a region where the Hunton Dolomite was being produced. Those wells made thousands of barrels per day of saltwater along with oil. The saltwater would have cost way too much to dispose of commercially, so operators would drill a deep disposal well on about every 3 square mile block, which might tie in to dozens of wells.

This was nothing really new. There are thousands of saltwater injection wells in the state, and there had been no induced seismicity.

This are was different, though. It involved a LOT of saltwater, and the injection wells were regularly scattered throughout the play.

The zone that everyone typically uses for an injection formaton in Oklahoma, Kansas, and much of Texas is the Arbuckle Dolomite, a very thick sequence of highly porous and permeable rock that lies beneath the oil production zones. The Arbuckle was already full of saltwater, and it is deep enough to prevent cross flow to another wellbore nearby. Nobody drills to the Arbuckle in these areas other than disposal wells. It's always been full of saltwater and always will be full of saltwater. In the Hunton production area it is about 1000 feet beneath the oil/saltwater producing Hunton zone. So you are taking water out of one zone and then injecting it into a deeper zone where it is safely out of the way. Back in the 20's, they would let saltwater run down creeks, and the super high chlorides would kill everything. After many decades, those areas have recovered, but a saltwater spill is considered just as bad as a land oil spill if both are small. Oil will get eaten by bacteria long before the chlorides can be washed out of the soil.

This is an important point: Saltwater is BAD. Think of frack flowback water as saltwater. It is usually far saltier than the ocean and contains contaminant minerals, but isn't considered hazardous waste. That is why offshore production can simply dump their saltwater into the ocean. Those wells don't typically produce much water, and it gets instantly diluted. This has been looked at from every angle, and even frack flowback fluid is almost all water, now contaminated with saltwater from the formation that you fracked. You can do a lot to clean up water, but it is extremely difficult to remove chlorides. That is why Pennsylvania was stupid to try to run it through municipal treatment plants.

All of these zones are deep, too. Overlain by miles of shale, sandstones, and limestones. Every pore space is filled with either saltwater, oil, or gas, basically. You can drill through a hundred porous zones full of saltwater just to get to a ten foot thick sandstone oil accumulation.

The only reason that you can even frack some of these organic rich shales is because they have a very high silica content. Numbers like Young's modulus and Poisson's Ratio are very important when drilling horizontals in the shales. They typically have zones of more ductile clay, which you can't frack, and zones of brittle high silica shale, which you can.

A horizontal well must be steered in a small stratigraphic interval, sometimes less than 30 feet thick, for it to be successful. A one mile lateral might have 30 sets of perforations, each requiring its own stage of the frack job. If the wellbore gets out of zone and into a ductile clay zone, you can pump into at at 10,000psi for days and never be able to inject the fluid for a successful frack. Today's wells are really considered to be successful on how many stages accepted the full amount of proppant.

These shales are overlain by thousands of feet of normal ductile clay rich shale with no hydrocarbons. You can't frack that with atomic bombs, and it was tried by the DOE in the fifties in Colorado and New Mexico.

OK. Saltwater and frack flowback handling are the big problems with these fracks. They are no different from a smaller frack on a vertical well other than their massive amount of fluid and sand.

Pennsylvania doesn't have a good disposal zone like the Arbuckle. They are trying all kinds of ways to recycle the frack flow back. There are already recycling systems being built in the SCOOP Woodford shale oil play in SW Oklahoma. They take that flowback, clean out the solids, and use it over and over again, which is a great help. This technology is going to be the future of how to handle frack flowback water.

More on Earthquakes later. It is not a shale. It is a thick, naturally fractured limestone that is being drilled up all over northern Oklahoma. The Mississippian Lime reservoir is famous for producing tons of saltwater. Like in that older Hunton play just NE of OKC, where we had a 5.6 several years ago, you have to tie in these wells to centralized saltwater disposal wells.

You increase the pore pressure and it can lubricate a fault, even a fault that hasn't moved in 200 million years. This is what we are seeing in Oklahoma right now. It is a horizontal play, but it isn't a shale. Shales don' make that much saltwater after they have flowed back the frack load. The Mississippian can produce with a 5% oil cut. 95% of the production is saltwater. At these oil prices, it is economic to produce that small of an oil cut as long as the overall fluid rates are huge.

Almost none of this has been published, but it is what is happening.

I can go into it more if anyone likes.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Sep 20, 2014 - 12:26pm PT
Seems like good economic development to me.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 20, 2014 - 12:35pm PT
If done the right way, it is. The downside is that the shale gas wells drain a very small area, so you have to drill a lot of wells from each pad.

Each one involves an unreal amount of trucking to bring in the water and sand. It tears up the roads, is a damn nuisance, and affects the landscape, which is almost all farms.

I remember when they drilled up the Woodford Shale in the Arkoma basin in SE Oklahoma. There were endless trucks for several years. Now it has been mostly developed and it has died down. The collapse in nat gas prices has also halted a lot of drilling.

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
Sep 20, 2014 - 02:53pm PT
I was amazed that people latched on to fracking and made it a "problem."

BASE104: although the Gasland films were full of inaccuracies and disinformation and I agree the mainstream media almost never reports any of this accurately, the environmental impacts of hydrofracking is NOT zero. In fact, you just enumerated some of the environmental issues above (i.e., increased traffic & congestion, air pollution, enormous amounts of fluids that need to be handled properly, etc.).

The myth propagated by the oil industry is that because there is no evidence that fractures induced in low permeability formations at depth have propagated upward and directly impacted shallow drinking water aquifers, that these operations are entirely environmentally safe.

Here's a list of impacts to be considered as part of an environmental assessment by the US Agency of International Development (USAID) for the development on shale gas in the Ukraine...

Water pollution from storing and transporting chemicals and fuels

Contaminated drinking water from escaped gas/chemicals

GHG emissions from extraction and production of gas

Leakage of VOCs from gas wells and compressor stations

Changes in sub-surface hydrology, including long-term damage to aquifers from fracturing chemicals

Safety and air pollution impacts from well fires and blowouts

Contamination of soils and water from drill cuttings and flowback fluids (heavy metals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and other pollutants )

Local impacts and economic disruption from influx of construction personnel and support services

Air pollution due to truck traffic and mobile generators

Impacts from new road building

Impacts from new lands development

Wetland/habitat degradation

Impacts to any Endangered Species

Impacts to Nearby Residents Damage to existing roads

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Sep 20, 2014 - 05:26pm PT
Hi Base104, can you talk about the composition of the fracking fluid and substances that are injected? Your summary seems qualitatively different from what I had read about in the past. A quick search turned up this:

Carcinogenic hydrocarbons used as solvents, and radioactive tracers... with large volumes of fracking, even low percentages of these components adds up to a lot of volume of nasty stuff being hauled in, aside from chloride and "saltwater," and low concentrations of some of these things leaking into groundwater can be a long term nightmare.

Social climber
So Cal
Sep 20, 2014 - 05:37pm PT
can you talk about the composition of the fracking fluid and substances that are injected?


a little of this.

(mineral oil)

and a little of this,


BTW that "evil" Halliburton has recently developed an NSF (National Sanitary Foundation, Writes the rules for what can be in contact with drinking water) approvable fracking fluid.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Sep 21, 2014 - 03:30pm PT
Yeah, they now have green frack fluids. I dunno how often they are used.

In one of the shale plays in Oklahoma, Continental has built two big water recycling centers. That is the way of the future.

It is so fashionable in journalism to paint these slick water fracks as some toxic brew injected into the ground. People just don't understand how oil and gas is found. I'll post up a geophysical log of a well for you guys to look at.

When drilling a well, after you reach total depth you call the logging company. Schlumberger is the best, but I've been using Weatherford a lot.

You lower these "tools," which look like twenty foot long stainless steel rods about 3 inches in diameter down the hole. You then turn on the logs and pull them up at a pretty slow rate. It can take all day to log a well if you have multiple runs. The tools have many instruments in them that measure porosity, permeability, lithology, fluid content, etc.

You evaluate the logs and then decide if you are going to plug the well or set production casing and complete it. I can look at a log and tell you a LOT. Very high technology. That is how I work. I spend all day building cross sections and correlating strata across areas in the producing basins.

The way that I have made most of my money is by finding zones that companies drilled right through and ignored, or didn't notice because of the poor technology in the 40's and 50's. So I look at a shitload of logs.
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