Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fracking Without Water

OK, so the oil companies have finally figured out a way to do their fracking operations without water - using essentially propane, or liquified natural gas instead.  This solves one of the main problems (what to do with the fracking fluid flowback) but as far as I can tell does nothing for the other main problems - leaking gas production - either through up hole leaks or via fracturing that may penetrate overlying formations in addition to the target formation.  Some contend these other problems, at least the up-hole leaks, are the larger problems by far.

I'm beginning to feel that hydraulic fracking commands a new and well-thought out set of regulations.  I'd like to see each state address this issue, or collaborate on one set for all states, but I'm afraid the industry is far too influential in all the major producing states to get very far down that road.  Looks like there is much work to be done in convincing the Kansas Legislature that special regulations should be developed in the interest of groundwater quality protection.  (Heck, maybe there is a local GMD role that can be explored here as we have groundwater quality responsibilities as well.)

I've said before that we need at least:  1) assurances that production well integrity is checked more often and carefully maintained; 2) ditto for injection wells; 3) engineering plans for the target zone fracturing are made a matter of record; 4) ditto for fracking chemicals used; and 5) there should be an adequate fund established for fixing problems that is readily accessible by state regulators. 

For debate, I'd also like to see the industry do a moderate level of groundwater sampling (if usable groundwater exists in the immediate area) before operations begin; and submit production samples as fingerprint items for future reference; and be required to use non-fresh water for all their operations whenever possible. Might as well ask - Christmas is just around the corner.

As far as I see it, without more industry accountability we're going to continue arguing over mistakes, accidents and natural occurrences forever, and as long as this situation continues as it is organized now, the oil and gas industry is going to win 99 times out of a hundred.

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