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Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us

Lax oversight, uncertain science plague program under which industries dump trillions of gallons of waste underground

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Charles Fox

June 25, 2012, 3:27 p.m.

A lethal injection for the future. The evidence is piling up that the underground impacts of the current fracking fever will scarcely be contained and will never be cleaned up. The pollution from 30 TRILLION gallons of pollutants injected into groundwater would cost more to clean up than our GDP would support. In a sense we are broadcasting our greed and disregard int the future. People who have not even been conceived will be harmed and impoverished by the prevailing culture is greed and utter disregard.

Darvin

June 25, 2012, 11:32 p.m.

i would like to way in if i may because this topic is right up my alley so to speak. first off i wish to say that in my experiance dealing with the Oil companies they have been very guarded on the information that they are willing to pass on. i honestly believe that the vast majority of employees for oil companies are trying to do the right thing. people tend to forget that there are lawyers out there waiting for a oil compnay to misstep so they can attack and use any information and get the general public to pounce to further thier own agenda.
that being said, i will not and can not throw on with the oil companies. instead of complaining about the issues how about addressing them. Over the past 4 years my company has been working at a viable solution to eliminate desposal sites. i am very proud to say that we have succeded. Not only have shown that we can clean the Frack water but we have shown that we can clean to better than drinking ater standards in the US. At pennies a gallon a gallon the oil industry has been very receptive to a solution that saves them billions.
My point being that in this great nation there are people working at towards a better future. We need to be more open and honest and share CORRECT AND COMPLETE information so we can deal with the issues. thank you for your time.

Robert

June 26, 2012, 2:25 a.m.

Fractalman said “As I stated previously, I doubt you produce a single thing except opinions.”  That is not snarky it is outright rude and confrontational.  There should be no place here for such comments.

“And let me tell you what the thrill from drilling into Mother Earth really is:  it’s exploration.”  I call it rape not exploration.

“Do employees make mistakes or cut corners?  You bet they do. Especially under fatigue”  Fatique, my a** it is due to purposeful cutting corners to save money not due to fatique.  The industry is so full of examples of lack of concern for the environment it would take a book to list the examples from day one of energy extraction to present.  And before you jump all over me, I have run a vegetable farm for some years with lots of hand labour up to the age of 70 - I know what fatique is too.  We paid off our mortgage with that labour.

I side with John for most of what he said.

Robert

ibsteve2u

June 26, 2012, 5:44 a.m.

I conclude that there is a direct relationship between profitability and resistance to change - and a direct relationship between profitability and the willingness to place the lives of others at risk.

That word others...a key word.  A keystone word, you might say.

John

June 26, 2012, 9:42 a.m.

Fractalman, let me turn the tables on myself, here.  I’m in software.  I’m good at what I do, I enjoy it, and I’m careful not to thrust stupid things on my users.  Most of my colleagues are the same way.

Yet the software industry has an awful reputation.  Why?  Because released code is as often crappy as good, and it’s rarely excellent.  The industry looks awful because it is awful, despite the best efforts of most of the people inside it.  Schedules in many companies are built around the end of the fiscal quarter, rather than when work will be done right, and some managers (or lawyers) will insist on some implausible feature or methodology.

It looks to me like the energy industry is the same.  I have no doubt that you and everybody in the trenches is trying to do the right thing.  But to see towns being poisoned (the point of the article) dismissed as simply impossible when it’s clearly happening means that someone with decision-making power couldn’t care less.

Again, look at how Deepwater happened.  I apologize for picking that example.  It was only after I got home and fired it up on YouTube that I realized it was the background of the plot of “The Newsroom”‘s pilot the night before, making it sound like I was swayed in my opinion by Aaron Sorkin and his troupe of lukewarm actors; I promise I didn’t know.  But it’s an excellent example because it’s well-documented and authenticated.  Despite the best efforts of the workers, the management forced it to become an absurd disaster.

And the lesson learned was that (like with the banks) the penalties for doing things wrong are dwarfed by the benefits.  Having worked at a lot of companies, I know that this instance can’t be unique and the lack of penalty means it will only get worse.

As to the progress of technology, you’re foraging.  Yes, the drills are fancier and the location methods are niftier, but the process hasn’t changed, just improved.  You poke a hole in rock and hope something that burns gushes out, and then build something that’ll probably contain it.

It’s stranded in a paradigm of scarcity and uses brute force almost exclusively.  If you went back in time and explained your job to Rockerfeller, he wouldn’t be confused in the slightest, is what I mean by outdated.  Contrast that to medicine, agriculture, or communications.

I’m not demanding that you, specifically, innovate.  Nobody has the right to demand things like that.  But the industry needs to grow out of the idea that energy is something you find and take, for a bunch of reasons, if it’s going to survive.

That’s not any disrespect for the people in the field.  It’s a disrespect for your bosses, though, who don’t care about you any more than they do me.

Brian

June 26, 2012, 1:35 p.m.

There is a bright new start-up company in Houston, TX called
212 Resources

http://www.212resources.com/company/history.html

Owns & operates technologies to solve water management challenges created by flowback & produced water from unconventional gas development & production.

Water management challenges are escalating with the development of unconventional oil and gas reservoirs utilizing hydraulic fracturing technologies. In certain geographic areas the total cost of handling water, from sourcing through disposal, is challenging the economic viability of future field development. 212 Resources offers proprietary technology providing an economic solution to many of these water management challenges through our patented mechanical vapor recompression process and associated other Intellectual Property.

The new 212 Resources “POD” is designed for both mobile and permanent applications. Being mobile allows our operation to be in close proximity to actual drilling and completion activities greatly reducing costs associated with water transportation, associated risks and ancillary expenses such as road maintenance. Permanent applications will provide opportunities for beneficial industrial use of the concentrated brine again reducing the total cost of water management to the industry.

Andrew

June 26, 2012, 2:46 p.m.

Some of these comments are absolutely incriminating. It appears that some of you honestly think that the engineers who work for these oil companies sit down at their desks everyday, laugh, and think how they are going to hurt society and the earth today. It is pathetic. These people work their tails off to find the best, most sophisticated, and economically efficient solutions to help the way you live today! If you want to do something to help, get off this site, and think for yourself! How would you do this? If you do this you will learn, that it is actually very difficult!

Charles Fox

June 26, 2012, 3:10 p.m.

It might be tempting to think that Big Carbon is providing our society with “economically efficient” energy sources, but the evidence suggests that their methods are in fact ecologically bankrupt, a cost to be shared by all, when the profits flow to a very few. Even the safest use of oil and gas results in climate devastation. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for CENTURIES. It’s only going to get worse. Natural gas is a bandaid on horribly mutilated body. In a culture of wishful thinking and outright criminality, reasoning citizens should expect to be victimized physically and ecologically, and they are.

Fractalman

June 26, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fox:

Since you hold the highest of ground, I trust you’ve stopped driving your car and flying on airplanes.  Or do you consider your use of such conveniences to be victimization?

Sherman

June 26, 2012, 5:28 p.m.

It is not all that mysterious, is it?
If Joe or Jane American were to spend 6 weeks (an arbitrary number) in any 3rd world country, Japan, China, or in parts of Europe, you would notice how small most houses and cars are, how little water is used by each household, how expensive energy is in most areas, how small their refrigerators are, and how much public systems carry the burden for commuters and long distance material goods transport.
Here in the US, we burn energy at an outsized rate as compared to the rest of the world, and apparently most people have no reason and no clue how to use less.
It takes acting as a community to take appropriate action, demand more efficient cars and appliances, and the like.
But no apparent pressure is being placed on alternate oil and gas exploration, Sure there are risks but the US govt is subsidizing their actions.
So do we get what we pay for? Or are these subsidies some misguided attempt at “helping” and industry that needs more competition, not more hand outs?
This may be one of the root causes for what we are seeing today.

ibsteve2u

June 27, 2012, 3:46 a.m.

What I find interesting is how fracking’s outspoken supporters never mention LNG exports and foreign ownership of U.S. shale reserves.  What is happening - in the lingo - is the shale gas is being “monetized” by selling it to other nations.

The American people will, of course, still bear all risks and consequences of pollution.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/03/us-total-chesapeake-idUSTRE80208320120103

From the above Reuters story, I quote: 

“In a deal with Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N), which the U.S. group announced in November without identifying its partners, Total will take a 25 percent stake in a joint venture covering the Utica Shale area of eastern Ohio.

[...]

Devon Energy (DVN.N) said on Tuesday that China’s Sinopec (0386.HK) will pay $2.2 billion in exchange for a third of Devon’s holdings in five different shale gas regions in the United States.

Statoil (STL.OL) last October paid $4.4 billion for Brigham Exploration BEXP.O to boost its unconventional energy resources in the United States, one of its key growth areas, while India’s Reliance (RELI.NS) is also looking to invest more in the U.S. shale gas industry.

The latest venture with Total covers about 619,000 net acres, of which 77,000 were contributed by Houston-based EnerVest, Chesapeake said.

[...]

Concerns about water table pollution, tremors and gas leakage are slowing the expansion of shale gas, but with the biggest oil and gas reserve holders limiting foreign investment in their energy sectors, the big Western oil and gas companies are increasingly focusing on OECD countries such as the United States and Australia.

Yet the technique remains controversial.

The French government in October cancelled three shale gas exploration permits, including one that was granted to Total, after [the French government] banned the use of the drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing.

End quote.  Interesting, eh?  We drill, we assume the pollution risks, a few U.S. investors and energy companies profit, and the gas itself will go to other nations.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-16/cheniere-wins-u-s-approval-for-natural-gas-export-terminal.html

ibsteve2u

June 27, 2012, 11:51 a.m.

Just as an addendum to my last comment, Chesapeake Energy is offering up the mineral rights to another 338,000 acres of Ohio’s Utica shale formation:

http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2012/06/05/chesapeake-energy-selling-338000.html

We shall see who buys it, eh?  “Ohio, the heart of it all!” may find itself suffering a myocardial infarction as a consequence of toxins accumulating not in an effort improve that state’s economy and manufacturing, but to enrich and empower outsiders…even foreign nations.  Even potentially antagonistic foreign nations. 

Such is “the shale play”...increasingly just a means of draining America of her energy resources regardless of future need.  I hope everybody remembers that LNG is useful beyond fuel…as sources for medicines, fertilizer, plastics, other petrochemicals.  I guess the plan is we sell ours first, and then the middle men who are Big Carbon in America (if you really want to know who that is, look to who funds the Republican and Tea Parties - if you can get past the secrecy the so-called “conservatives” on the Supreme Court wrapped them in) can continue to scalp us as Big OIl does now.  While blaming what they do on “foreign” cartels instead of their own, of course.

And it doesn’t affect just the shale formations…Chesapeake, for example, just sold a bunch of its pipelines to Global Infrastructure Partners.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/06/08/chesapeake-gets-4b-lifeline-from-global-infrastructure-partners-whos-that/

Who dat, you say?  Well, GE…America’s friend, who championed the offshoring of America’s industrial infrastructure.  And other partners…like the Middle Eastern nation of the United Arab Emirates through the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Good to know that the Middle East will be making money feeding our hydrocarbon addiction whether its our hydrocarbons or theirs, ain’t it?

Harry Freires

June 28, 2012, 6:39 p.m.

Not only the pollution hazard of this activity. . but massive displacement of whatever liquids (water or fossil oil) underground will affect the Earth’s physics in motion, . .its centrifugal & centrifetal forces. . (the massive high rise buildings and massive mining globally also contribute to this ). . triggering a man-made ‘pole shift’ which is the primordial cause of earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis. . due the dis-balance of that equilibrium that was established millions of years ago, the earth’s crust moves to find a new equilibrium. . (the 6.5 inches pole shift last 11 March2011 is the example of this. . only 6.5” shift of earth’s axis. . see what happened to Japan) . . .the worst scenario is when the north & south poles will shift to the equator. . hundreds of millions of humans will die. . as the Pacific Ocean will be frozen. . We will be back to stone age. . no more government. . only the survival of the fittest. . The solution to this is to make water. . the hudrogen from light water (Proitium) as the substitute to the dwindling fossil fuel. . bur economies & global power will also shift. . there is a resistance to this . . the human greed & desire for power and or dominion. . will this human frailty be the ultimate cause of the destruction of human civilization?. . Will our Loving God, our Beloved Father allow this to happen?. .

ibsteve2u

June 29, 2012, 5:31 a.m.

@Harry Freires:  Think I’d consider relative masses - in terms of displacement and physical relocation upon the Earth’s crust - before I got overly concerned about shifting the planet significantly.

Not to say that injection wells/fracking don’t/won’t facilitate the movements in the earth’s crust that we call “earthquakes”.

Anybody who has seen a glass coated with condensation on a humid summer day abruptly start skating across a table seemingly all by itself (or in response to a slight jar of the table) has an innate visual of the mechanical concepts involved.

Sherman

June 29, 2012, 9:05 a.m.

Yo! We are not falling prey to the end of civilization as we know it? The end of the Mayan calender is simply the end of the Mayan calender!

However, portions of the US have already experienced earthquakes from fracking. Figure that if truly concerned with integrity of injection wells in an area known to be experiencing earthquakes, the locals may have a problem with any nearby wells, capped off, concreted over or not. And those mineral and land leases are tricky business in most cases requiring an attorney reading and interpreting what another attorney crafted. Then there is a history of known misuse of injection wells for dumping way too large a volume of toxins, lacking any regulatory oversight.

Therefore, this situation may have more to do with corporate profits and far less with integrity (at times referred to as moral fiber) than one might glean from the above article. This is usually the case in most older technologies stuck in the past…in need of clear thinking and true innovation.

Marc

June 29, 2012, 11:24 a.m.

Fractalman, I seriously doubt that you are really a geologist because if you are then you would not make an inane statement about rock being “impermeable”. Go to any mountainous region and observe the rock formations - they contain billions, if not trillions, of natural fractures, cracks and crevices, and underground they look exactly the same as they do above ground.

To assert that the earth is impermeable tells me you know nothing about geology. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Professor of Fracture Mechanics and Geological Engineering at Cornell University and Dr. Marc Durand, Professor (retired) of Applied Geological Engineering at the Unversity of Quebec at Montreal would suggest that you back to school and actually pay attention the next time. The article cits MANY cases where “impermeability” failed to stop the migration of injected hazardous “salt water.”

Your statements are devoid of fact and truth. They are typical industry propaganda. And, for the record, NO major corporation including ExxonMobil or anybody else in the O&G industry has any integrity or any concern for the best interest of humans, animals or plants anytime doing so interferes with maximizing corporate profits and shareholder equity.

Give it a rest! Go to some energy propaganda site if you want people to agree with your statements. You are not going to find many people here who will listen to your b.s. Either you are not really a geologist, or else you know the truth and you are just parrotting the industry lines, in which case you are being intentionally dishonest to support your dogma.

Marc

June 29, 2012, 11:53 a.m.

Skipping all the opinionated emotional issues, let’s get down to what really counts.

Much of the “brine” (or “salt water”, if you will) injected deep underground comes from the slickwater horizontal fracturing industry as “flowback water” (that water which returns to the surface under high pressure during the fracturing process)  and “produced water” (that water which returns to the surface when the released gas pushes its way up the wellbore). The water that returns as flowback or produced water is too contaminated with toxic, carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals to EVER be re-used by humans, animals or plants, and so it is injected deep into the earth where “it can never again return to the surface” to pollute aquifers, surface water, soil or air, according to industry and its supporters.

Of all the water on earth only about 10% is fresh water that is potable for humans, animals and plants. The rest is naturally too salty for consumption and the cost for desalination is incredibly and prohibitively high on a mass scale. Over 90% of the fresh water on the earth is locked up in the polar ice caps and glaciers, leaving only about 0.25% of ALL WATER ON EARTH for the entire planet to use for human, animal and plant consumption. (These facts are scientifically proven by the World Health Organization and several other major water issues groups.)

Every time a well is frac’ed for oil or gas production it uses an average of about 5 million gallons of fresh water that become permanently polluted and forever removed from our hydrologic cycle, which means that we have forever lost it as water to drink, water animals, grow or prepare food or use for personal hygiene. A single fracture uses as much water as a family of four uses in 44 years, the difference being that the water used by families is treatable and re-usuable whereas the water used in fracturing is permanently polluted and then injected deep into the earth to forever remove it from our hydrologic cycle.

Mankind lived on this planet between 200 and 400 thousand years without ever using any gas or oil until 1859, but not one thing EVER survived without clean water and clean air! If we pollute our water supply, and there is NOTHING available to replace it (we are NOT getting new water from outer space or somewhere), then we will become as extinct as the dinosaurs because water is absolutely necessary to our very survival. All the water on the planet today has ALWAYS been here since this planet formed! That is a scientific fact!

How anybody can miss that critical point, or dismiss it with false industry claims about safety and the necessity of fossil fuels is totally beyond my comprehension. Either they are extremely illiterate about the essential nature of clean water, or else they are just plain old psychopathic about their willingness to exterminate all living things for their own profitability now.

But, I have a solution that would be guaranteed to work. Pass a federal law that mandates one executive and his family in the O&G indsutry live within 300 feet of every oil, gas or injection well drilled for a period of at least one year. Pass that law and watch the entire industry come to an abrupt, screeching halt. They know the truth, and they are not going to put their own families in harm’s way. But, they do not care about you or your family - you are expendible for the sake of corporate profits and shareholder equity, and they will make any and every false and illogical argument to justify their position just as “Fractalman” does here.

ibsteve2u

June 29, 2012, 12:02 p.m.

I tried that once…even linked to photographs of exposed rock faces to include ye olde Grand Canyon (which exposes a fair variety of rock in a fair number of layers) and pointed to the uncountable number of vertical fractures that were clearly visible “to the naked eye” at resolutions far too low to be capable of revealing the exponentially greater number of microfractures.

That was when I found out that greed - unlike various “Star Wars” lasers and sundry fission and fusion devices - was capable of melting miles of rock into impermeable layers even through miles of overburden up to and including overlying aquifers.

Powerful stuff, greed.  So powerful, it can dispense with physical characteristics and forces altogether and instead create proof out of “Trust me!”.

Marc

June 29, 2012, 12:28 p.m.

ibsteve2u, Chesapeake Energy has already sold some 68% of its stock to the China Investment Corporation. The company currently has over $10 Billion in assets on the block for sale. Chesapeake (the second largest natural gas producer in the world) is in debt for about $30 Billion and is currently unable to pay its debt service. Wall Street is running like scalded dogs from Aubrey McClendon, who is currently under investigation by the SEC and IRS for stock fraud and illegal activities related to his personal finances through his company.

And, Ohio is hardly the “center of it all”. There are over 22,000 natural gas wells alone in the Barnett Shale area of Texas where slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing started a little over 10 years ago. There are over 3,500 pending permit requests before the Railroad Commission of Texas (the state agency that regulates oil and gas). There are over 1,500 active gas wells withing the City Limits of Fort Worth. Chesapeake is a huge part of that.

There are many more oil and gas wells throughout the Eagle Ford and Haynesville Shale areas of Texas. Altogether, there are several hundred thousand wells in Texas - about as many as there are people in Ohio (not really, but you get my general drift.)

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has a mandate to protect flood control devices of the United States. The Bureau of Land Management’s Texas Resources Management Plan mandates a minimum 3,000 foot setback from any USACE-controlled dam, spillway or other flood control device. Yet, Chesapeake drilled and frac’ed a well just 850 from the spillway at Joe Pool Reservoir in Grand Prairie (a southwest Dallas suburb) that risks the lives of tens of thousands of people if fracturing the shale under the dam footing causes a sinkhole or earthquake that results in a dam failure in the middle of the night when people are asleep in their beds.

USACE’s attorneys appealed to Chesapeake to shut down the well, but Chesapeake refused, and is working on frac’ing 5 more wells at that same site even though they are well aware of the potential danger to human lives and the potential devastation to thousands of homes that would be wiped off the face of the earth if the dam fails.

Chesapeake owned and operated an injection well on the property of DFW International Airport where they disposed of flowback and produced water from the 112 wells they have on airport property. Last year, the DFW Airport Board ordered Chesapeake to shut down the injection well because it was causing earthquakes under the runways and the Board feared it would cause runway failures leading to shutting down the airport, which is one of the 5 busiest airports in the entire world.

Several years ago XTO Energy sold out to ExxonMobil for some $38 Billion. Its owners and executives took the money and ran. Chesapeake is trying to do the same thing now because they see the handwriting on the wall. Chesapeake has been at the forefront of causing the abyssmally low prices the industry now gets for its natural gas because of the glut that exists due to over-production.

It is believed that Range Resources may also fail due to debt burden, and there will probably be a lot more smaller companies that also bite the dust in the next year or two. The O&G indsutry may do to itself what all the environmentalists in the world could never do - shut itself down due to its own greed, incompetence and stupidity.

Natural gas is currently selling for just over 25% of its production cost! It does not take a financial wizard to calculate that is a prescription for disaster. The industry is counting on export sales to Asia and Europe, but the first export terminal is at least three years away, and there is no money to build it, so it is probably 4 or more years away. But, if that foreign market ever does open up, then say goodbye to cheap natural gas prices (and “energy independence from the Middle East” - totally false claim made by people who don’t really have a clue) as Americans start to pay $15-16/mcf rather than the $2.30+/mcf that is the current rate.

ibsteve2u

June 29, 2012, 12:33 p.m.

By the way, Marc - you left them a loophole.

Said law should specify that they not only have to live within 300 feet of a wellhead, they have to use well water from within the same radius for all potable and non-potable needs. 

I think they’d still do it, though…they’d chunk down 10 wells, and then devote the output of one well solely to water distillation.  And then since they could do it, they’d argue anybody else could do the same thing - and so the fracking process is okie-dokie.  It’s not their fault nobody but them can afford such efforts, donchaknow; everybody should have been saving their pennies up ever since they were born for just such an eventuality. 

I.e., the same argument the right - for Big Carbon is a major (or perhaps the major) component of “the right” - uses all over the place:  It’s not their fault if you can’t afford food, health care, clear air, clean water, life…

Marc

June 29, 2012, 1:08 p.m.

Steve, they MAY be able to get around the clean water issue, but the air pollution from fugative emissions alone would sicken or kill them, and I would not want them to die quickly. I would prefer that they suffer a long time the way they make everybody else suffer.

Beside, inside major cities we do not get our water from wells, so that would not be an issue. Not all wells are in remote rural areas - there are over 1,500 active gas wells inside Fort Worth City Limits, about 96 wells in Grand Prairie, and I do not even have a well count for Arlington, Mansfield, Colleyville, Denton, Cleburne, Stephenville or any of the other drilled out places of the Barnett Shale close to the DFW Metro area.

Currently, we are fighting for a very strict ordinance that will strongly regulate drilling if and when it come to Dallas. Our gas drilling task force recommended 1,000 foot setbacks with waivers down to 500 feet. We are asking for minimum 3,000 foot setbacks with no waivers. Our task force also recommended allowing drilling in city parks (which we oppose) and in the Trinity River floodplain (which we strongly oppose.)

T. Boone Pickens once stated “Nobody will ever make any money drilling for oil and gas in Dallas.” At a time when nobody is making any money from gas drilling anywhere we are wondering why our City Council believes that Dallas will be different and make a lot of money. Apparently, our elected leadership is not very intelligent. They have the facts before them and are still on the verge of doing something really stupid. All we need to do is look to Fort Worth to see all the reasons NOT to allow drilling in Dallas. Residential neighborhoods, parks and floodplains are NOT good places for heavy industrial activities like natural gas exploration and production.

You can go to http://fracdallas.org/docs/sanbruno.html for all the reasons people should avoid natural gas in densely populated urban areas.

Fractalman

June 29, 2012, 3:54 p.m.

Marc, Marc, Marc . . . I am a geologist, BS ‘80 from University of Oklahoma, and have been working as an exploration/production geologist ever since. There are many things you should educated yourself on but just a couple here for you to think about:  Please look into what confining pressure does to fractures.  Engineers commonly refer to something called “fracture closure stress”.  Fractures are visible more readily at the surface because they have had lots of pressure relief.  As to permeability, yes fractures are one avenue for fluid/gas migration but fractures don’t extend forever because the rock must have the right properties and undergo a certain amount of stress to fracture in the first place.  If a certain formation does have natural fractures but the formation above it doesn’t have those same properties it won’t contain natural fractures, or else it will have significantly less.  Fractures can be open or closed, too.  Most fractures “heal” over time and today are found filled with minerals precipitated there by the fluids moving through them (ancient fluids, Marc, not frac fluids)  Have you run any calculations on the volume that any open natural fractures might contain? I didn’t think so.  They are able to contain enormous volumes of fluid.  Many times we drill formations that have natural fractures that contain nothing but naturally occuring salt water.  We stupid, unethical, greedy, conniving geologists call it “conate water” meaning it’s been there for millions of years and derives from the ocean that particular sediment was deposited in originally.

I guess you could say that all rock is permeable but you have to ask permeable to what?  Permeability is measured in darcies (look it up) and a quick definition of permeability might be the connection of porosity which connections are commonly called pore throats.  Some pore throats in shale, Marc, are measured in angstroms which translates into permeability measured in nanodarcies.  Too small for just about any type of molecule to get through.  Since shale is what is usually receiving these megafrac treatments, those treatments pretty much stay in zone, that is, within the shale.  Now I admit I am not an active participant in any of the shale plays but I have attended numerous conferences where papers were presented by geologist/engineers involved in said plays and I take my remarks from what I’ve learned from them.

Finally, as to fresh water and its scarcity/limits, where does rain come from, Marc?  Look into the evaporation-precipitation process and from where clouds originate and from what.  I think you’ll discover the source of fresh water for planet Earth.

And I have to say something about all this talk about earthquakes and a supposed relationship to hydraulic fracturing treatments.  People, look into the amount of force that is exerted to move the crust enough to be measured on a seismometer.  The energy utilized even in a megafrac job is miniscule compared to the energy released in even a tiny earthquake.  The Oklahoma Geologic Survey maintains a record of recorded earthquakes in Oklahoma, a state with hundreds of thousands of wells and no doubt tens of thousands of frac jobs performed over 60 years.  Go to their website and you’ll find the records there.  The depth they occur is thousands of feet below where oil and gas activity occurs.

Charles Fox

June 29, 2012, 4:28 p.m.

Polluting groundwater causes the permanent loss of a critical resource. Why do we tolerate what is essentially criminal behavior? Massive corporate advertising appears to be so effective that we willingly act as agents of our own destruction. “We care” they tell us, so many times we actually act like we believe it. This is not a scientific or technical problem, it’s a social problem. We have normalized criminality for religious (capitalist, patriotic) reasons. It’s not much to celebrate.

ibsteve2u

June 30, 2012, 2:48 a.m.

“Please look into what confining pressure does to fractures. Engineers commonly refer to something called “fracture closure stress”.

Presumes a static system, does it not?  That is, a homogeneous system that has no external forces acting upon it and no possibility of change at a molecular level in the hypothesized “containment vessel” caused by, say, pressurized solvents?  Forever?  The fact that wells do not produce at a constant pressure over time immediately casts…aspersions…against those who would make such a claim.

The fracking industry insists that their actions transform the hole they drill into a (pressurized) area within the planet’s crust into a pipe bomb with two end caps - one end cap provided by the fracker, one end cap provided by the assumption of a constant pressure at a specific depth vertically, and the pipe wall provided by the assumption of a constant external pressure upon every single point of the volume contained by that pipe.  Yet pressure underground (in the real world) is a variable...one not even close to a constant, for stone and dirt are not water…are not even oil with its tendency to stratify, for stone and rock have differing compositions.  Weight and mass != pressure except under specific conditions.

How - you should ask yourself - could the fracking industry choose where to stab the earth, if the earth were a homogenous constant everywhere?

Further, fracking’s proponents choose to ignore the reality that the pressures involved are made more variable by the introduction of high-pressure fluids and the intentional destruction of what is both the containing and supporting strata; that is what fracking is.

Even the most nonsensical projections of system stability should - but do not - include the containment pressures anticipated by geological formations that extend beyond the volumetric limits chosen by paid fracking “geologists” for their usefulness in public relations.  What the fracking “geologist” would have you believe is that what they do - what they claim to do - is both immune to changes in the overall system and (importantly) is applicable to and consistent with all wells even though the resolution of - the ability to <i>see, that is - the system affected is no higher than the wavelength of sound.  (Do you see with your ears?)

That is, they would have you believe that a balloon inflated on earth will look and behave precisely the same were that balloon relocated to the moon where the external pressures are vastly different - and to verify the behavior they claim, they would have you look through the eye of a needle.  Or to use a more readily visualized analogy, the fracking industry would have you believe that every well they drill is precisely identical to a thermos bottle…although they cannot tell if the outer steel shell is there or will remain there…or if the inner glass shell is there or will remain there…or if Ma Nature will hurl that thermos against the wall.  Repeatedly.

In fact - a conclusion I gather from reading the comments here and elsewhere - the fracking industry would have you believe that their act of fracking is alone enough to eliminate the effects and consequences of the tidal movements of both the earth’s crust and the underlying mantle.  And, of course, any water involved in the system.

“People, look into the amount of force that is exerted to move the crust enough to be measured on a seismometer.”

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/100516/A-cross-section-of-Earths-outer-layers-from-the-crust

How do you make cookies not stick to the sheet?  You grease it…so when you jolt them with the spatula, they come right up.  How do you make a stuck wheel bearing move?  You grease it…and give it a jolt.  Like the physics of the Earth, the moon, and the rest of this solar system jolt this planet - every nanosecond of every day.
 
The fracking industry is right proud of their ability to break apart gas-bearing formations using pressurized fluids between the boundary strata…‘cept if you say something like “Hey…that sounds like greasing a Zerk fitting.”

Mario Salazar

June 30, 2012, 1:55 p.m.

While I am quoted in this article, I wasn’t given the courtesy of being informed of its publication. I had to find out from a third party.
I do believe that the UIC program has been grossly underfunded since its inception. If you add to that the fact that it regulates some of the most powerful sectors of our economy, the oil and gas industry, the petrochemical industry and the mining industry, we have the potential for damage to our most important and not plentiful source of drinking water. However, the blind and fanatical approach that this article takes may be a disservice to further protection of this resource.
As an example, I was quoted as saying that:
“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”
I did write or spoke these words, but in a very specific context.
•  I was referring to oil and gas (Class II) injection wells, because Congress under pressure from the industry groups and states changed the Federal requirements for these wells in the early 1980s. They no longer had to meet specific technical and programmatic standards, but instead had to prove that they were protective of “human health and the environment.” When we tried to review the state programs under these criteria (during the Reagan administration) we were told that we had to accept whatever the states provided us or lose authority over these wells. As an example, the Texas Railroad Commission, when asked to submit geological evidence of the aquifers used for injection, eventually provided road maps with the aquifers delineated in red pencil;
•  I was also referring to shallow wells that inject waste above or into underground sources of drinking water or Class V in EPA jargon. Included in this type of well are septic tanks, dry wells, french drains and many other disposal systems. EPA early in the 2000 decade declined to regulate these wells mainly because it said it had found that states already regulated them. I looked at the data and the comments received and found this claim grossly exaggerated or even ridiculous. When I expressed my opinion that we were ignoring many comments from environmental groups that actually had validity, I was taken out of the review group.
The article does a good job presenting the issue of the large number of improperly plugged wells and the dismal situation that the UIC program was created to correct.
In summary, the biggest threat to our ground water from underground injection is from oil and gas wells and shallow UNREGULATED injection wells.
I was also quoted as saying that if there is not a large number of contamination episodes is because no one is looking, or something to that effect. I had also added that even if many were looking, finding episodes of contamination and determining cause and effect are VERY DIFFICULT tasks (and expensive).

Sherman

June 30, 2012, 3:21 p.m.

Several great comments, and too few are reading this blog.

Large corporate profit interests are pitted against environmental concerns; and using history as a gauge, profits always seems to win, in this case, running underground, hidden to the obvious environment to sell products to foreign nations. Denial is one big obstacle to knowing what is happening.

Interesting comment that no one is looking…the movie Gasland exposed some misconceptions several years ago, and more are coming to light, as incidents of residential drinking water wells being tested and their water reportedly harboring a host of toxic pollutants. If one adds to this any pollution from french drains and the like, we could be flooded with sea water from global warming (sea level rise is way ahead of schedule), at the same time, dying of thirst from lack of potable water, all coming to your small screens in the not too distant future!

ibsteve2u

July 1, 2012, 2:39 a.m.

@Mario Salazar, who gifted the reading public with “In summary, the biggest threat to our ground water from underground injection is from oil and gas wells and shallow UNREGULATED injection wells.”

Given regulation…regulation far, far beyond anything in place today…given monitoring…monitoring far, far beyond any monitoring in place today…

What is the standard operating procedure for recovery of the contaminated aquifers in the event of failure of a regulated, monitored injection well?

ibsteve2u

July 1, 2012, 3:38 a.m.

Me, I’d be spending more money funding what passes for space travel.

Humankind’s reality is essentially simple:  If you intentionally create large amounts of substances that are toxic to life, then you must deal with the fact that you are not God.

You cannot and will never be able to guarantee the cooperation of this planet or its solar system (or, rather, with the forces that maintain the “norms” that you are accustomed to) with your “I’ll harvest (imaginary) wealth today, and somebody else can worry about tomorrow!” storage and isolation schemes unless you can lock this planet into a state that is inimical to life:  Stasis.

So you have three choices:  Don’t create substances that are toxic to life, ensure that you have the ability to capture and break down the toxins that you create into their component - and non-life-destroying - parts, or get your nasty diapers away from the only world that you currently have…a world which, judging by the dismal lack of ability to think coherently and act cohesively, is (to, again, state the obvious) the only planet you are ever likely to have. 

Hence the suggestion that you “spend” more on space travel…while you might find the gargantuan garbage disposal that is the local nuclear furnace useful immediately, your demonstrated inability to put your species before the lusts of the individual suggests that you may wish to contemplate the possibility of extinction…

Give or take a few seed ships, that is.  Humanity approaches the point where they should see space travel as a genetic imperative….and prepare to value all that it was gifted - and destroyed - much as the ecballium elaterium values its genetic source and “home turf”.

I mean (to be blunt) face it:  Given the cooperation of both legislative and judicial branches of government in the so-called “democratized” nations with those who would destroy all in the pursuit of imaginary wealth on top of increasing radicalism in the name of distortions of religion (I mean, really…what God wants Its people dead?) on top of the natural tendency towards destruction of non-democratized nations, what chance does your species have?

Somewhere between slim and none, eh? 

Spend a little of your imaginary “wealth” on space travel…perhaps the aeons that went into your genetic inheritance will survive your real-time stupidity.

Jack

July 4, 2012, 2:16 a.m.

Dear Mr. Lustgarten

I read the Denbury presentation regarding the microseismic study as it relates to induced fracture height growth in the Barnett Shale. The microseismic event data shows height growth is limited to less than 500 feet at a depth of over 6,000. Your text stating that induced fracture growth is “over half a mile” is misleading.

Respectfully, you need to specify that it is fracture half-length (that is, growth horizontally) that is created within the gas bearing formation and not vertically. In other words, the aquifers in this area are not contacted by the induced hydraulic fractures.

Regarding borehole microseismic monitoring, the method is extremely accurate (within 100 feet at distances of up to 1800 feet distance from stimulated well to observation well). The presentation you reference is quite accurate.

Jack

July 4, 2012, 2:54 a.m.

ibsteve2u

June 30, 3:48 a.m

Interesting post. In fact, early explorers in western Pennsylvania and New York noted the smell of seeping gas.

In other words, I think, I agree with you. You don’t need man to contaminate our environment with hydrocarbons. Mother nature has been doing this for us for millions of years in our “non-static” system.

Regarding the contamination of our environment, please consider the greatest man-made disaster in history - the nation’s highway system.

The only way for us to be 100% certain that man will not contaminate his environment - no uncertainty whatsoever - is to return to life as the American Indian prior to the Civil War. I think it was Hellen Keller who stated “a life without risk is an illusion”.

Who knows? Perhaps in the Hollywood post-apocalyptic world, that will be the way highlighted by hunting buffalo (bow-and-arrow only) and living in tee-pees.

ibsteve2u

July 4, 2012, 8:42 p.m.

Actually, Jack, I know you folks have too much money and own too many Republicans to beat outright unless and until Ma Nature spanks the American people around some more and/or the American people find themselves having to buy water from the same people who destroyed their aquifers at incredibly extortionate prices.

So me, my motto is “If you can’t beat ‘em, obsolete ‘em.”  I devote significant computational power to doing precisely that:

http://cleanenergy.harvard.edu

If you can’t talk the other guy out of trying to kill you, ya can try taking his ammo away as a first step.

Marc

July 5, 2012, 11:15 a.m.

Jack, your simplistic remarks are not relevant. It is a fact that one can often smell natural gas in areas where oil and gas exploration are being pursued. That does not mitigate the FACT than MANY water wells which have previously shown no signs (smell, taste, combustibility, etc.) of the presence of natural gas over decades of existence suddenly start showing those signs during or shortly after the time a nearby gas well is being drilled and frac’ed. To call it “coincidental” is just a lie!

Industry routinely uses irrelevant comparisons to defend its hazardous practices. Industry outright lies about things such as being able to determine the length of their fractures in shale and other adjacent rock formations when, in truth, it is impossible to do that unless you dig down and actually measure it using tracers that start at a known point and then seeing how far those tracers migrate. Nobody has EVER done that, and they are not doing it today.

Then, there are the lies about the “frac chemicals” that one finds under their kitchen or bathroom sink, as if those are the exact same formulations, strengths and compounds. I used to own a chemical manufacturing company and I used such things as sodium bisulfate, formaldehyde, phosphoric acid, dicyandiamide, urea and other ingredients, all of which were available in myriad strengths and dilutions, so while all phosphoric acid products, for example, may bear the same generic name they are quite different based upon their compound mixtures and dilution strengths. Yet, industry continually tries to nullify arguments about the chemicals they use by saying it is the same stuff commonly found in peoples’ homes when they KNOW it is not the same stuff at all!

Please forgive me if I do not put much faith in the words of an industry that has built its name and reputation on lies, half-truths and false claims. “Landman” is just a euphemism for “liar.” If the O&G industry had nothing to hide, then it would not have worked so hard with Dick Cheney to exempt reporting of chemicals under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, CERCLA and six other important environmental protection laws. There is no legitimate claim to “trade secrets” because the frac fluids come from companies that manufacture them for competitors of each other - frac’ing companies are not manufacturing their own proprietary formulas. They are all using basically the same things. The only ones from whom trade secrets claims hide the truth are the general public, emergency medical personnel and emergency first responders - the very people who need the information the most! Competitors already know what each other are using because they are buying their frac fluids from the same companies.

Fractalman

July 5, 2012, 12:23 p.m.

Have to weigh in again.  Jack is right about microseepage.  There are companies in the oil and gas industry whose main focus is to conduct soil surveys that detect microseepage to be used as an exploration tool.  Sometimes the survey tests for the hydrocarbons themselves, or it may test for the populations of microbes that eat the hydrocarbons.  This microseepage is found in frontier areas far away from any active production.  The theory is based upon the idea/fact that all reservoirs leak somewhat.  This phenomenon can be seen sometimes on a mudlog [tool used in industry to monitor the drilling mud] when gas, and sometimes oil, shows can be detected in the non-reservoir strata just above the reservoir, before actually drilling into the reservoir itself. 

I know of a place in Atoka County (Oklahoma) where people have had natural gas in their water wells and sometimes a heavy, biodegraded oil.  At the time I was made aware of this there wasn’t any production within ten miles of the area I am discussing.  It is, geologically speaking, an area that is an extension of the Appalachian thrust belt, known in Oklahoma as the Ouachita Thrust Belt.  It is highly faulted and even if a gas well ten miles away was frac’d, there is no way that even the surface aquifer could be connected, much less the gas reservoir.  In this same area of Atoka County there is a pond that the locals informed me they could light on fire.  There happens to be shale gas production in this area now but at the time, 1990, anyone who proposed producing gas from shales was deemed a little “out there”.

Jack is right about Mother Nature being a big polluter, too.  [see volcanoes, ocean floor vents and oil/gas seeps, and the occasional meteor]  But somehow, someway, She gets a pass!

*And Marc, I’m glad you’ve figured that out about Landmen!

 

*  just kidding, Landman friends.

ibsteve2u

July 5, 2012, 12:50 p.m.

Somehow the argument that since the contamination of the stuff of life has been known to occur naturally, it is “OK” for humans to do it more often in more places with an even wider variety of toxins just seems…childish…to me.

“I didn’t start stomping her until after Billy hit her!”.

ibsteve2u

July 6, 2012, 12:02 p.m.

Speaking of “microseepage”...lollll…which is a neat way to use semantics to scale the problem down in the mind of the naive reader…ProPublica has a story on the migration of toxic substances through supposedly “impermeable” rock:

http://www.propublica.org/article/whiff-of-phenol-spells-trouble/

The concept of an impermeable rock strata is dependent upon a layer of rock being formed and then remaining static.  Problem is, the Earth - for all practical purpose - is a living entity in that it moves.  What was impermeable upon formation as lava or sedimentary rock cracks as the earth’s crust and mantle move under normal physical forces or in response to external forces such as fracking.

The observation that natural gas and oil were found on the surface of this planet without the intervention of humans in places like California and Pennsylvania is only proof of the inevitability of the movements that will cause supposedly safe injection wells to be compromised…is only proof that the length of time between the ongoing process of fracking and the contamination of the nation’s reservoirs is but a roll of the geological dice.

In fact, if you look at the shale-bearing formations as a system,  then like with any large system the more you mess with it, the greater the likelihood that the system will respond as a whole

For example, think of ice-fishing.  You can move your pick-up truck and your shed out onto the lake, cut a hole in the ice, and merrily fish away (preferably with just the right amount of the toxic substance CH3CH2OH to stave off the cold without poisoning the fisherman).  But keep cutting more and more holes in the ice…how many do you have to cut before you, your shed, and your pick-up embark upon a new - and wet - adventure as the larger system responds to the many small changes you introduced?  A risky guessing game given the number of factors in play, eh?

As with the shale formations, the ice sheet covering the lake is a large system that is under the influence of both constant and variable forces - gravity, predominantly, is the constant; the movement of ground water as a variable.  Introduce sufficient small changes to the formations, and the system will seek entropy…that is, it will move

To continue the analogy of ice fishing, how much additional “risk” do you incur if you not only cut holes in the ice, but pump out the water (which, unlike methane, has a very high bulk modulus or resistance to compression) that supports the overlying ice?  As is the particular case of fracking wherein you’re not only attempting to extract the supporting gaseous fluids (they’re pressurized because they’re playing that role) but pulverize the gas-bearing formations in order to extract as much as possible?

(Did you just get a visual of a slice of Swiss cheese hanging in space with your pick-up and your slightly intoxicated self atop same watching a crack jump from hole to hole?)

The earthquakes that were seen in northeastern Ohio in response to injection wells pumping fracking wastes deep into the rock strata were just a warning - as is the long-time problem of abandoned coal mines doing interesting things like slumping into sinkholes.  The same factors were in play:  Sufficient amounts of the system had been altered to allow the forces of gravity to have their way with the seemingly solid “ground” people were blissfully living upon.  (Watch me carefully sidestep the issue of the underground coal mines that are on fire.)

Now I’m not predicting movements in the made-for-TV-move category…but you don’t have to move the earth much to cause a lot of damage if the affected area is large enough.  To use the least controversial - because it is the most likely - consequence, certainly you can disrupt the “impermeable” (ahem) rock layers that are claimed to isolate aquifers from any ill-effects of greed.  To that, add the fact that it doesn’t take that much movement to make a gas, gasoline, or oil pipeline - or carefully-cased methane extraction well - shear, either.  Or consider which areas of the U.S. build their structures to accommodate earthquakes, which areas don’t, and where the targeted shale formations are.

Those are just the facts…the reality of the situation, no matter how much you nancy up the argument with darcies.

Marc

July 6, 2012, 4:08 p.m.

Steve, there you go again using logic and fact to support your claims rather than just rolling over and accepting on faith what the “experts” like Fractalman and Jack claim to be the truth. How can they ever hope to secure a convincing majority opinion based upon their dogma that “gas exploration good, environmentalism bad” if you keep injecting facts into the equation?

The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles are but one example to refute the false claim of “impermeable rock” keeping oil, gas and frac fluids out of drinking water aquifers. Somehow, all that oil made its way from way down there all the way to the surface of the earth without ANY manmade intervention. Just imagine how much could have migrated had Fractalman frac’ed a few wells around there and helped open its migration path.

Your analogies are spot on target, but Fractalman and his minions will not comprehend what you are saying because you used too many multi-syllable words of a scientific nature.

Sherman

July 7, 2012, 2:12 p.m.

Guess by now you all have read this early January ProPublica article about the earth moving?

http://www.propublica.org/article/an-unseen-leak-then-boom

Somehow, the larger the profits, the more the denials go on and on, never mind any arguments about physics, earth sciences or even facts. These concepts get all twisted around when jobs and the future of America is at stake.

Unfortunately, any future one sees is in the eyes of different beholders.

Marc

July 9, 2012, 10:20 a.m.

Sherman, the O&G industry does not just deny facts and science. The truth is that the O&G industry flat out lies about facts and science. Let me give you just one example on two fronts:

Jobs creation: industry always talks about how many American jobs are created by its activities. They cite all the jobs being created from frac’ing, and how good it is for the economy. But, what they NEVER tell you is that every time a new well is drilled they count every job as a new job, or that those “new” jobs only last about 20-25 days, or that the same crews for well pad development, or drilling, or frac’ing move from new well to new well, and that all those “new” jobs are really just the same people keeping the jobs they already have. The O&G industry is NOT providing a large number of jobs on a long term basis as they claim to be doing. What they are doing is lying through their teeth to sell their b.s. to an uninformed public and uninformed local/state/federal officials.

Then, there is the Keystone XL Pipeline Project that is supposed to be a major jobs creator. The fact is that most of the “jobs” are done by people already in the employment of TransCanada and its subcontractors. They will hire a few local people as the pipeline project advances from area to area, but ALL of those construction jobs will end within 2-3 years (at the most) - however long it takes to build the pipeline - and most of them will be MUCH shorter-term jobs. Once the pipeline is built and in service the only jobs required will be for pipeline inspectors, and TransCanada does not need very many of them. In fact, they usually hire pilots to fly pipelines at low atlitude looking for problems, and a pilot can inspect a LOT of pipeline in a very short time period, so they don’t even need many of them! (I know this because I used to do that kind of work!)

It would be beneficial if the O&G industry had the integerity to be honest, and if they would publish the actual number of people they are employing rather than the number of “new” jobs they are creating for 20-25 days each. Then, we would have a realistic perspective of the actual jobs creation from O&G activities, but that would not look good for industry and would eliminate one of their best selling points for their polluting activities.

The O&G industry has always been rife with liars, charlatans, cheats and scam artists. It is no different today than in decades past. The only thing that ever changes is the players. They have people like Fractalman running interference for them by trying to confuse people with b.s. arguments that are irrelevant and making statements that smack of absurdity such as suggesting we go back to living in tents and moving around in horse-drawn covered wagons rather than trying to develop sustainable, renewable energy sources that do not pollute our water, air and soil while killing us.

People need to start really pressing their elected officials to produce factual numbers of “jobs” being created so that industry can have its feet held to the fire for its lies.

ibsteve2u

July 9, 2012, 11:47 a.m.

I always figured those fracking job creation myths were for the consumption of “city folks”.  Anybody who lives atop a shale formation as I do knows its the same crews doing everything…there are only a limited number of bars and restaurants, and you see the same drilling crews in them over time.

Seems that producing the downhole equipment - the drill pipe and collars - has been good business for the communist allies of our Republicans and neoliberal Democrats over there in the PRC, though:

http://www.usitc.gov/trade_remedy/731_ad_701_cvd/investigations/2010/drill_pipe_from_china/final/PDF/Hearing 01-05-2011.pdf

Sherman

July 9, 2012, 11:50 a.m.

Marc,
You may be right about lies and deceptions. A good idea is for more in-depth, investigative reports, so we can get a more balanced view than what is being paraded out as news these days.

For certain, big corporations doing fracking hire locals as truck drivers to transport water, chemicals, what have you…and those jobs will disappear if wells stop producing. Those who are trained for and possess processing talent are imported to do the work. Local officials would have to be blind not to notice this. This is flash-in-the-pan, limited job creation.

The problem is, expect local officials have been indirectly compensated for allowing underground extraction to occur. It must take a steep toll on local roads and services.

As these corporations have successfully been glutting their own market, the price of N gas is approaching or fallen below their costs to remove it from the ground. As a clear sign of outright greed and lack of restraint; perhaps, maybe, this cost disadvantage will slow fracking down significantly.

Seems it only takes one mistake or one large earth adjustment for a community to be ruined for 1000 years or more.

ibsteve2u

July 9, 2012, 11:54 a.m.

Arrrgh…you’ll have to copy that whole link and paste it into your browser address box…the anti-spam measures at ProPublica intercepted the percent sign and hexadecimal representation of a “space” that is required to make the link clickable.

(I miss the “old” internet…back before spam, and porn, and pop-up ads, and big industry groups trying to cease control of it…)

Marc

July 9, 2012, 12:18 p.m.

Sherman, to be sure, the current price of natural gas is barely 25% of its breakeven cost to produce. Natural gas has been below its breakeven cost for over three years. The fraud of natural gas is that companies are NOT trying to sell natural gas - they are trying to sell natural gas companies! That is why they keep leasing mineral rights and drilling even when they are losing money.

They are betting that future exports to China and India will push the price of gas up to about $15-16/mcf, at which time our own prices are going to skyrocket into the stratosphere and “cheap, domestic, natural gas” will become a thing of the past along with our “energy independence from the Middle East”, which in itself is a lie because we get the bulk of our foreign energy from Canada and Mexico, not the Middle East.

One of the major costs to local citizens and local government is the remediation cost for damage to roads, streets and bridges caused by all the traffic related to natural gas exploration and production. A typical well requires 2,000-2,500 trucks to transport heavy equipment, pipe, chemicals, water, sand, people and everything else into and out of a well site. In Texas, the DPS has cited truck drivers on backroads in trucks weighing 60-90,000 pounds ABOVE the legal load limit, and it is destroying roads and bridges. That cost SHOULD be paid by drillers and their subcontractors, but it is usually paid by you and me in the form of higher taxes and/or bad roads and dangerous bridges.

The FracDallas website at fracdallas.org has a lot of information about all these issues for public edification. We are trying to educate people so they know the truth because they will NEVER get the truth from anybody affiliated with the industry or the politicians the industry owns.

NativeAmerican

July 9, 2012, 12:27 p.m.

Shah, Islam.  Interesting pairing of two nouns by one who expounds so!  We are asked to use real names.

Sherman

July 9, 2012, 9:44 p.m.

Marc,
This is primarily for export while the US has a slew of old coal fired power plants, many lacking sufficient containment, spewing toxins (across the countryside).

Economics for these endeavors are based on a bet that increased demand for N Gas in Asia will jack the future price to rates 6 fold, or to a level similar to those currently charged in Europe?
How long is that supposed to take?

Seems like a big gamble, whereas the US needs cleaner burning energy sources for the interim. What a shame.

Marc

July 9, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

Sherman, there are a few factors standing in the way of exportation of our natural gas. The first is the fact that about 23 export terminals are needed to move any significant amount of gas to make it worthwhile. Currently, there are 8 import terminals and no export terminals.

Before an import terminal can be converted to export NG a license has to be granted and then the operators need to have about $3-5 Billion and at least 3-4 years to do the conversion. So far, only the Sabine Pass import plant on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast has received the conversion permit and the money is not available to start the project. None of the other existing import terminals has even received its conversion permit, much less has the money to make that conversion.

A new export terminal will require about $10-15 Billion and about 7-10 years to build. Even with all 8 existing import terminals converted to exportation the industry would still need another 15 new export terminals.

It is going to be MANY years, perhaps a decade or more, before the US can export a significant amount of natural gas. Currently, there is a bill pending in Congress to ban exportation of natural gas, especially after industry did such a fine job of convincing people that OUR natural gas was going to give us “clean, cheap domestic energy” and “energy independence from the Middle East.” It is yet another case where industry’s lies may have backfired and toasted their own agenda.

Sherman

July 10, 2012, 1:41 p.m.

Thanks Marc,
I knew there were issues hanging out there. Not long ago I read most N gas extracted is being sold to Europe. Wondering if your terminal data matches that article, and sorry, NO idea where I found that choice tidbit.
It would be interesting to see an estimated cost comparison between cost to develop export locations vs the cost of converting a coal fired power plant to, N gas-burning, let’s say switchable? duel fuel with oil?
Have seen numerous articles mentioning old coal plants are being retired due to new regulations about a very old issue: their high pollution (either from lack of capture or antique environmental equipment that is costly to upgrade).

Wondering if costs to convert from coal to N gas would weigh in at far less than your estimated terminal costs, which are quite high.
Just a thought.

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This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Injection Wells

Injection Wells: The Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground

Injection wells used to dispose of the nation’s most toxic waste are showing increasing signs of stress as regulatory oversight falls short and scientific assumptions prove flawed.

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