Monday, June 22, 2009

Natural Gas Doesn't Water Hurt Marcellus Shale Area

My career aspirations led me to study petroleum engineering in the 1950s. Upon graduation, I was employed by an energy company in the Southwest. It took years to develop an understanding of the problems concerning oil and gas production. Eventually, I became fairly proficient, and was involved in designing and performing fracture treatments of oil and gas reservoirs in order to increase production.

A Viewpoint column by Patricia O’Reilly Rush, on June 14, suggests that hydrofracturing of the Marcellus Shale for development of natural gas resources would endanger water supply resources.

This simply would not occur.
Need for facts

Since very few people in the Northeast have had experience with well stimulation, I believe your readers should have a better understanding of the facts before forming an opinion on this aspect of energy development.

Although oil production was first developed in Titusville, Pa., in 1859, the national search for oil energy began after the Spindletop discovery in East Texas during 1901.

Oil and gas reservoirs deplete over time. Often, a well can be stimulated to produce at a greater rate. Initially, well stimulation was achieved by the very dangerous procedure of placing several gallons of nitroglycerine opposite the oil-bearing formation. Upon detonation, the well bore would be increased from perhaps seven inches to two to three feet. The greater exposed surface area would allow increased flow into the well bore, which produced well stimulation.

The introduction of breaking oil and gas reservoirs using hydraulic pressure began in the 1940s. Initially, only a few hundred gallons of oil was used to crack the reservoir rock and stimulate the well. This technique was better than using nitroglycerine, and certainly was safer, but the procedure left something to be desired.

The thinking was that the crack that was propagated by hydraulic pressure immediately “healed” after the pressure was released. This problem was solved by adding sand to the hydraulic fluid. The sand would flow into the cracked reservoir rock, propping the crack open, in effect, greatly increasing the diameter of the well bore and stimulating oil or gas production.

The “frac” treatment technology is very successful and has been used countless times over the past 60 years to stimulate oil and gas reservoirs around the world.

During the early days of the oil industry, natural gas was considered a waste product and was often flared. Eventually, inexpensive natural gas began to displace manufactured gas in our cities. The demand for natural gas rapidly grew, and is still growing. Energy companies soon began to develop natural gas reserves.

The energy industry has long known there were vast quantities of oil and gas reserves in very low permeability or “tight” rock formations. Such deposits are in the oil shales of the Rocky Mountains, the tar sands in Canada, and natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in the Northeast.

The days of cheap energy are over. Domestic oil production peaked in the 1970s. Imported oil to meet our national needs now approaches 75 percent.

Congress should not have allowed this to happen, but it did. The good news is that the United States has massive coal reserves. The bad news is that coal does not burn as cleanly as natural gas and the Obama administration is making moves to diminish — if not shut down, this needed source of energy.

Natural gas burns very cleanly and we are producing about 87 percent of our needs, with the remainder coming from Canada. We must continue to develop additional gas reserves. Therefore, the vast gas reserves locked into the “tight” Marcellus Shale must be developed. Directional drilling into this massive shale formation exposes additional length of this gas-bearing reservoir to production and improved fracturing techniques opens up this valuable resource for decades of reliable production.

Rush’s recent Viewpoint column suggests fracture treatments of this resource will threaten water supplies, and she urges that development of this needed resource be terminated. The possibility of “frac” fluids contaminating water supplies is simply zero. I have never heard of a “frac” treatment ever adversely affecting another formation — let alone reaching the surface to pollute a stream!

What happens after a huge injection of water into a well is a backflow of water following the treatment. The backflow may last for weeks but it will end. The chemicals that concern Rush reduce pipe friction and carry the propping agent, such as sand, that keeps the fracture open.
No reason to stop

Treatment of the backflow should be a permit condition and not a reason to condemn the effort to develop this resource.

Finally, well treatments that involve the use of millions of gallons of water may be a concern to regulators and riparian interests, but can be addressed through the well permit system issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

It is good to develop wind, solar, geothermal and other alternative energy sources but they will never replace oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy sources in the foreseeable decades of time. We must recognize the energy realities and not jeopardize our safety and well-being by eliminating sources of energy, thinking that some energy alternative or small-car mandate will solve our energy needs.

Russ Wege lives in Glenville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.



I posted on the ridiculous assertion that fracking fluid doesn't migrate into the water supply elsewhere today.
In fact, there are so many missteps and accidents associated with hydrofracking, as I said, The possibility of “frac” fluids contaminating water supplies is simply zero, only because it has already happened many times over.
Remember the 20 cows that died in Caddo Parish, LA back in April?
Read this update:
Investigation into animal deaths re-opened
Posted: May 19, 2009 08:53 PM
Updated: May 26, 2009 04:59 PM

CLARIFICATION: The Department of Environmental Quality has not confirmed the cause of death of the 20 cows that shared the pasture with the Chesapeake Energy Branch 2 H-1 well site on April 28th. While the Regional Manager of the Northwest Regional Office of the DEQ has confirmed there was a chemical spill on the site, and that they have found elevated levels of potassium chloride in the soil there, no conclusion as to the exact cause of the cattle deaths has been officially determined. Test results on the cows themselves and what may have caused their deaths have not been released.

KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) - Neighbors of a South Caddo Parish well site insist the 20 cows that died three weeks ago after a chemical spill weren't the only victims, "Because of them letting poisons go," says Nancy Howard.

Otis Randle is the Regional Manger of the Northwest Regional Office of the Department of Environmental Quality. He says elevated levels of potassium chloride were found in the soil, but DEQ investigators are waiting on final test results before revealing their official findings and who should be held responsible for the spill. Chesapeake operates the well. Schlumberger was contracted for completion services at the site. The contractor was in the process of 'fracking' the well on April 28th, when the cattle began collapsing in the pasture in which the well sits.

Howard and others insist those cows weren't the only victims. "Not only cows but squirrels, birds, cats, dogs, fish," says Howard. Randle says his office had an inspector out at the site on April 30th, the day a resident called in to report the additional animal deaths. "We found no indication, no evidence that there was ever any additional livestock or animal kills in the area."


Report from previous post continued:

That investigator's report shows that either there was no one home at the time, the home was gated and locked, or the resident reported no problems.

If they had turned down Amy Lynn street and around the corner to Loretta, they might have found gamecock breeder Warren Jordan. He says he lost more than 120 chicks the day those 20 cows died. "Every one of 'em, within four hours, they were all dead, the same day. I didn't even know the cows were dead."

Jordan, who until last summer raised the gamecocks for fighting, now breeds them for show. Cockfighting became illegal in Louisiana last August. But the family business passed down over 70 years is still a potentially profitable one for Jordan, which makes the loss of so many future roosters a painful one. "Out of the 120 little babies I lost, I would say probably a good 80 of them were roosters, so you're looking at about $500 times 80," Jordan explains, "I don't get no less than $500 apiece."

Jordan says he thought the chicks' deaths were connected to the arrival of a flock of blackbirds that had touched down in the yard. When the flock had gone, one dead blackbird remained. But when the chicks started keeling over, Jordan says, "I panicked! I thought, "My God,' what's goin' on here, I've never had anything like that. All I could think was just burn 'em! Keep 'em from catchin' a parasite or something like that!" And that's just what he did. A few chick-sized wishbones are all that remain in the ashes where Jordan says he piled them up and incinerated the little birds.

Back up on Keatchie-Marshall Road, down past Amy Lyn Street a short distance, Rachel Sepulvado was watching her newly acquired calf deteriorate quickly. "He kept his tongue out," remembers Rachel. "He looked pitiful, he wouldn't stand up...I have never seen a cow bleed from his eyes, only 5, 6 days old and blood out of his eyes." The young animal was also bleeding from the rectum and panting heavily, symptoms that have been described as similar to those of the ill-fated cows in the pasture shared with the Chesapeake well where the chemical spill occurred. Tammy Sepulvado says the young animal was dead in a matter of hours. "The way we're figuring how he got it is with it being in the air, because when we bought him from a friend down the road, they come right by that site with a horse trailer."

"Anything is possible, but the material that we've seen was contained to that one site," says Otis Randle with the DEQ. Randle says there was no indication on the site that the potassium chloride (a chemical compound commonly found in well completion operations) leeched any further than the topsoil, and was never airborne. "I heard 'em sayin that," responds Warren Jordan, "But yet I had 120 dead chickens!"

As a result of News 12's investigation, the DEQ has re-opened their investigation into reports of additional animal deaths.