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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  The hills are alive with the sound of fracking
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Thursday, July 11,2013

The hills are alive with the sound of fracking

By Paul Danish

Bad news, anti-frackers. The hills are alive with the sound of fracking.

According to a recently published report by Leonardo Maugeri, an energy expert at the Kennedy School of Government, fracking isn’t just for shale oil and gas any more. It seems that everyone in the oil patch is doing it — and what’s more, they’ve been doing it for years.

Interesting guy, Maugeri. From 2000 to 2010 he was senior executive vice president of strategy and development for the Italian oil company Eni, the sixth-largest multinational oil company in the world. He’s currently Roy Family Fellow at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

His report “The Shale Oil Boom: A U.S. Phenomenon” makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in understanding the shale oil industry, instead of just sliming it.

It also contained this inconvenient little factoid that bespeaks volumes about the on-going fracking controversy:

In 2011, 95 percent of both the horizontal and vertical wells drilled in the United States were fracked.

In other words, fracking is a routine part of oil and gas well completion these days. The wells that aren’t fracked are the exceptions.

Maugeri got that factoid from a 2011 report produced by the National Petroleum Council, an industry trade group. The report, titled Prudent Development, was prepared by the council at the request of then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The council’s report also mentioned in passing 1) that fracking was first used in 1947, and 2) about 1 million wells have been fracked in the United States since then.

In other words, the American petroleum industry is dependent on fracking for its continued survival and competitiveness.

In other words, without the use of fracking, the domestic oil and gas industry, which currently is increasing production of both gas and oil hand over fist, would instead peter out over the next 10 or 20 years.

And also in other words, those who advocate a ban on fracking are in effect calling for the shutdown of the domestic oil and gas industry.

Shutting down the domestic oil and gas industry is the real agenda of the anti-fracking movement, and chances are that a lot of the anti-fracking activists — especially the movement’s peace and justice/ Occupy Wall Street militants — wouldn’t bother to deny it. Fracking is just a convenient pretext for attacking the industry, not because fracking is particularly dangerous (which it isn’t), but because hardly anyone outside the oil and gas industry had heard of fracking until recently, so it could be portrayed as a sinister new threat, instead of a 60-year-old technology that is a crucial step in drilling nearly all new oil and gas wells — and which has been used safely for decades. (The few accidents that activists have tried to pin on fracking have almost all been traced to shortcomings in other steps of the well drilling process — usually improper casing and cementing of the well.)

It isn’t just fracking that made the shale oil and shale gas booms possible. It was the use of fracking in combination with the newer technology of horizontal drilling that was the real breakthrough.

The American oil industry is totally committed to horizontal drilling; according to Maugeri, 90 percent of the drilling rigs in the country have the capability to drill wells horizontally, often for as much as two miles. Those horizontal laterals can then be fracked in multiple places, vastly increasing the amount of oil a single well can access. This technology has not only made the shale boom possible, it is being used to squeeze more oil out of conventional deposits and additional oil from supposedly depleted fields.

Vertical wells, in contrast, pass through an oil bearing formation top to bottom and are typically in contact with 100 to 200 feet or less of pay — which is only enough surface area of a single frack stage.

Still, that didn’t stop oil companies from drilling — and fracking — more than 20,000 vertical wells in Weld County during the 40 years prior to the current oil and gas boom in the Wattenberg Field.

Those wells don’t seem to have had much adverse impact. Weld County is and has been for years the fourth-most productive agricultural county in the country. And they haven’t kept Weld County from becoming one of the fast-from Page 8 er growing residential counties in the state (current population about 250,000). That rather strongly suggests that the activists’ narrative of the harmful effects of oil drilling and fracking is more imagined than real and ludicrously over-blown.

The real question is why are we even having a discussion about fracking? When a technology has been used a million times over the space of 60 years, and its use has been so uneventful that its very existence remained off most people’s radar until activists started hyperventilating about it, there isn’t much reason to doubt its safety.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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Our grandpa’s traditional vertical wells used only 2,000 psi, were not water and chemically intensive, and did not use detonation guns (that uses uraninum) to fracture unconventional shale gas sources at 8-10,000 psi in the air shed of urban, highly populated areas.
New drilling techniques bring new problems. The hydrofracturing process has an enormous amount of liquids to be trucked out to disposal injection sites which is said to cause earthquakes.
UPDATE by…
The Tyvee (Vancouver)       January 7, 2013
http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/01/07/Shale-Gas-Realities/
Nikiforuk writes, “A small U.S. oil firm did indeed perform the first commercial frack job in 1947 in Kansas on a conventional gas well using 1,000 gallons of napalm as well as sand from the Arkansas River.
So the practice of pumping small volumes (1,000 to 10,000 gallons) of toxic fluid into vertical wells (2,400 feet) using about 600 horsepower of pressure is indeed 60 years old.
But that’s not what is happening in Pennsylvania, Texas or northern British Columbia today. Now industry injects millions of gallons of water into wellbores two miles deep that then angle or deviate horizontally another kilometre underground. They then break up the rock with up to 40,000 units of horsepower onsite and at pressures so extreme that the practice triggers small earthquakes. 
Technique younger than claimed
Moreover the technology for fracking horizontal or deviated shallow gas or tight oil “is not 60 years old,” notes world expert Ingraffea. 
Only in the last two decades have four different technologies made it possible to fracture deep shale rock formations one to two kilometres underground. They include directional drilling (wells that go down a kilometre and then extend horizontally for another kilometre): the use of millions of litres of fracturing fluids including sand, water and toxic chemicals; slick water (the use of gels and high fluid volumes at 100 barrels a minute) and multi-well pad and cluster drilling (the drilling of six to nine wells from one industrial platform). 
“All four of these technologies had to come together to allow shale gas fracturing,” says Ingraffea. 
The first horizontal shale gas well was drilled in 1991; the first slick water fracture took place in 1996; and the use of cluster drilling from one pad didn’t happen until 2007.
Until a decade ago it just wasn’t possible to open fractures in walls of shale rock 20 metres thick a kilometre under the ground with 20 million litres of fracking fluid pumped by 20,000 worth of horsepower to drain trapped methane in an area as large two kilometres by one kilometre. 
Expertise is also limited. Of 75 oil and gas firms that recently invaded Pennsylvania to develop the Marcellus shale play, only a half dozen had any experience combining all four technologies.” 
So the industry claim that hydraulic fracturing is a proven 60-year-old technology is just that: a provocative myth containing a pebble of truth.”

 

My last four years fighting fracking have played out to where the health of my family has been compromised. In the summer of 2012 they started drilling near my home by the Cowboys Stadium...I had no cooperation from the city or Chesapeake as to when they would be flowing back and putting those wells into production so that I could watch the winds and remove my family from downwind toxins....in January my teenager was getting this rash at the same time my husbands lymph nodes were swelling in his neck...now we have chemo and radiation to finish up by this August. My teen has biomarkers for an adrenal tumor and I need to have a third test run and get another doctors opinion on him. I will never be able to prove drilling harmed my family, but the drillers will never be able to prove they did NOT. Important considerations for an ordinance is what I learned from experience..... I live two blocks from a Chesapeake gas drill site near the Cowboy Stadium in Arlington TX where we have 60 padsites of urban drilling in neighborhoods and near schools. The industry is doing business as usual pretending that rural methods and vertical drilling apply to urban drilling and UNconventional oil & shale gas extraction using slick gels, horizontal drilling, high PSI’s, huge amounts of water and drilling waste. This IS a new, unproven safe technology and if you look at the 1300 cases of people claiming health and property effects by searching “The List of the Harmed”, you’ll start to see that the industry is hiding behind the guize of being in compliance to regulations that actually are either non-existant, exempted from, or are lacking in protective areas such as... 1) always use electric drilling rigs. 2) don’t use diesel or dirty field gas to power engines and compressors. 3) invest in technology to keep frac, sand, silica dust out of the worker and neighborhoods lungs. 4) flow back right away after fracking-don’t let the water and the well sour with months going by before flowing back the well. 5) flowback into CLOSED, VENTLESS, pressurized flowback tanks-sure it costs more, but if you are near people or workers...you need to NOT be venting hydrocarbons in the early stage of flowback to the atmosphere via these OPEN HATCH flowback tanks or those rural style frack pits. 6) then the industry needs to address Sustained Casing Issues and convince the public that cement doesn’t ever rot or have other pathways to migrate and damage our underground acquifers....that is a big thing and impossible isn’t it?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

What a bunch of nonsesne.  Some 'anti-frackers' want to shut down all drilling, most people just want rules and regulations set by a government that has as its primary job protection of the public and public health, not protection of the oil and gas industry.  If fracking (as deployed today) has been in use for 6 decades how come its being touted as a shale revolution where new technologies and new depolyments of that technology (ie used in ways never done before) is suddenly changing the energy game, blah blah blah. 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

Dear Mr Danish, I usually like and respect you.  But I believe you may be wrong on your francking stance.  So here is a link to a story fro you...an interview with an past VP from Mobile Oil.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/17605-former-mobil-vp-warns-of-fracking-and-climate-change

 

 

 
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