The Fact and Fiction of Hydraulic Fracturing
I recently attended a local town hall meeting sponsored by The Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection (NEOGAP) and received a handout titled “FRACKING DANGERS”, written by Linda Schiller-Hanna. The writing, which features a ‘skull and bones graphic’ (shown below), employs scare-tactics and misinformation in an attempt to persuade citizens to join NEOGAP, an organization committed to shutting down the Ohio oil and gas industry. I took several quotes directly out of Schiller-Hanna’s paper (labeled “myths”) and debunked this propaganda with facts.
Myth: “Fracking of deep shale, a technology less than ten years old, has not been proven safe.“
Facts: is not new technology. In fact, it has been a standard practice for over 60 years. Ohio’s first frac job occurred in 1953. Today, more than 80,000 wells have been fraced in Ohio oil and gas formations ranging from 1,000’ to 10,000’. Since 1990 more than 15,000 Ohio wells have utilized hydraulic fracture technology and during that time, the has conducted several water well investigation complaints. None of the investigations revealed problems due to hydraulic fracturing. Not a single case of drinking water contamination has ever been recorded. Not one.
Hydraulic fracturing makes the impossible possible by allowing us to reach oil and gas trapped in rock beds that would not otherwise naturally produce. This is why 90 percent of wells operating today have been fractured and more than 1 million U.S. wells have safely utilized fracing. To put it in perspective, 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 7 billion barrels of oil have been captured thanks to hydraulic fracture technology (energy that would not have been acquired without it).
The following are quotes from oil and gas regulators across the country. Of course these are just a small sample. Regulators in fifteen states and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have all stated hydraulic fracturing is a safe technology that does not impact groundwater.
- “There is no indication that hydraulic fracturing has ever caused damage to ground water.” –
- “Though hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 50 years in Texas, our records do not indicate a single documented contamination case associated with hydraulic fracturing.” –
- “No Documented Cases of Hydraulic Fracturing Contamination” – The
The following video shows the hydraulic fracturing method for shale development.
Myth: “Hydrofracking is now being done without sufficient regulations for safety or protections for the environment.“
Facts: In 2010, the volunteered to have its hydraulic fracturing program reviewed by a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization called and received a positive endorsement. The in-depth report commends the ODNR for its role in:
1. Revising Ohio Oil and Gas Laws – addresses present-day health, safety and social issues related to oil and gas development.
- Operators are required to file with the DMRM
- A copy of the well stimulation log – the frac chart (pressure and rate over time), and
- The frac ticket – the invoices for the job that itemizes all frac constituents, the concentration used and at what stage the constituents were applied to the well.
- “No well owner shall construct a well, or permit defective casing in a well to leak fluids or gases, that causes damage to other permeable strata, underground sources of drinking water, or the surface of the land or that threatens the public health and safety or the environment”
2. Well Completion Reporting Requirements
- Chapter 1509 of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) requires the operator to submit all logs and an accurate well completion record to DMRM within 60 days after drilling is completed.
- Hydraulic fracturing information, including the type and volume of fluid used to stimulate the well, is summarized on the well completion report.
- SB 165 requires the operator to submit the well completion report and copies of the well stimulation log, the fracture pressure chart and invoices.
3. Review of Potential Pathways of Contamination
- The review of a well permit application includes an analysis of wells or other potential pathways for contamination of groundwater within the spacing distance for the well, extending along the entire lateral of a horizontal well. This includes plugging and casing records for other offset wells.
4. Strong Enforcement (provide strong incentive to prevent or correct problems that could lead to groundwater contamination)
- DMRM has the power to require the replacement of water supplies and the authority to shut-in production from wells in violation.
- If casing and/or cement is determined to be defective, the operator must cease operations and notify the DMRM within 24 hours. The defect must be immediately repaired.
- The Chief of DMRM can order the plugging of a well that is irreparably damaged. If that happens, the chief must notify the owner in writing.
5. Increase in Staffing (STRONGER supports DMRM efforts to increase and train staff to meet workload priorities)
- ODNR prioritzes well construction and hydraulic fracturing as critical and has 35 full-time-equivalent (FTE) oil and gas inspectors responsible for all field aspects of oil and gas operations.
- SB 165 includes fee increases to support new positions and create multiple new funding mechanisms to support DMRM activities and hire additional inspectors.
6. DMRM Web Site Disseminates Information
- DMRM web site includes Education and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections to provide information. Links to the ORC are provided as well.
- DMRM posts the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to inform the public about hydraulic fracturing operations.
One of the nation’s leading groundwater protection organizations, the ), released a report earlier this year finding the “current state regulation of oil and gas activities is environmentally proactive and preventative.” GWPC also says that the “regulation of oil and gas field activities is managed best at the state level where regional and local conditions are understood and where regulations can be tailored to fit the needs of the local environment.”
In addition to working with the DMRM, Ohio energy producers comply with numerous federal requirements. the , the and all have record keeping and reporting rules followed by well operators. This is in addition to requirements that must be met under the Clean Water Act and additional federal rules.
Tom Stewart responds to a question from the audience regarding Ohio regulations.
Myth: “We in Ohio are now literally losing irreplaceable water tables, pristine farmland, and the health and safety of our families as a consequence.“
Facts: There are no documented cases of drinking water contamination tied to hydraulic fracturing. The , among many other entities, confirmed this in 2004 when they found “no evidence” of any such risk.
Myth: “The Earth, being what it is, once drilled, the gas isn’t the only thing that rises. Poisonous chemicals, such as arsenic, methane gas, benzene, and other substances resurface into our ground water and leak into our streams, killing wildlife, livestock and poisoning drinking water well.”
Facts: Hydraulic fracturing fluid cannot rise to the surface. Geologically speaking, the bedrock between the fractured site and the surface is so dense that it makes it impossible for fracturing fluid to travel upward thousands of feet, or between rock formations and into freshwater aquifers. Ohio operators must recycle their wastewater or inject the flowback into Class II injection wells that lay thousands of feet underground. Permits for these wells are regulated by DMRM.
The bottom line is that the engineering practices perfected over the last 60 years and effective Ohio regulation ensures the integrity of the water supply and the environment. The EPA and the GWPC have declared the practice is safe, and the fluids non-threatening. Oil and natural gas being produced from hydraulic fracturing has existed for decades in Ohio with no harm to the environment, a situation that will remain the same with the development of the Utica and Marcellus Shale.