Guest post by David Middleton
This is the promised sequel to More Fracking Lies from the EPA.
The EPA’s new report on fracking can be downloaded here:
Most of this report deals with everything other than fracking.
The only section directly relevant to fracking is “Well Injection.”
The report supposedly supports this statement:
“There are instances when hyrdofracking has impacted drinking water resources. That’s an important conclusion, an important consideration for moving forward,” said Thomas Burke, a deputy assistant administrator and science adviser at the EPA, on a call with reporters Tuesday.
What evidence does the EPA present to support this pack of lies?
Let’s go to Chapter 6 of the EPA report, “Well Injection”…
Production wells are sited and designed primarily to optimize production of oil or gas, which requires isolating water-bearing formations from hydrocarbon-bearing formations in order to prevent the water from diluting the hydrocarbons and to protect drinking water resources.4 However, problems with the well’s components or improperly sited, designed, or executed hydraulic fracturing operations (or combinations of these) could adversely impact the quality of drinking water resources. (Note that, due to the subsurface nature of activities in the well injection stage, the drinking water resources that may be directly impacted are groundwater resources; see Chapter 2 for additional information about groundwater.5)
“Production wells are sited and designed primarily to optimize production of oil or gas, which requires isolating water-bearing formations from hydrocarbon-bearing formations in order to prevent the water from diluting the hydrocarbons to protect drinking water resources”… No schist, Sherlock.
“However, problems with the well’s components or improperly sited, designed, or executed hydraulic fracturing operations (or combinations of these) could adversely impact the quality of drinking water resources.”
Yes… Problems *could* cause all manner of bad things.
What follows is about 65 pages of dissertations on well casing, cement jobs, how fluids can migrate through the subsurface, microseismicity, examples of fracked wells being in pressure communication with one another and a lot of blather about how these things *could* affect groundwater.
It’s not until section 6.4 that we get anything truly relevant.
In the injection stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle, operators inject hydraulic fracturing fluids into a well under pressure that is high enough to fracture the production zone. These fluids flow through the well and then out into the surrounding formation, where they create fractures in the rock, allowing hydrocarbons to flow through the fractures, to the well, and then up the production string.
The production well and the surrounding geologic features function as a system that is often designed with multiple elements that can isolate hydrocarbon-bearing zones and water-bearing zones, including groundwater resources, from each other. This physical isolation optimizes oil and gas production and can protect drinking water resources via isolation within the well (by the casing and cement) and/or through the presence of multiple layers of subsurface rock between the target formations where hydraulic fracturing occurs and drinking water aquifers.
6.4.1 Summary of Findings
In this chapter, we consider impacts to drinking water resources to occur if hydraulic fracturing fluids or other subsurface fluids affected by hydraulic fracturing enter and adversely impact the quality of groundwater resources. Potential pathways for fluid movement to drinking water resources may be linked to one or more components of the well and/or features of the subsurface geologic system. If present, these potential pathways can, in combination with the high pressures under which fluids are injected and pressure changes within the subsurface due to hydraulic fracturing, result in the subsurface movement of fluids to drinking water resources.
The potential for these pathways to exist or form has been investigated through modeling studies that simulate subsurface responses to hydraulic fracturing, and demonstrated via case studies and other monitoring efforts.
Finally! On page 70 of Chapter 6,page 346 of 666 pages… “demonstrated via case studies and other monitoring efforts”… Observations!!!
188.8.131.52 Impacts to Drinking Water Resources
We identified some example cases in the literature where the pathways associated with hydraulic fracturing resulted in an impact on the quality of drinking water resources.
One of these cases took place in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, in 2007. Failure to cement over-pressured formations through which a production well passed—and proceeding with the hydraulic fracturing operation without adequate cement and an extended period during which the well was shut in—led to a buildup of natural gas within the well annulus and high pressures within the well. This ultimately resulted in movement of gas from the production zone into local drinking water aquifers (Section 184.108.40.206). Twenty-six domestic drinking water wells were taken off-line and the houses were connected to a public water system after the incident due to elevated methane levels.
“Failure to cement over-pressured formations through which a production well passed… resulted in movement of gas from the production zone into local drinking water aquifers.” Failed cement job. Not caused by fracking. Not an example of frack fluid polluting groundwater.
Casings at a production well near Killdeer, North Dakota, ruptured in 2010 following a pressure spike during hydraulic fracturing, allowing fluids to escape to the surface. Brine and tert-butyl alcohol were detected in two nearby monitoring wells. Following an analysis of potential sources, the only source consistent with the conditions observed in the two impacted water wells was the well that ruptured during hydraulic fracturing. There is also evidence that out-of-zone fracturing occurred at the well (Sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168).
“Casings at a production well near Killdeer, North Dakota, ruptured… allowing fluids to escape to the surface. Brine and tert-butyl alcohol were detected in two nearby monitoring wells.” Casing failure. Not caused by fracking. Not an example of frack fluid polluting groundwater.
There are other cases where contamination of or changes to the quality of drinking water resources near hydraulic fracturing operations were identified. Hydraulic fracturing remains a potential contributing cause in these cases.
That’s it? Really? Are you fracking kidding me? Oh wait… There’s more…
There are other cases in which production wells associated with hydraulic fracturing are alleged to have caused contamination of drinking water resources. Data limitations in most of those cases (including the unavailability of information in litigation settlements resulting in sealed documents) make it difficult to assess whether or not hydraulic fracturing was a cause of the contamination.