On Fracking

 

This post represents two milestones for WUWT.

1. It is the first post where a detailed examination of fracking has been offered to the readers.

2. It is the first post I’ve authored from an airplane cruising about 35,000 feet enroute from Atlanta to Phoenix. I’m connected to Southwest’s new inflight WiFI service. Mr. McClenney sent me this post just as I was about to board and I emailed back that I wouldn’t be able to get to it for hours. And then I discovered this new miracle of technology. Here’s my view just before posting:

bloginflight

Guest post by William F. McClenney

I had occasion recently to watch several presentations on environmental aspects of hydraulic fracturing at the world’s largest oil and gas industry conference. To this day I remain dumbfounded as to why the argument I am about to present here has never been mentioned before (at least to my knowledge).

It is fundamental to all arguments which attempt to deal with the effects of oil and gas development to consider the initial discoveries of petroleum: seeps. Seeps are natural leaks from traps where migration of hydrocarbons have accumulated predominantly in reservoir rocks in the subsurface. These seeps represent leakage of these trapped hydrocarbons along predominantly fractures and faults, and to a lesser extent other pathways (such as unconformities etc.). (For a basic video see: http://wn.com/oil_trap)

Until the past decade or so, the search for these traps has been the focus of the O&G industry since its inception. Reservoir rocks are those rocks which have facilitated this migration through the provision of porosity and permeability necessary to allow the movement of fluids and gases derived primarily from the maturation of hydrocarbons most commonly derived from source rocks such as shales and mudstones which lie beneath them stratigraphically. Perhaps the most common reservoirs are sandstones.

Let me repeat that, the source rocks almost always lie beneath the reservoir rocks.

The other necessity for a reservoir rock to be a reservoir rock is a top seal or rock of low to minimal porosity and permeability (often also shales), sometimes in association with a structural discontinuity, such as a fault or anticline, which prevent the majority of the migrated hydrocarbons to keep migrating towards the surface. Stratigraphic traps, which also require a top seal rock, are also targets, such as conversion of limestone to dolomite through the addition of magnesium rich fluids which ideally can result in creation of up to 11% porosity in the dolostone. Where the updip limit of this conversion occurs defines the limits of the stratigraphic traps.

image

http://www.geo.wvu.edu/~jtoro/petroleum/Review%202.html

So traps, however they were formed, are the key to comprehending not only how economic accumulations of hydrocarbons occur, but also the how and why you literally cannot get here from there with hydraulic fracturing.

image

http://www.geo.wvu.edu/~jtoro/petroleum/Review%202.html

image

http://www.geo.wvu.edu/~jtoro/petroleum/Review%202.html

Let’s start with hydraulic fracturing itself. This only recently impinged on the popular consciousness and is therefore “new”. To the petroleum or gas geologist, these arewere new techniques to increase porosity and permeability beginning in the 1960s, with their initial use in the reservoir rocks in mostly vertical wells. Read reservoir rocks, not top seal or much lower source rocks. “New” must therefore encompass the massive use of this technique for over half a century in strata which overlie the source rocks, and in just about every known oil or gas field in the world.

Combine source, reservoir and top seal and you have what we call a “petroleum system”.

image

http://www.geo.wvu.edu/~jtoro/petroleum/Review%202.html7

 

Oddly, use of hydraulic fracturing for the last half-century in the reservoir rocks has not caused a groundwater problem anywhere I am aware of. Those of you that can provide examples of where this half-century of intense reservoir hydraulic fracturing has caused drinking water aquifer impacts please chime in.

But the game changed ever so slowly with the development and evolution of directional drilling into steerable horizontal drilling now all the rage. The horizontal evolution spanning mostly just the last decade or so.

What this means is that for the most part, we are now targeting for the first time the source rocks themselves. What that means is we are now going after the much lower, stratigraphically, tight organic source shales etc. This could be the end game for petroleum and gas exploration, for once we have exhausted the source rocks……………..

So here is what has been missing entirely (from what I can tell) from the present “hot” discussion on fracking. So think “source rock”. Lying beneath the reservoir rocks, where fracking has been going on extensively for decades. Now add in horizontal drilling, sometimes for miles away from the drillpad in several directions. As they are “fracked”, enormous lift, on the order of maybe millimeters to maybe inches or possibly a few feet occurs to open up pathways for migration of the hydrocarbon load towards the horizontal well(s).

Do you realize what this means? It means that there is a definite possibility that such radical lifting and fracturing of the source rocks has a very slight possibility of increasing what for tens to hundreds of millions of years was already the natural seeping of hydrocarbons from the source rocks into the reservoir rocks!

Do you realize what that means? That means that meager induced releases of new hydrocarbons from the surfaces of the source rocks could actually “get on the freeway” of the reservoir rocks where they could mischievously, eventually, make their way into the structural and stratigraphic traps where they could literally be “stuck” under the top seals or structural seals, at least until removed by say existing oil field wells in the reservoir rocks, or egregiously eke their way through the labyrinthine natural plumbing of the natural seeps to say drinking water aquifers.

Imagine even a few feet lifting from hydraulic fracturing in the source rocks propagating all the way through the reservoir rocks, literally blasting past all the hydraulic fracturing maybe occurring there for decades before, and even more powerfully fracturing not only the top seal rocks but the miles of sediments and beds above. Very, very impressive, if we could only do it…….. A nuclear test might, repeat might, crack the entire stratigraphic section to1 the surface a mile or two above it, but not much else is likely to.

image

http://maps.unomaha.edu/maher/GEOL1010/lecture18/lecture18.html

For oil and gas, the migration process could be considered “fast” geologically, perhaps taking from tens of thousands to tens of millions of years to occur due to the density drive which allows crude and gas to “rapidly” migrate into the reservoirs above the formation water. You know, oil floats on water, and so on.

image

Seismic section image off the coast of California showing sedimentary layering, faults, and other geologic features. Some of the features, especially in the deeper and lower parts, are artifacts of the imaging technique, and it is helpful to be trained in the interpretation of seismic sections. This type of data is crucial and common in oil exploration. Note the vertical scale of depth. Image source: http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/mapping/csmp/data_collection.html

But the fate of the myriad chemicals being employed in today’s hydro-fracturing regimes is not so sublime. What would drive these chemicals even into the culminations of the structural or stratigraphic traps? Most are water based solutions, with water starting out with a slight density advantage to say salt water (most connate waters are salty, surface seawater today ~1.025 specific gravity), that is until you dissolve said myriad chemicals into them, when the density drive case gets rather murky at best for water-based chemical fracking fluids, if not strongly negative (specific gravities being greater than 1.0).

Shoot these out into the connate water parts of the oil/column/reservoir rocks and voila, there you have it! They might be denser than even the connate waters, but unlike oil, they will dissolve and disperse. Whereas we have natural oil seeps above many known oil finds, we don’t often find brine springs. Why? Well oil is generally lighter than water (gas dramatically lighter) so it floats. If fresh water can “float” atop the denser warm Gulf Stream waters of the Atlantic, and shut down its circulation (according to many), how is this denser, salty or chemically laden, probably denser formation and frack water supposed to rise up, undispersed, through the top seal and structural traps, cascading and being refracted along countless bedding planes and unconformities to arrive, and still be detectable in near-surface (say less than 1,000 foot deep, and that’s being generous) aquifers thousands of feet to miles higher in a geologic instant?

Such that the USEPA can claim that they have found its signature in 3 places, only to later recant that they bungled that badly in each case.

With one exception, the ONLY way to get these “dangerous chemicals” into an aquifer quicksmart is if they

  1. Possess a density less than crude oils yet greater than methane (assuming they remain water-based solutions and do not spontaneously become a gas at deep formation pressures (ludicrous just to cogitate)

  2. Have an yet unreported ability to jet through the labyrinth of bedding planes, other shales etc. in order to reach the surface often miles above in no time flat, where we can sample them.

The exception being transmission up the annulus of the exploratory boring/well itself. Now this can be a rather egregious problem as Macondo informs us. Are we not yet to learn the dirty details of Halliburton’s slipshod cementing of Macondo’s annulus? And this is an all too common problem for the O&G industry, driven as it is by economics, often offering bonuses to drilling contractors for completing the well ahead of schedule. Newly drilled wells are all too frequently subjected to anthropogenic pressures “before their time”, i.e. before the cement has been allowed to properly setup. Assuming it is proper cement in the first place.

This egregious problem can readily be addressed with some skillful regulations on concrete formulations (with allowances for evolution of these formulations by rigorous engineering standards which they must achieve), and a permit-specified curing time etc.? At least at the minimum.

That is literally about all it would take. This would not be egregiously expensive to the O&G industry, at least not when compared to blow-outs, extensive baseline groundwater monitoring ahead of and during drilling/production, cleanup costs etc. Environmental considerations, frankly, should be everyone’s first move these days. Would better up-front due diligence have prevented Macondo, Elgin or Frade? It’s just risk management, which Macondo informs us, can be a pretty big part of exploration management, and cost.

Just as “A stern chase after a lie is a long one” so is the trip for natural oil and gas seeps, which have had tens to hundreds of millions of years to do it, and a much more robust density drive than water based, and therefore easily further dissolved/dispersed chemical fracking solutions are likely to ever have. The “hole” in this theory is the exploration/production borehole itself, a relatively trivial and inexpensive problem to solve.

William F. McClenney

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127 thoughts on “On Fracking

  1. An excellent analysis of the physics of rocks and reservoirs.

    The only exception I might take is to point out that Halliburton’s models of Macondo indicated that cementing the well in one pass (rather than cementing the bottom third and letting it set before doing the rest in a second pass) risked having the weight of the cement exceed the fracture strength of the reservoir rock, resulting in the loss of unpredictable amounts of cement into the reservoir and possible gaps in unpredictable locations along the length of the borehole. It was a decision of the BP rep on site to proceed with a single pass cementing anyway (and with fewer centralizers than recommended) despite Halliburton’s concerns.

    It was also the BP rep who told the Schlumberger crew to demobilize and not do the standard verification of the cementing job with a wellbore log.

    The rig toolpush who argued with the BP rep died on the platform, but was after their earlier discussion heard swearing “I guess that’s what we’ve got those f***ing shears for”, implying he thought the well was going to try to back up and they would need to use the blow out preventer shears.

    On the bright side, any toolpush today who feels the need to argue with a client rep can point out how much it cost BP to cut those important corners. It’s an argument that now carries considerable weight.

  2. Personally, I have ignored the fracking discussion for exactly those reasons – as an ex-oilfield geologist, it was obvious there was not a serious issue. By contrast, for example, there are places which are grossly affectd by geothermal ‘extraction’ works – IIRC, there’s a place in Germany (?) settling due to warm water extraction! But, funnily enough, I don’t see the greenies up in arms over this kind of problem…..

  3. GlynnMhor says:
    April 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks GlynnMhor. A good recollection of what is likely to be a lively litigation someday…..

  4. I read that Cheney got this exempted from groundwater regulations, which is why they haven’t been testing systematically for contamination. There is an effort to get a regulation passed that would result in more testing.

  5. It’s amazing what is ignored by the public. Insitu leaching of uranium deposits (ISL) has been going on for about 40 years, and now accounts for about 35% of total world production. Production is by injecting acid into the deposit from injection wells and sucking out the solutions from production wells. Acid and uranium versus water and gas?? Which method would you be worried about contaminating your water. And the uranium deposits are sometimes proximal to the aquifers – i.e. not deep. And to date no significant problems have developed. Trust me, you would have heard about it.

  6. I read that methane hydrates were probably flowing into the Macondo well in a semi-solid state and the methane hydrates sent confusing signals to the drillers – who normally have clear indications what exactly was going on during the cementing process. Methane hydrates are supposedly abundant deep within the earth’s crust. But I can’t imagine how to extract them.

  7. Kev-in-UK says:
    April 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm
    Personally, I have ignored the fracking discussion for exactly those reasons – as an ex-oilfield geologist, it was obvious there was not a serious issue. By contrast, for example, there are places which are grossly affectd by geothermal ‘extraction’ works – IIRC, there’s a place in Germany (?) settling due to warm water extraction! But, funnily enough, I don’t see the greenies up in arms over this kind of problem…..

    It sure depends on the fluid. I’m STILL an oilfield geologist, and generally avoid discussing fracking to laypeople, because of all the AdHom about being a shill and the like. Yes, I make my living finding the stuff, but nope, I’ll tell ‘em what they NEED to hear, not what they want me to say. And bad cement jobs are not uncommon, with the blessing that subsequent squeeze jobs can remedy the situation. Pretty well all of my clients in the last 15 years have made sure their casing sealed off the access point to the reservoir.

    But, on the hype about fracking, I sometimes find myself having to cut a discussion short when people repeat stories about fracking water contaminating some slew water somewhere. In Alberta, we recently saw the death of on Wiebo Ludwig, a fanatical commune ‘pastor’ who was responsible for bombing a number of oilfield installations because, he said, their effluent was causing miscarriage in some of his livestock. No evidence, just bombs.

    The above analysis is spot on, although I would add a fourth category to the petroleum system mentioned: “maturation”, that is, the thermobaric conditions which must take place to actually generate the hydrocarbon in the source rock, prior to its migration. Also, some frac jobs are relatively shallow, like some jobs I recently supervised in Alberta, at 700 meters below surface. But even then, there is a thick roof of several hundred meters of ductile marine shale above the reservoir…which resists fracturing.

    Unfortunately, you will never see such a concise analysis in the mainstream, who prefer to demonize anything petroleum in lieu of investigative facts.

  8. Methane hydrates are supposedly abundant deep within the earth’s crust. But I can’t imagine how to extract them.

    Relieve the pressure around them and they “extract” themselves. Albeit sometimes explosively so.

  9. While most of your essay is pretty spot on, you missed probably the most important and most likely way to get the frakking chemicals into surface waters and aquifers – surface discharges of untreated or poorly treated drilling fluids and frakking water. This is the real threat from frakking.

  10. Willam Abbott says:
    April 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm
    I read that methane hydrates were probably flowing into the Macondo well in a semi-solid state and the methane hydrates sent confusing signals to the drillers – who normally have clear indications what exactly was going on during the cementing process. Methane hydrates are supposedly abundant deep within the earth’s crust. But I can’t imagine how to extract them.

    Uh, no. And drillers don’t do cementing, either.

    JC, I’m guessing, that you speak in part about the vast Uraninite/Tyuyamunite/Carnotite deposits of the Morrison Formation of the Colorado Plateau, an area crosscut by vast canyons whose talus slopes are literally riddled with those three minerals. The Natives used the yellowcake ochre as paint. The uranium for Fat Man and Little Boy was mined in Uravan, CO, whose vast tailings ponds were set along the San Miguel River, and eventually into the Colorado via the Dolores river. The tailings ponds were remediated somewhere around 1990 while I was working on my thesis project in the area. The tonnage of uranium carried away by the Colorado River over time is simply immense.

  11. William, thanks for that informative recital on fracking. Keep on it. As boring as it can be, the truth needs repeated over and over again.

    The problem isn’t that people are concerned with it getting into our water system. A five minute excursion on the nets to the right places will inform us that it isn’t a danger. And, no one with an ounce of sense seriously believes the briny solutions are going to come get us.

    The problem is, there are people in this country who are hell bent on depriving this nation of cheap reliable fuel and energy. Any successful fuel of energy industry will be despised by the radical left. Always.

    Thanks again for the post!

  12. Kev-in-UK says:
    April 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm
    “By contrast, for example, there are places which are grossly affectd by geothermal ‘extraction’ works – IIRC, there’s a place in Germany (?) settling due to warm water extraction! But, funnily enough, I don’t see the greenies up in arms over this kind of problem…..”

    That would be the town of Staufen. Report from 2008, they drilled through keuper and then into a ground water layer and the water came into contact with the keuper, forming gypsum, leading to expansion. As a result at least a hundred houses developed large cracks. German houses are generally made from stone or concrete.

    http://backreaction.blogspot.de/2008/11/town-rips-up.html

    Since then, the process has continued and some places have risen by 30cm (1 foot).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staufen_im_Breisgau#Geothermal_drilling_controversy

    All of this just because they wanted to heat the city hall in a “climate-friendly” way (given the low energy density of geothermal, I wonder if the entire operation would even have had a positive EROEI if everything had gone smoothly).

  13. crosspatch says:

    April 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm
    Methane hydrates are supposedly abundant deep within the earth’s crust. But I can’t imagine how to extract them.

    Relieve the pressure around them and they “extract” themselves. Albeit sometimes explosively so.

    Maybe one could collect them with robot submarines.

  14. from central South America now 12 C probably because of this.

    we are getting colder and colder every year as the sun is going into a dormsnt state and Antarctica is growing every year. The AGWers are MAD

  15. Sorry about my rapid-fire postings here, but:

    BobN says:
    April 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm
    While most of your essay is pretty spot on, you missed probably the most important and most likely way to get the frakking chemicals into surface waters and aquifers – surface discharges of untreated or poorly treated drilling fluids and frakking water. This is the real threat from frakking.

    The whole point of fracking is to pump those ‘drilling fluids’ into the rocks below the surface. And pump them until the tanks are dry. There is no ‘release’ of fluids at surface unless it is unintended, and believe you me, with the pressures involved on a frac unit, they make sure there won’t be such a release…because it would be deadly. I’m sorry, but the “Drilling Fluids” are long gone from the site by the time fracking begins. Gone with the rig that drilled the well. And just to be sure, most fracking fluid consists of….water. Water with some sifted sand added to act as a ‘proppant’, to keep the fractures from collapsing. Both, I might add, highly toxic substances. I think, BobN, that this is YOUR real threat from fracking. You haven’t done much research to support your assertion, I can tell. I’ll leave it at that.

  16. Try this website for a review of oil seeps and oil spills – and why they are GOOD for the environment!

    http://carbon-sense.com/2010/08/23/oil-spills/

    Since 17-days after the Macondo well was capped in August 2010 has anyone heard anything about “The worst environmental disaster tin America’s history” (Obama in May 2010)?

    Neither have I!

  17. “The worst environmental disaster tin America’s history”

    I believe I have read that it is estimated that globally, wind turbines kill more birds in a day than the Deepwater Horizon blowout killed.

  18. …As they are “fracked”, enormous lift, on the order of maybe millimeters to maybe inches or possibly a few feet occurs to open up pathways for migration of the hydrocarbon load towards the horizontal well(s)…

    I doubt that fracking will “lift” rock unless the work is extremely close to the surface. Otherwise fracking just produces connections among pre-existing fractures that are oriented perpendicular to the direction of least principal stress (favorably oriented). But, at any rate, there are probably a million wells in the U.S. that have had some method of enhancing permeability — fracking or acidization–with little to talk about until now.

    Willam Abbott says:
    April 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm
    I read that methane hydrates were probably flowing into the Macondo well in a semi-solid state and the methane hydrates sent confusing signals to the drillers – who normally have clear indications what exactly was going on during the cementing process. Methane hydrates are supposedly abundant deep within the earth’s crust. But I can’t imagine how to extract them.

    My understanding was that the hydrates formed when gas, under high pressure, encountered cold bottom water in the Gulf. To extract hydrates you either warm them, or reduce pressure on them, and take them out of their field of stability. The hydrates then break down and release gas. At the depth of the Macondo well this would be 20C or so. So the Gulf bottom water would have induced hydrate formation.

  19. BobN says:
    April 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Well, I might have missed some. But flowback is a market for my firm. Municipalities, large and small, are coming to grips with the exigencies represented by return frack water, flowboack. Only those ventures that believe they can get away with direct surface discharge even flirt with such. Any size municipal water treatment system these days is becoming aware of the issues such a large discharger modern-day O&G operations can generate. And it isn’t pretty. Even for a boutique wastewater treatment enterprise, such large volume, near instantaneous discharges pose an engineering challenge. If surface discharges of flowback water are still occurring, my presumption would be that such a practice is destined for extinction.

  20. We must continue to remove these poisonous hydrocarbons from the environment. I recommend that we either burn them or convert them to inert plastic products so they can do no more harm.

  21. I’m torn on the subject: Oil or water?
    In all seriousness, lately it seems that clean water is more rare than hydrocarbon deposits (here in the US) and something that we ought to be spending more time and effort in securing.
    Jus’ sayin’

  22. The ONLY reason fracking has been in the news is environmentalists’ campaign against abundant cheap energy afforded by shale gas. period.

  23. I also work in the oil industry, 20 years, manager with major international, based in SE Asia, earth scientist by background.

    This article has the correct conclusions (frakking is not an issue as its been going on for decades) but unfortunately is not well written, misses some key points and pieces of information and makes some erroneous statements. Not least of these is that source rocks occur below reservoir rocks. Generally true for [the] traditional petroleum system but this has nothing to do with what is being targeted under current frack type development proposals. Source rocks occur everywhere and the areas where they are currently being don’t necessarily have to be deep or associated with reservoir rock at all.

  24. Barbee says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    ????

    Where is there a source of water in the US that is NOT approved for human (and animal) consumption?

    What water supply in the US is threatened by anything (or anyone) OTHER THAN the extremist enviro groups who are cutting off water to the Central Valley of California and areas in the west mountains by breaking dams and filing lawsuits in the cracks they leave behind? There have been droughts now – as they have been in the past, ever since the original Indians in the SW were killed out by drought and famine, since the Mayans were killed out from their peninsula, ever since the Jamestown settlers were nearly out by drought ….

    Few things have been more success in saving the lives of hundreds of millions of innocents than the conversion and treatment of common water supplies in the US and the first world since the 1910’s and 1920’s.

    Few things have killed more people (other than socialist governments!) than the enforced lack of clean water and simple sewage treatment, cheap energy and better transportation and food storage by the uniformly corrupt governments in the third world. And THAT is a policy the UN wants to retain through its CAGW demands as they try to pay those same corrupt governments.

  25. Barbee says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Yeah, well, that is what I have been doing for the past quarter-century plus. The first horizontal well for chlorinated solvent remediation was drilled over 10 years before the first commercial horizontal well for oil at the Savannah River National Laboratory site. Oddly enough, this involved release of methane gas to stimulate growth of naturally occurring methanotroph bacteria which excreted oxygenase waste products which neatly oxygenated the solvents so fast that it was uncanny.

    You might be surprised what we can do in terms of aquifer rehabilitation. It’s what I have been doing for over a quarter-century now since being ushered out of the oil and gas industry after the last boom cycle…….

  26. Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says:
    April 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm
    Sorry about my rapid-fire postings here, but:
    ———————————————————-
    Keep them coming Mike. You’re educating a lot of people including me.

  27. (responding to)
    ImranCan says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Fine. Then “copy and paste” the original and edit it. Do that NOW, don’t wait, don’t try to make it perfect. Make it better with your corrections and expansions.

    If it is not “better” …. Make it better, more readable! THAT is your challenge.

    Do NOT ever simply criticise another person’s effort, but work harder yourself to make it better. And, by making it better, better inform the rest of us who read it.

  28. @ Mike Bromley the Canucklehead (April 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm)

    Mike: if there is no surface release, then how to account for the numerous articles under Google
    “Fracking Flowback”.
    Now the EPA attempts to regulate this discharge, but the disdain for EPA reg’s I would imagine can be fairly common. Much like the illegal dumping of hazardous material in the countryside/back country roads via truck, I can imagine this or perhaps simply drilling a “secret” “dump hole” for disposal. Lest you think that these companies are naturally “honest”, I think that there has been much evidence over the decades that where profits are involved, anything can go.

    http://www.marcellus-shale.us/drilling_wastewater.htm

    http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/wells_hydrowhat.cfm

  29. @RAKook1978
    That would be: Texas, California and Florida to start.
    Ever heard of those places?

  30. If I weren’t I petroleum geologist & I were a lay person, I think I would found this post to be confusing & left me with more questions than answers, which really isn’t that helpful.

    A much more helpful discussion would have been from a reservoir engineering perspective & discussing what actually happens during a fracking operation, how & where the fractures propagate (staying in the zone of interest, if executed correctly) , how we know this (via microseismic & production data collected) & how the odds that any fracking operation would contaminate an aquifer are so incredibly remote & how much economic benefit this country is receiving from this technology (which is basically being used in every import new onshore North America play). The risk vs benefit analysis is a no-brainer as the benefits so far out way the risks.

    As an industry, we have so much data & experience showing the risks to aquifers is almost nil, yet we fail to use this in any meaningful way to dispel the mountains of mis-representations & out right lies made by various left-wing & environmental groups. As usual in these situations, it is apparent that collectively as an industry , we have zero PR skills.

  31. (responding to)
    Barbee says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Grew up in south Texas, went to school in Texas, worked in Florida for years, worked in Texas, worked in California for years.

    What part of your claim says the water problems in either or any of those regions is caused by a concentration on oil production, and what part is caused by the local enviro’s in those regions forcing their opinions on the rest of the state and nation?

    Name a water problem in those regions NOT caused by government actions and re-actions, but rather by private industry.

  32. [SNIP: If you have something substantive to contribute, do it, but quit baiting other commenters. -REP]

  33. Firstly, a thank you is due to William F. McClenney for the head post, and secondly to the others technically versed in this industry who are also stepping in with comments and clarifications; I think I can speak for a number of us (general posters) out here, who truly appreciate the presentations and thoughts of those involved first-hand in the ‘trenches’ and front-lines of these activities, activities beyond the comprehension and understanding of our ‘press’ through which often in the past they were our only source of information on such issues, as we can’t all ‘fraternize’ with the geologists or petroleum engineers who posses the specialized science and ‘industry’ knowledge in these fields.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to put this post together and having the willingness to withstand a few ‘unknowing questions’ from us, the unwashed, consuming public, who are largely ignorant of these technical fields …

    .

  34. An important question is just how much fracking will increase recoverable reserves.

    The approach could be expanded a 1000-fold versus what has been tried. Does this increase recoverable reserves to last another 30 or 300 years?

  35. cheapsmack says April 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm:

    … here is one place where ground water is affected by industry not the G&O industry but never the less

    No connection whatsoever with the topic at hand; what’s next, cites of homeowners caught poring used motor oil down storm drains (verboten in an area like ours where surface reservoirs hold drinking water)?

    Please, let’s stay on topic.

    .

  36. I am an engineer and enjoy difficult problems. Why, for example, is this second revision of my circuit board consuming 50% more power? (an actual problem).

    When I think of the complexities of horizontal fracking, I see a playground of puzzles and difficulties.

    …Ah, if only I had the time to explore them…but I am certain that there are a thousand engineers doing that just now. Life is good, engineering is good, humans are good – as far as any natural animal is “good”. So, why do the enviromentalists [sic] want to denegrate us? … and not their oh so precious piety, as exhibited by their Toyota Pious.

  37. Follow the money? From that link, “Lockheed Martin officials say there is no reason to uproot the community because residents are not at risk. After having delineated the 131-acre plume with 137 monitoring wells and 468 soil samples, company officials argue that cleanup efforts should be confined to the plant property, and that soil and water samples of the plume offsite show it poses no threat to health and does not require remedial measures. Despite these assurances, State Representative Bill Galvano told county commissioners that federal, state, and county governments should come up with $20 million to move the 238 Tallevast residents near the plant to new homes.

    On the legal front, lawsuits against Lockheed Martin have been consolidated under the direction of Motley Rice law firm in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.15 In all, 254 Tallevast residents have joined the suit. While Tallevast lawyers attempted to get the suit moved to the 12th Judicial Circuit in Manatee County, Lockheed Martin attorneys preferred to keep the case in Tampa federal court. Company lawyers maintain that Lockheed Martin has, as Subra writes, “no responsibility for residents’ alleged property damage or illness because work performed at the plant was done for the federal government.”

    20 million, plus the money from lawsuits is a lot of incentives for activists, even for the “expert” called in with money from the MacArthur foundation. As bad as the pressure is on the residents is to promote their message, the company’s situation is nasty: They bought a contaminated site based on work beginning in 1948’s A-bomb production, then suffered upper surface leaks. A bad situation for those involved though, but notice that even the earliest of the beryllium work was done for for the government’s atomic programs. Is there an unbiased analysis of the residences’ situation?

    Notice too that the shallow surface water problems from the spill are the direct and immediate result of the community NOT being on the county’s water system. Which returns to my original comment: Lower energy costs and more affordable water and sewage solve problems. They have not caused problems, they did not cause these problems.

  38. Good review and excellent comments too. I am presently a consulting geologist in Alberta. We have been fracking here since the beginning of the practice. I’ve supervised frack jobs myself. If done properly and well, no problem. Most of the time probably 98%, that is how it is done. That does not mean problems from time to time do not occur, they do. To my knowledge fracking has not caused drinking water contamination if Western Canada. Could have happened I suppose. I am aware of many instances of farmers getting gas in their water wells. Happens all the time in certain parts of Alberta, has since man started drilling or digging water wells here and will continue as long as we do. Those wells tend to be way to shallow to be effected in any measurable way by fracking. Every basin is different from every other. Geological things are not uniform in the slightest. They are highly heterogeneous. One can take principals from from place to another but the details are almost always variable. In the rush to explain and therefore oversimplify, two things happen. Universality is inappropriately applied and gross assumptions or generalizations are made.

    The hype related to fracking is simply that. It is the same hype applied to global warming modeling results and a thousand other things we use or talk about. I have seen a number of MSM presentations about fracking, all misleading and highly inaccurate. Do we need to take care when doing this kind of work? Yes, absolutely. Remember the deep drilling and injections for Geothermal in California that caused seismic responses. Remember the seismic activity triggered by deep injections at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Remember injection of massive amounts of fluids is not the same as some limited fluid + sand in a frack job, no matter what pressures are being used.

  39. Bill,
    Thanks for the instructive lesson on oil geology. I think the fracking issue has to do with the integrity of the cementing job, as you said. The borehole down to the oil reservoir is sealed (more or less) with a steel pipe casing inserted to fit closely within the open hole. This is further sealed by pumping cement through the casing down to the bottom of the hole at some point, where it then rises up on the outside of the casing to fill all the voids and crannies that may exist between the earth, rocks, etc that are present between the drilled hole and the outside of the steel casing. Naturally, after it hardens, the cement cannot remain to plug the bottom of the hole, so it is eventually drilled out at the bottom.

    If this cement sealing job is not done properly, the fluids that were injected under very high pressure (and remain pressurized for a long time even after fracking and cementing is completed) can rise up between the drilled hole and the steel casing. There have been few problems reported because the fracking fluids are usually injected many thousands of feet below the reservoirs where farm irrigation or drinking water are drawn, and because most of the fracking fluids must be removed before the fracked well can produce oil or gas.

    However, it would seem prudent to establish some safety standards for cementing/sealing the more shallow oil and gas wells in situations where pure water is nearby above, and is needed for household use or farm irrigation.

  40. Erin Brockovich blew into Midland, Tx three years back looking for the source of Hexavalent Chromium that was poluting water wells south of town. She blamed Schlumberger, the well service company,and set out to prove it.

    http://www.kcbd.com/global/Story.asp?s=10516889.

    Problem was Schlumberger didn’t use chromium in any of its processes. And the Texas Commision on Evironmental Quality agreed. However, there still is a plume of chromium contaminated ground water down there some where. However, Brockovich is missing in action.

  41. This may have been covered up thread, but fracs at depth would normally occur in a vertical plane: http://fracfocus.org/hydraulic-fracturing-how-it-works/hydraulic-fracturing-process
    The rupture in the rock is determined by the least principal stress, and in most cases >2000 ft the greatest stress is from overburden.

    In shales, micro seismic indicates the ruptures occur in dendritic branches or swarms away from the wellbore.

    Fracking from a deep producing formation into a shallow aquifer is, for all intents and purposes, a geomechanical impossibility. There are cases where it would benefit the operator if a frack would extend vertically, for example to crack through confining shales for greater vertical communication. It’s difficult. Fracs are normally confined to the zone because of the different mechanical properties in the adjacent beds.

    If the frack were to propagate outside the hydrocarbon pay interval, the operator has wasted a lot of money on horsepower, frac fluid & sand that will mostly be wasted.

    Another factor which makes communication to aquifers extraordinarily unlikely if not impossible is that the frac always follows the path of least resistance. There are likely to be multiple horizontal beds between the hydrocarbon zone and the aquifer that would break down and “take” the frac if subjected to frac pressures.

    Commenters above are correct: the most likely contamination pathway is via improperly handled fluids at the surface. The second most likely is a poorly constructed/cemented wellbore. I even have a hard time with that one.

  42. Good article that could be improved with some of the comments to it. In respect to the uranium issue a couple of posters raised, I’ll make some comments. I headed up the South Texas uranium exploration and development program of a major energy firm for several years. In Texas, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, New Mexico and Colorado at the least, significant uranium deposits called “roll front uranium deposits” have been discovered and mined, in underground mines, open pits, and more recently, solution mining.

    These deposits typically occur in sandstones that act as aquifers. The uranium content of these waters results from oxidizing, carbonate-rich water (meteoric water; rain water) leaching uranium from the rock it is moving through. These “source rocks” contain significant amounts of volcanic tuff, i.e. shards of mineral and glass ejected from volcanoes in explosive eruptions. Certain types of magmas are enriched in uranium (it has no home in the normal rock-forming minerals), and we have in the western US and northern Mexico numerous large volcanic events featuring these magmas. The uranium in the source rocks may occur as uraninite or as uranium adsorbed on the tuff shards. This uranium is easily dissolved in oxidizing, carbonate-rich water.

    At a point where the water moving through the sand encounters chemically reducing conditions (i.e. the Eh of the water tends toward negative values), the uranium begins to precipitate out. This may happen where facies changes occur (the riverine sandstone for example begins to grade into a marshy, lignitic sequence), or where natural gas is seeping into the formation, etc. Once established, the roll-front concentration of uranium may be further moved down the hydraulic gradient by influxes of oxidizing water, often leaving behind some of the decay products of uranium, like radon and radium and so forth, that are significantly radioactive. In Texas the roll front-bearing aquifers may in fact be the sources of some drinking or stock water.

    Solution mining basically reverses the geochemical process. Carbonate-rich, oxygenated water (not acids) is pumped into the formation, dissolves the uranium, and is pumped out. This water is run through an ion-extraction process to remove the uranium and then recycled back into the mining process.

    We often encountered natural gas deposits in our drilling. In fact, in one incident, we had a blowout that destroyed the rig (no one was hurt, fortunately) and created a fountaining lake several acres in size. We had to call in the oil and gas boys to kill the well. Afterwards, in that particular area (now a significant solution mining area) we had to drill with blowout prevention devices (this on essentially water wells of at most a few hundred feet deep).

  43. I enjoyed the OP and the comments. I have been studying this process beginning as a neophyte, and am hearing exactly from y’all, what I have been reading. Seems to me that the risk factors in fracking are well known, and that if a well is to be optimally productive, the cementing and fracking must be done properly. There isn’t a good reason not to do it right IMHO.

  44. Barbee says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm
    “I’m torn on the subject: Oil or water?
    In all seriousness, lately it seems that clean water is more rare than hydrocarbon deposits (here in the US) and something that we ought to be spending more time and effort in securing.
    Jus’ sayin’”

    Barbee,
    Where do you live? I’ve traveled, hiked, hunted, biked, back packed, fished, paddled and explored a lot of this great country and I never had a problem finding clean water. There was no effort required to ‘secure it’. Nor do I buy plastic bottled water (at $8 a gallon!). What is your basis for stating that ‘clean water is more rare than hydrocarbons’? Clean water is every where. Hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas, etc), conversely, are difficult for an individual to obtain from anywhere in nature.
    MtK

  45. “Are we not yet to learn the dirty details of Halliburton’s slipshod cementing of Macondo’s annulus?”

    The Gentleman:
    ‘He,….snigger,….he said,….guffaw/chortle,….he said annulus’

    His Mental health Practitioner:
    “Alright, alright come away now sir, theres a good gentleman, if one will insist on fabricating deleterious verbiage which in no way furthers the discussion, Sir will have his InterCloudyWeb privileges revoked.”

    The Gentleman:
    “ANNULUS!”

    His Mental health Practitioner:
    “Nurse!, a sedative if you will.”

    The Gentleman:
    “Over Unity Windmills!, Burning Polar Bears!, Shub Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a thousand young!”

    His Mental health Practitioner:
    “NO MORE DISCOVERY CHANNEL FOR YOU!”

  46. Bill Illis says:
    April 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm “…An important question is just how much fracking will increase recoverable reserves….” Good question. As William McClenney said, this technique is now allowing us to consider – as resources – rocks that never before have been looked at in that way. For example, the Bakken Shale in the Williston Basin is thought to contain about 465 billion barrels of oil, trapped where it formed, and not subject to conventional production. The last reserve estimate I saw, made possible only by fracking, was 24 billion barrels. So, we went from zero to 24 on our way to likely some rather larger number. The same thing is happening all over the country (world, for that matter), both in oil-bearing and gas-bearing strata. The resource estimates are verging on gigantic – hundreds of years. The ultimate production will be rather less, but still staggering.

  47. I am a gas field geologist working in the Marcellus. My graduate research was in natural hydraulic fracturing along reactivated precambrian faults during the early paleozoic. I studied seismic pumping of gas rich fluids and heavier than water liquids. Apart from my practice I am the president of the state licensing board in Pa for engineers and geologists. But the general public knows far more about this than I do. At a recent public meeting I was repeatedly called a liar when I answered question[s]. They obviously knew the right answers and called me on it when I gave what they knew to be the wrong answer. If I did not hold a public office (a voluntary one I might add) I would not deal with the public on this either.

  48. TomG(ologist) says:
    April 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm: That is a sad tale to hear. I would hope that that wasn’t the “general public” but instead the subset “Mindless Freaking Radical Environmentalist Luddite” which is impossible to deal with. However, my sister watched that tv drama – forget the name, but it was incendiary – and she won’t believe a word I say to the contrary (what can I say, she lives in White Plains)! Perhaps the industry should think about suing the people who produced and distributed that crapolla, making it an expensive hobby to peddle highly damaging falsehoods.

  49. Thank You, William F. McClenney!
    And Thank You to all of the knowlegeable commentors on this thread! This has been a most interesting and timely discussion.

  50. Barbee said:

    “In all seriousness, lately it seems that clean water is more rare than hydrocarbon deposits (here in the US) and something that we ought to be spending more time and effort in securing.”

    In all seriousness, as Mack pointed out, hydrocarbons are much more scarce than clean water.

    When the Great Lakes were discovered, Champlain called them “sweetwater seas”. They are all fresh water, and require minimal treatment. The Zebra mussel infestation is making the water even cleaner.

    It is in those areas where water is scarce that, as usual, the vile enviro crowd is trying to make life even more difficult and expensive for the local residents.

  51. Skeptic says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm
    @ Mike Bromley the Canucklehead (April 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm)

    Mike: if there is no surface release, then how to account for the numerous articles under Google
    “Fracking Flowback”.

    Flowback is not a release, as the flow goes into storage. “Release” is being used as shorthand for “release into the environment”, and flowback is not released because it arrives through the same high-pressure system which performed the fracking and is stored until disposal. There are helpful links in your post which explain this.

  52. Smokey says:
    April 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm
    Barbee said:

    …When the Great Lakes were discovered, Champlain called them “sweetwater seas”. They are all fresh water, and require minimal treatment.
    ———————————————-
    As I understand the USA takes 90% of its water from the Great Lakes. If you can pump oil from Alberta to Texas you can transport Great Lakes anywhere in North America.

    Just think how much water you would have if people stopped watering their lawns.

  53. Lisa Jackson admitted on TV that there is no incident where fracturing has caused any contamination that they have discovered. (and believe me they have tried hard)
    This after attacking one company over an extended period who proved the EPa was making it up and after denying that the policy of one of her local regional appointees was not the Official policy. Remember he was one who said they adopt the Roman policy of crucifying the first 5 males as they entered the city to intimidate the entire town to fall into line. This guy remains to be fired.,
    She should be fired with him.
    Anyone who doubts this is her policy is sleeping.
    Also remember the Administration was held in contempt of court for unlawfully stopping drilling after the Gulf oil spill and alterting the report from the experts

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/26/epa-official-apologizes-crucify-comments/

    .http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75687.html

  54. Thats a nasty dig at Halliburton over the Macondo well blowout. Unless you are privy to more info than the general public …

  55. Please allow me to introduce another level of complexity. You see, in the typical oil and gas well, there are many overlapping casing strings and many cement jobs. Between each of these overlapping casing strings there exists an annulus into which the cement is pumped to provide a seal. The cement is not necessarily pumped to fill the entirety of each annulus. Some several hundred feet of the bottom of the overlap is usually cemented.

    Each inner string of casing extends deeper than the previous string. So in addition to cement in the overlap, there is also cement in the annulus of the casing and the wellbore (drilled hole). Cement is pumped from the bottom of the casing string, up the casing/wellbore annulus and into the annulus that is the inside of the previous casing string (overlap).

    As has been pointed out, there can be leakage past the cement. This is normally a function of the bonding of the cement to the steel casing. Have you ever painted without properly preparing the surface and had the paint peel off, that is a bonding issue. Over time, gas can seep along the less than perfect cement-to-casing bond surface. This of course takes some time to occur and it certainly has to be gas because the leak path is too tight for water or oil and the capillary forces of those fluids would plug the path.

    It is all about elimination or mitigation of risk and petroleum engineers have been eliminating or mitigating hydraulic fracturing risks for 60+ years. The only thing new here is the advent of cement conformance technologies that have come into being in the last 5 years. Engineers have recognized the sustained casing pressures that are seen when the cement bonds fail and they pursued solutions. They recognize that multiple redundant layers to contain the reservoir pressures are not enough if you still have an issue that can be remedied in an effective manner. There are now tools and techniques that combat gas migration post cementing.

    Gas migration past the cement produces sustained casing pressure and you would see the pressure on the surface gauges. For gas to be seen in a water aquifer from an oil or gas well, it would have to;
    a) leak and have sustained pressure on the inner casing annulus, and
    b) migrate through multiple cemented annulli, and
    c) be of sufficient quantity to be noticeable.
    d) You would probably need lots of wells like this. Have you ever tried to find a small gas leak?

    Did anyone catch the bit about capillary forces? That’s right, the normal path of gas leakage due to cement bond failure does not apply to fracturing fluids. The frac fluids that are pumped into the well, and their chemical additives, generate too high of a capillary force to flow up the same path that gas can take. All the popular examples of gas in the kitchen faucet are simply irrelevant to fracturing fluids. They are however, very relevant to people who FEEL they know what they are taking about or to people who do know what they are talking about and wish to deceive.

    Let me go off topic and thank the oil companies for the lovely sand beaches of California. You see when California was taken from the Spanish, and up until recent times, the beaches were awash with tar balls. Shallow oil reservoirs offshore had natural seeps. The oil companies produced the oil from these reservoirs and in so doing they reduced the pressure in the reservoir. Voila, no more oil seeps and tar balls on the California beaches. The La Brea tar pits are seen as an extension of this shallow petroleum system.

  56. TomG(ologist) says:
    April 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Tom,
    You aptly describe the modern malaise. Many of us have experienced it. It is more than just a lack of respect. It is contempt for those of us that chose rigorous educations, mentally and physically challenging careers, and contempt for the meager store house of wisdom we acquired from exercising both.

    We’ve spent our efforts on truly advancing the science, technology, and art of our chosen fields. We accepted great challenges and reached for the moon, the planets, and the stars.

    Unfortunately, we didn’t see or understand the cultural shift that started in the late 60s. It started with “Question Authority!” and “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30!” It became more insidious, with the 1st ‘Earth Day’. That is when the indoctrination grew into a formal agenda to isolate each new generation from the preceding. Each generation is ‘educated’ to believe the preceding one has despoiled the planet and only the current one can save it! There is no historical perspective, only the indoctrination embedded in the education system, from The Weekly Reader on up.

    It has brought us to a point in time where the knowleged and experienced are cursed by the #occupymeh flotsam and jetsam of humanity.

    Still, we must face them. Looking them directly in the eye, we must address their foul tirades with reason, logic, and facts. Looking them directly in the eye, we must tell them that their tirades will change the facts not one iota. Then state the facts yet again, knowing that some people are ‘slow learners’. If you find yourself alone and faced by 10 of them and it looks like the odds are unfair, give them the option to go get more ‘reinforcements’, because it will not change the facts one iota.

    Finally, Thank You, TomG(ologist), for helping bring this Nation the energy it needs! Be strong, My Friend! The darkest hour is just before dawn….
    MtK

  57. As a layman, it’s great to have this excellent technical essay posted for our education in a subject that is currently producing much heat but very little light. I appreciate the clearly enunciated article accompanied by clear visuals, and the great technical responses from other commenters that speaks to it.
    Thank you, William F McLenney.

  58. I’m a geologist who has been in and around the oil & gas industry most of my life. I second the comments by ImranCan that the emphasis in the article on the location, definition and importance of source rocks is misplaced. A lot of the formations that have been significantly enhanced by horizontal drilling and fracking had already been producing for years, some poorly, The Eagle Ford Shale is a classic example. It’s near the surface in the Dallas area but dives to 12,000′ in south Texas. Along the way it changes from a producing zone to a nuisance zone (gas blowouts when drilling through it) to a source rock for the Austin Chalk. Fracking that shale in the right area would yield a lot of gas. But how deep? 3,000′, 5,000′, deeper? There is no danger to ground water from fracking formations that deep. The danger is in drilling through the fresh water formations without sufficient protection.

  59. I used to work for Dowell Schlumberger in Dubai in the early 1980s (lawyer – not an engineer, so I will leave the science to others). DS did well cementing, well stimulation (of which “frakking” is just one kind of well stimulation, another was to use hydrochloric acid to dissolve sediment in the rock pores that was slowng down the flow of oil)
    I recall one staff meeting when the topic of doing the deepest well stimulation (using liquid nitrogen) was discussed. The well was five miles deep, a then record depth for the company. Probably pretty routine now.
    Are there any drinking water wells that are five miles deep. Of course, not all O&G wells are that deep but much well stimulation is/was pretty deep, so it is rather difficult to see how this kind of frakking can contaminate drinking water.
    Just my 2 cents.

  60. Does anyone else but me think of the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series from 1978 when reading the word “frack”? Can’t help but grin a little every time the subject of fracking comes up…

  61. Good to see this post. A couple of additions. To my knowledgge the first time a well was fracced was in 1948. Fraccing of tight (low permeability) rocks may happen in tight sandstones or carbonates, or more recently in source rocks, that is fine-grained claystones with high organic carbon contents. A “source” rock means exactly that – a rock in which organic matter has been preserved and provides the source of organic material which may then migrate into a reservoir rock. Organic material might be from an environment such as a lake or shallow sea where there were high levels of plankton or other marine life, which died, settled to the lake or sea floor, and where there was not enough life on the bottom to use up all that organic material. Total organic content (TOC) typically might be 1 – 5 % but can range higher to 8 – 10% locally in excellent source rocks. The source rock does not have to be stratigraphically lower than a reservoir rock. There are many cases around the planet where younger source rocks charge older reservoirs. The two rocks just have to be in contact, with the source rock usually below or beside the reservoir. As pointed out elsewhere, the source rocks now being drilled and fracced are not necessarily below other reservoir rocks. You choose to drill where costs to benefit are acceptable, so you target shallower rocks where possible. To be mature, source rocks have to have reached a temperature of about 80 – 115 degrees, which usually means getting buried by subsequent layers of sediment to a depth of about 2 km. However rocks may then be unroofed due to uplift and erosion which means that mature source rocks may occur at shallower depths.
    Fraccing of source rocks has been happening for over 20 years, with pioneer companies like Mitchell Oil. However, as techniques were refined and improved and as gas prices in the US rose from 2003 through 2008, ($6 – 8, peaking at over $14 in 2005) the shale gas boom ensued. At the height, gas rigs were 85% of the rig count to 15% directed at oil. With the recent collapse in prices to under $2 /mcf, companies are switching and 68% of US rigs are now directed at oil versus 32% at gas.
    Multi-lateral drilling and mult-stage fraccing of the Bakken Shale has meant that North Dakota now produces over 500, 000 barrels of oil per day. Thats more than the US imports from OPEC country Ecuador. It is also now the state with lowest unemployment, and has helped US oil imports to drop to under 44% versus 60% of usage at the peak in 2006. The drop in gas prices is probably also fomenting a manufacturing boom in the US. This is part of the reason why a recent Woodmac report suggested that for every direct oil patch job created there will be 5 times as many created over all.

  62. Mike Bomley says: “And just to be sure, most fracking fluid consists of….water. Water with some sifted sand added to act as a ‘proppant’, to keep the fractures from collapsing. Both, I might add, highly toxic substances.”

    I have always been puzzled about the ‘toxic chemicals’ greenies refer to when they are bleating on about the supposed dangers of fracking. You can, of course, drown in water, and someone could force feed you sand until you die, so in typical greenie logic these are toxic chemicals.

    I am a minerals geologist, not a petroleum one, and when we suspect we have discovered an economic mineral deposit, we immediately bring in approved independent contractors to undertake exhaustive ‘base line’ studies. Amongst other things, these studies tell us the exact state of the soil, streams (if any) and ground water prior to mining. So when a Greenpeace equivalent, or greenie NGO, tries to cause you grief for “contaminating the environment” when you start production (almost inevitable these days), then you have the ammunition to send them back into their little dark holes.

    I assume those in the petroleum/natural gas exploration industry, if they are smart, do something similar.

  63. Bill Illis and all:

    I make my living supervising oil well fracs and have been in this industry for over 30 years. You ask how this technology will impact future reserves and production. I ask myself this same question daily. Twenty years ago in Alberta, we’d frac a well and get 80 – 200 barrels per day (BPD) of production that would typically peter-out in a year or so, down to 12 – 40 BPD. Today, we frac multiple stages along a horizontal section of a thousand meters of more and the production is many multiples of what we had seem in the past. 600 – 1200 BPD is not uncommon. In fact, that volume is quite routine. And the wells will flow like that for many months, dropping to 120 – 250 BPD in a year or so.

    So the bottom line is that we are seeing much higher rates of production from formations that were simply un-producable in eras-past. We considered that Alberta’s convention oil production days were well behind us and most of the big players in the industry had moved into OilSands or left the province entirely. Today the mantra is truly “drill-baby-drill” and more rigs are drilling more wells and Alberta is consequently, seeing levels of conventional oil production that we were never able to attain previously. Extrapolated world-wide, horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracturing has the potential to see the NYMEX flooded with oil and I personally would not be surprised to see the WTI price back down around $50 if this level of success continues. If America joins the party to the levels of activity that Albertans are at, expect $30 WTI.

  64. Oh, and incidentally, if I want to keep my kushy job and 6 figure income, it’s vital that I keep my frac fluids in tanks, trucks or surface lines. Every drop that touches the ground puts me one step closer to unemployed. We are VERY careful with our fluids pre-and post frac. Nothing gets spilled and if it does, it is usually very small quantities (a few litres) and even then is quickly cleaned-up, the contaminated soil and fluid sent for proper disposal. At $100 WTI, if your business depends on cutting corners to be profitable, you’re in the wrong business.

  65. Great article, Though the issue of faulting, anticlines, in reference to interception of, and migration into of hydrocarbons and hydrofracturing fluid by the propagation of the fracture and/or the horivontal well section.
    Could I also point to a serious flaw in the findings and conclusions made by the author.
    Thick shales with high organic content (gas is absorped into the organic matrix of the shale itself, it is not ‘free’ gas as in the case of tight sandstone formations) In some cases, an I nominate areas of Western Australian sedimentary basins for a local perspective. The ‘seal’ is a prospective shale at a depth of 1800m – 2500m. All formations above these shales are permeable and contain water of various degrees of potability. (Deepest potable water is about 1200m)
    The conventional reservoir ‘seal’ is being fracked. Need I explain further? No, I don’t think so.
    Also missing from this well written puzzle is the piece of information required about the ‘old’ technology of hydrofracturing not actually being that ‘old’ Fracking has been used in conventional reservoirs to stimulate flow for decades. Yes this is correct. Directional drilling, blowing apart your well casing, then pumping millions of litres of water mixed with tens – hundreds – thousands (depending on the reservoir characteristics) of tons of chemicals at pressures often exceeding 15,000psi is a very new technology.
    Could the author please enlighten the audience as to what happened recently on the Caudrilla Resources site in Lancashire recently? leading the complete loss of fluid, induced seismicity and eventual complete comprimise of a nearby well casing integrity due to the event?
    Cheers.

  66. Anthony

    The trouble with pushing the boundaries with these two milestones is that we here at WUWT will expect ever greater efforts in future. So, when will you be authoring your first article from the space station-or the depths of the sea- anywhere else will seem pretty tame :)
    tonyb

  67. AnonyMoose says:
    April 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm
    Skeptic says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm
    @ Mike Bromley the Canucklehead (April 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm)

    Flowback is not a release, as the flow goes into storage.

    Or reuse. Similar to the vast reuse of water at the Athabaska Oilsands. Saves money, y’see.

  68. ImranCan says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    “I also work in the oil industry, 20 years, manager with major international, based in SE Asia, earth scientist by background.
    This article has the correct conclusions (frakking is not an issue as its been going on for decades) but unfortunately is not well written, misses some key points and pieces of information and makes some erroneous statements. Not least of these is that source rocks occur below reservoir rocks. Generally true for [the] traditional petroleum system but this has nothing to do with what is being targeted under current frack type development proposals. Source rocks occur everywhere and the areas where they are currently being don’t necessarily have to be deep or associated with reservoir rock at all.”

    What is needed by those of us neither scientifically trained or O&G veterans is a consice explanation, with cited sources as necessary, which we can cite to refute the propaganda put out by the enviros in our local media, blogs, etc. At present much of this goes unchallenged. We need to up our game.

    If Mr. McClenney’s paper is not it, what is? If there is not one then, as RACook says, why don’t you write it.

  69. I feel this comment is worth repeating, good on you sir.

    Alexander K says:
    April 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    As a layman, it’s great to have this excellent technical essay posted for our
    education in a subject that is currently producing much heat but very little light. I
    appreciate the clearly enunciated article accompanied by clear visuals, and the
    great technical responses from other commenters that speaks to it.
    Thank you, William F McLenney.

    As a layman myself I have a question.

    TomG(ologist) says:
    April 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    “My graduate research was in natural hydraulic fracturing along reactivated
    precambrian faults during the early paleozoic.”

    The word ‘precambrian’ caught my eye. I understand there was little to no life on land
    at that period so what form of life before and during ‘precambrian’ laid down sufficient
    biotic debris to allow the vast quantities of ‘fossil’ oil to be recovered now?

  70. man, those were some super strong/heavy dinosaurs to force their dead bodies into the rocks like that.

    good article, one many should point people too and some great comments too.
    thanks all.

  71. A voice for Halliburton
    A Halliburton Hand is just a part of the machinery, the on site “Company man ” pushes all the buttons and the ” Company man” has his readout as to which buttons to push ! Bad cement jobs are 99.9% Company problems, there are so many fail-safe’s in a cement job with cement samples and pressure readings etc, its idiot proof, a Halliburton Hand has a in house information network, which keeps the “Hand ” ahead of the idiots, A Halliburton on site Representative who usually has 10 plus years of experience and a very nice pay packet and pension to protect is a professional ! .

  72. Nice job.
    It may have been covered but at those depths, the hydraulic fractures are vertical not horizontal as described in your report. Fracturing does not “lift” the over burden it “spilts” the rock along the weak axis.

    Most of what is written here about the Macondo well is wrong. It was not a single point failure but a series of equipment, procedural and human failures that let that happen.

    The use of the word “fracking” is not generally used in the industry. The correct terms are “fracturing” or “frac” as in “to frac”.

  73. William
    I am very interested in understanding more about the fracking controversy particularly from obviously knowledgeable people like you. But I have to confess I could only manage to get half-way through your piece. I don;t mean to be rude but it read as a ‘stream of consciousness’. Please, get your posts reviewed and edited prior to posting. You may have some interesting points to make. Maybe. To convince those who don’t knowyou from Adam you will certainl yneed to use proper punctuation. Leave out the slang. You sound like you might havea lot of knowledge on thi ssubject – please learn how to convey it.

  74. These arguments are usually about power struggles.

    The world is littered with examples of outraged resistance of those not in control of the wealth supply changing to advocates when they’ve had their revolution and control them now.

    The communists usually turn into fascists if they can get rich.

    The ones that don’t get ditched by the ones that do.

    I’d focus on talking to the people right now. People are sick and tired of politicians’ lies, so they are educating themselves rather than listening to politicians. My country, the UK, needs fracking badly as we have lots of shale gas potential and a balance of payments problem. The shale gas is found in regions which are currently in need of economic stimulus, so it’s likely to get a receptive audience.

    Of course the technology must be used safely. Of course, risk management and prevention of disasters must be proactively managed.

    But you don’t stop most of the population copulating just because you have to bang up a few rapists, do you?

    So why should fracking be banned due to a few cowboys cutting corners in a few drilling operations, eh? Set the regulations properly, realistically and come down like a ton of bricks on cowboys. Then decent companies prosper and communities get energy at an affordable price.

    What’s not to like about that????

  75. Thanks for a very informative article. However, it could be greatly improved by shortening the sentences and reducing the superfluous word count. Remember we are up against some very slick alarmist PR – which uses short punchy distortions and half-truths. Therefore we need to communicate the truth in an equally clear manner. 

    Take this sentence for example:
     “Reservoir rocks are those rocks which have facilitated this migration through the provision of porosity and permeability necessary to allow the movement of fluids and gases derived primarily from the maturation of hydrocarbons most commonly derived from source rocks such as shales and mudstones which lie beneath them stratigraphically.”

    This could be reduced to:

    “Reservoir rocks allow hydrocarbon fluids and gases to rise up from source rocks such as shales and mudstones which lie below”

  76. Fascinating article! I have read that some scientists say that oil forms spontaneously within the Earth’s crust or mantle(?). Can any of our engineers and scientists comment on this?

    Thanks.

  77. That day in early 2009 when I discovered WUWT was one of the most enlightening days of my adult life. This article and the comments is a clear example of why that is. Many times when I have been explaining why the anti energy, AGW movement is insane I have been regarded as some swivel eyed conspiracist so having access to the wide ranging knowledge, skills and logic here has made my life easier and has brought many doubters to see the light.

    WUWT . . the gift that just keeps on giving.

  78. This is a bit of a muddled writeup to be honest, and lacks clear direction. I think I’ve seen the word “egregious” enough times for one year…

  79. Peter Miller says:
    April 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Quite! We have the same/similar issues in the geo-environmental area. For example, we may detect Lead at higher than soil guideline values in sites in Weardale (where there used to be lots of Lead mining) – but it’s entirely natural – ditto for areas of Derbyshire too, or Radon areas in Cornwall, etc, etc. But it is very for some of these greenies/NGO’s to understand that the ground can be ‘contaminated’ naturally!

  80. “I think that there has been much evidence over the decades that where profits are involved, anything can go.”

    I think that there has been much more evidence over the centuries that where political power is involved, anything can go.

  81. As I understand the USA takes 90% of its water from the Great Lakes.

    Hard to believe, unless you’re counting aquifers which simply pass close to the Great Lakes. The Mississippi basin? Everything west of the continental divide? The south east?

  82. cheapsmack says:
    April 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    RACookPE1978
    here is one place where ground water is affected by industry not the G&O industry but never the less

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=tellevast%20fl%20groundwater%20pollution&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.healthandenvironment.org%2Farticles%2Fhomepage%2F3860&ei=COWdT8v5JJGI6AGQnJWiDw&usg=AFQjCNFjmXpZPpZsbhsgvSEg3vw1rsFkPg

    ———————————-
    What’s this have to do with fracking?

  83. I nominate Dave Worley as the next head of EPA! Brilliant solution to obvious environmental problem.

  84. Stan Tx: “The use of the word “fracking” is not generally used in the industry. The correct terms are “fracturing” or “frac” as in “to frac”.”

    And your usages above make sense. However, in English spellings follow two conventions fairly closely.

    1) If the letter “c” is followed by an e, i, or y, it is pronounced with the /s/ sound; otherwise it is pronounced with the /k/ sound, and

    2) If there is only one letter separating a single vowel from a suffix beginning with e, i, or y, the vowel is usually pronounced with it’s long sound: baked, baking, crazy, shined, shining, shiny, etc.

    Because of the influence of these two rules, words like “picnic” and “panic” that have a suffix like “ed” or “ing” or “y” added to them are routinely converted to “picnicked” and “panicking” and “panicky.” Thus, to make sure that “fracing” does not appear to rhyme with “bracing”, or even with “braking”, the preferred spelling becomes “fracking” or “fracked”.

    However, “frac” would be correct compared to “frack”, since the addition of “k” is not necessary, e.g., words like “sac” (The “c” in “sac” is not followed by an e, i, or y, and therefore is pronounced with the /k/ sound by rule) and because, as you state, the industry usage is “frac.”

    Summarizing: frac, fracking and fracked could be considered the preferred spellings given that the industry uses “frac” as shorthand for “fracture,” rather than “frack,” and given that the English spelling preferences encourage the additional “k” in the last two instances.

  85. Generally a well written and informative article on the basics of oil geology; however, as former Hallibution Field Engineer with considerable experience in oil field cementing, I would take exception to the implication that we should involve the federal government in “skillful regulation on concrete formulations” or “permit-specified curing times”.

    Formations have individual characteristics that make the creation of a “formulation” for concrete rather site specific. So while it’s not at all unusual to engage in laboratory tests when designing a cementing plan (including estimating the set time); in the real world, the set time depends upon the actual conditions down hole.

    Like any battle plan, the cementing “plan” is out-the-door once the battle begins. The only sure way to ensure cement has cured is to first “tag” it (if possible), pressure test it, and/or conduct a well log (if in the annulus)… and you can expect some test failures will lead to waiting on additional time for the cement to set or redoing the cement job (usually a squeeze job).

    For example, I recall a gas well I helped cement in West Texas at 16,500 feet in the early 1980’s. It was an exceptionally deep plug job at the time. The core problem? The well had encountered molten sulfur in what appeared to be a naturally well- fractured formation. At the time, there was no standard cement “formulation” for this. We had to adapt.

    Repeated attempts failed to plug the well. The “problem” was solved when an experienced Field Man concluded we needed plug the “fractures” long enough to allow the cement to set. His solution? We pumped several boxes of tampons ahead of the cement. This “formulation” worked. Now… well good luck getting federal approval for that formulation.

    Incidentally, I also worked with the EPA plugging abandoned oil wells in eastern Kentucky while on-loan from another federal agency. I wouldn’t let those clowns anywhere near a well head. To a man they were: all about ego, evaded personal responsibility when-ever-possible, and had no common sense what-so-ever. In my view, the words “skillful” and “EPA” are mutually exclusive; so, I don’t see any possibility of getting “skillful regulation” out of them.

    I’d leave it up to the States to independently determine if any new regulations are required; as State representatives generally exhibit more public accountability and generally engage in more common-sense decision making.

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

  86. >>Chuck L says:
    April 30, 2012 at 5:08 am
    Fascinating article! I have read that some scientists say that oil forms spontaneously within the Earth’s crust or mantle(?). Can any of our engineers and scientists comment on this?<<

    I'm way out of my depth here, but someone earlier in the comments also mentioned oil forming in, I believe, Permian-era deposits and stated that no organic life was present during that era?

    I've also read that the Russian geologists have thought for a long time that oil deposits are generated by actions deeper in the earth's crust and are not due to previous organic deposits.

    Now, what if that process is true (whatever it is…as I said I'm way out of my depth here) and what if there's a limiting factor involved, such as the existing gas/oil pressures limiting creation of additional deposits, like some sort of saturation effect? And what if, by relieving that existing pressure by the present fracking process, we enable the earth to create oil/gas deposits at a faster rate? Unlimited oil/gas, forever? Or maybe there's just be a huge methane explosion and we'd all be riding asteroids?

  87. As a young teenager in HS, I knew one of the engineers who developed the pressure multipliers and led the effort to use them to improve recoverability. He did a lot of groundwater testing in the initial phases of the project to validate the assumptions in this article. Good piece.

    Cohen’s comment about “Contamination of near surface aquifers by made water at the surface is the real issue” is more changing of the subject. Surface water contamination is already covered in existing law.

  88. If people want to see a water problem caused by commercial activities, one good place to start is the Berkeley Pit mine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Pit

    Imagine what this place is going to look like in 100 years. Imagine what a down economy will allow to happen here when funds dry up faster than the lake. This lake is already a source of ground water – image when it fills enough to become a source of surface water.

    Abandoned mines from border to border are filling with and leeching seriously polluted water. In some cases this is seen running on the surface. Kentucky and Tennessee have major cleanup operations (public funding, don’tcha know) going on. Living with bottled water is an imposed solution for some: http://www.wallenberg.umich.edu/gunnoe.html

  89. Steve from Rockwood says:
    April 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    As I understand the USA takes 90% of its water from the Great Lakes.

    Negative. (I wonder, where do people get such ideas?)

    Even Wiki ‘get this right':

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_supply_and_sanitation_in_the_United_States#Water_sources

    Water sources

    About 90% of public water systems in the U.S. obtain their water from groundwater. However, since systems served by groundwater tend to be much smaller than systems served by surface water, only 34% of Americans (101 million) are supplied with treated groundwater, while 66% (195 million) are supplied with surface water.

    Cities supplied primarily by surface water without water treatment

    Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and Denver are among the large cities in the U.S. that do not need to treat their surface water sources beyond disinfection, because their water sources are located in the upper reaches of protected watersheds and thus are naturally very pure.

    Boston receives most of its water from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs and the Ware River in central and western Massachusetts.

    New York City’s water supply is fed by a 2,000-square-mile (5,200 km2) watershed in the Catskill Mountains.

    Please, read more at the link above and become educated about water sources in the US, and thank you in advance.

    .

  90. Does anyone here have any info about the claims that fracking causes earthquakes, or at least tremors? The article above refers to “lifting and fracturing of source rocks”, and I am wondering whether that would be enough to cause quakes or tremors capable of being felt, let alone causing stresses or even damage to structures. I’m a layman, so this is entirely a naive question on my part.

  91. From March-
    http://news.yahoo.com/epa-pulls-order-forcing-driller-water-210806355.html

    HOUSTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it is no longer requiring a gas driller it had accused of contaminating private wells to provide water to two North Texas families.

    The EPA submitted the withdrawal to the court in Texas on Thursday, not long after Judge Trey Loftin concluded residents in Parker County had collaborated with an environmental consultant to falsify video showing how their water — supposedly contaminated with methane — could be ignited.

    Amazing that this episode of fraud wasn’t more widely reported.

  92. dp says:
    April 30, 2012 at 8:10 am

    If people want to see a water problem caused by commercial activities, one good place to start is the Berkeley Pit mine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Pit

    From your own link, it appears Gaia is ‘remediating’ her own problem, after all, the ‘polluting’ compounds in the old Anaconda Copper mine (A.K.A. the Berkeley Pit, a former open pit copper mine) located in Butte, Montana are not man-made compounds but rather materials and metals (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, zinc) already existing in the earth’s crust:

    Extremophiles

    New fungal and bacterial species, discovered by Andrea A. Stierle, and Donald B. Stierle, have been found to have adapted to the harsh conditions inside the pit. Intense competition for the limited resources caused these species to evolve the production of highly toxic compounds to improve survivability; natural products such as Berkeleydione, berkeleytrione and Berkelic
    acid have been isolated from these organisms which show selective activity against cancer cell lines. Some of these species ingest metals and are being investigated as an alternative means of cleaning the water.

    There may even a ‘cure for cancer’ at some point resulting from this ‘tragedy’ you cite, based on the above (if I read that paragraph correctly) …

    .

  93. PS: I find looking up the JetStream maps tells me all the time where the worse “bump-ditty bump” is going to be on the flight. Fun to tell someone, “In 20 minutes we’ll have 35 minutes of BUMP, and then completely smooth..”

    Max

  94. I stopped reading after the part about ‘several feet of lift’ as the formation is fractured.
    This is flat out worng, you are not lifting anything, you are splitting the rock laterally out from well bore and also in a plane along the wellbore, you aren’t lifting thousands of feet of rock vertically several feet. How ridiculous. How about someone from the industry write this sort of thing rather than an obvious neophyte….it doesn’t help matters. The real world comments from engineers, geologists & well site supervisors under this article are far more imformative.

  95. Andy_in_Alberta says on April 30, 2012 at 9:42 am:

    … How about someone from the industry write this sort of thing rather than an obvious neophyte….

    Andy,

    When can we expect to see your byline on an article? (Being ‘on stage’ is not as easy as it looks; much easier to accompany us out here in the peanut gallery than actually being up there ‘on stage’ catching slings and arrows from all directions and all quarters … )

    .

  96. Today Mr Armandariz of “crucify them ” fame resigned.
    Lisa Jackson should follow his example and let us get on with improving the economy.

    “Mr. Armendariz, whose oil-rich region includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, made the comments at a Texas town hall meeting two years ago. The “crucify” quip went virtually unnoticed until Wednesday afternoon, when Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, quoted Mr. Armendariz during a half-hour speech on the Senate floor.”

  97. Andy_in_Alberta says:
    April 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Of course you aren’t lifting thousands of feet of rock, that was the whole point. The exaggeration of “several feet” should have been obvious. That should have been an obvious impossibility.

    The point of the piece was not to dissect every last little detail of hydraulic fracturing but to provide a general overview sufficient to make the point that getting fracking fluids to near surface aquifers is rather difficult.

    Please keep in mind that not all readers here are as well versed in this highly technical area as perhaps you are. This was an introduction.

  98. Thanks Kforestcat for that interesting and most illuminating posting about cementing — I copied it for possible future reference. I was particularly intrigued by your novel use of tampons for an exotic plugging job when nothing else seemed to work! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that scheme could be applied also to plugging the prolific maw our EPA uses to flood all industries with new regulations?

    However, I have a question regarding the ability of a cement slurry to adhere to the casing (after it hardens) in a certain special situation. If the casing is driven down to the target petroleum formation, but while going down it must pass through some oily rock strata, can this leave a thin oily stain on the outside surface of the casing?

    Can such oily staining inhibit the secure attachment of the concrete sealant to the steel? Is there any possible concrete formulation that can cope with such a potential problem?

  99. Compared to purging and cleaning up an aquifer, cleaning up a mining site after it is used would look like child’s play – that didn’t stop gold and silver miners from abandoning mines when they had finished with them here in Colorado. I live downriver from one such site – an area where dozens of mines were blasted, used up and then abandoned when the trouble to extract metals exceeded their prices on the open market (a process not unlike what is occurring now with natural gas). They call such mines “orphan” sites because no “responsible adult” is willing to take charge of them – only the government. The government calls this one a “superfund” site. No one wants to see “orphan wells” either. Mr. McClenney, your challenge to “chime in” with an example of a single incident of water pollution from mining is an intersting one. It took me one minute to find one, which I won’t bother to post. What you really mean is, find an example of a spill that an oil company hasn’t denied responsibility for. I would suggest that any oil company that is not willing to be responsible for a well they drill shouldn’t be drilling one in the first place.

    Drillers might mollify a lot of concerns if they agreed to a few simple precautions before they drill: 1) Presample all groundwater and aquifers in the area likely to be affected by drilling 2) Submit samples of the fracking fluid used to determine exact composition and hazards to health, and 3) Post a surety commensurate with the potential dangers – whatever amount is required to do a clean-up in the event of a worst-case scenario, such as the Macondo event.

    If companies refuse to submit samples of fluids for “proprietary reasons”, I would suggest that they allow a suitable, inert substance, harmless in drinking water, be substituted, which would allow their drilling fluids to be “fingerprinted” by a chemical analysis. Such a compound would not hurt their drilling, but allow EPA (or whatever agency willing to be the “adult”) to identify the source without question.

    I respect the dangerous, dirty, highly technical, (and actually, quite interesting) work the oil and gas companies do. I drive a car and heat my home. I just don’t think your arguments that pollution will never happen hold a lot of water.

  100. Bill Parsons says:
    April 30, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Bill, I had a hard time following you. What challenge about mining sites? The challenge was to see if someone could come up with some good examples of where hydraulic fracturing in reservoir rocks had contaminated a drinking water aquifer. Who ever said pollution will never happen? Please rethink what you meant to say and re-post it.

    Thanks,

  101. Richard 111

    My research was in NATURAL hydraulic fracturing of aprecambrian rock DURING the paleozoic. In other words, seismic pumping during the Devonian, of a gas-rich fluid along a reactivated PreCambrian fault resulted in teh hydraulic fracturing of the rock, transport of a a fluid-gas slurry into an expanding halo of micro-fractures which expanded and filled with the crystallizing fluid which supported brecciated fragments of the host rock. this was/is a natural phenomenon, not conducted by O&G operators. It’s relevance is in the understanding of the stresses induced by increased pore pressures and the orientations and distributions of the resultant fractures and on potential induced seismicity.

  102. Mac the Knife re: water

    Your right. At times water has been so plentiful that I’ve actually seen it fall out of the sky and squandered running down the road.

    In my 43 years I have yet to see it rain hydrocarbons.

  103. Maybe OT ,but.Here’s my co2 and oil connection equation:
    more CO2=more biomass
    biomass+natural disaster+heat+pressure+time=oil

    I think it’s better if we use the oil(burning for heat,fuel,plastics,etc.)(semi-controlled).
    Than to let some volcano burn it (un-controlled).

    I don’t know if that’s exactly true,I am not a scientist,but it seems logical to me

  104. One thing that seems to be missing here is the formation integrity test that occurs immediately after casing and cementing. The idea is that, once the casing is in place and cemented, the Blow Out Preventers are set and the hole is pressurised until there is a slight loss – this gives the maximum pressure that the formation/cement can stand before loss occurs. When drilling forward from this point it is imperative that formation over pressure never exceeds this point. The problem with fracking is that in order to fracture the formation you actually have to exceed that point and I assume that’s the reason that they use wireline to determine the integrity of the cement. I suppose the question then becomes – how much fluid is actually used (lost to formation) in achieving fracking?

    In Australia, fracking has gained a really bad name becuase some of the coal seam gas holes in Queensland are shallow and appear to have been fractured without an adequate confining layer over the top. However, this has nothing to do will oilfield fracking, which should occur at much greater depths.

  105. SidViscous says:
    April 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Mac the Knife re: water

    Your right.

    *Cringe*

    You can write it that way, I suppose, it is you’re right [sic] to do so …

    .

  106. Miss Grundy says:
    April 30, 2012 at 8:23 am
    Does anyone here have any info about the claims that fracking causes earthquakes, or at least tremors? The article above refers to “lifting and fracturing of source rocks”, and I am wondering whether that would be enough to cause quakes or tremors capable of being felt, let alone causing stresses or even damage to structures. I’m a layman, so this is entirely a naive question on my part.

    Simplistically speaking, frac’ing as has been noted occurs at depths far below (deeper than) groundwater resources. But it also occurs generally well above the typical depths of any significant earthquake activity.

    Almost all tremors with any suspected link to mining activity are minor – registering 1’s and 2’s mostly – almost entirely indiscernible to humans.

    Further – the limited anecdotal evidence seems to indicate as I read it there is some thought the tremors that may be associated with frac’ing are largely the result of safely pumping flowback into injection wells – old wells no longer producing.

    I have seen it speculated that the lubrication of the flowback may release small scale pressure in what are normally not fault zones. I have also seen speculation that IF the use of these injections wells does cause a meaningful issue that there is a good likelihood it could be beneficial. If it allows release of built up pressures at a lower magnitude the theory would be it may prevent a larger magnitude event later.

    The above is simple recollection from memory of various reading and research and may be wrong ;-)

    A couple links:

    earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsus

    http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/04/new-usgs-report-links-fracking-earthquakes/

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ohio-earthquake-likely-caused-by-fracking

  107. The opposition to fracking is pure Luddite-ism.

    Sad and pathetic but a political reality. It will serve as a test of the reach of environmentalist cultural self-loathing and self-destruction.

    In the USA the new gas production from fracking and resultant cheap energy plus avoided expensive import will save their economy from bankruptcy.

    Europe, rejecting fracking in environmentalist self-flagellation, will sink to intractable bankruptcy and economic irrelevance.

    BTW the Chinese are trying hard to get in on the act but their shales are too soft, unfortunately for them (unlike the drier and brittle US marine shales).

  108. Tom G(ologist) @ April 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for the explanation. I take it you aren’t looking for O&G. :-)
    I am curious to find what sort of creatures lived in such abundance
    in the far past to provide all the current O&G fossil fuels.

  109. —-
    Bill Parsons says:
    April 30, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Drillers might mollify a lot of concerns if they agreed to a few simple precautions before they drill: 1) Presample all groundwater and aquifers in the area likely to be affected by drilling 2) Submit samples of the fracking fluid used to determine exact composition and hazards to health, and 3) Post a surety commensurate with the potential dangers – whatever amount is required to do a clean-up in the event of a worst-case scenario, such as the Macondo event.

    — I’ll assume you mean “Operators” who called for the drill rig, and later for the service company to frac. It’s not uncommon for operators (sorry, I mean O&G companies like Shell, BP, EnCana) to “trace” a zone with lightly radioactive powder. When flowback/production occurs, measuring the amount of each isotope recovered can help determine where production originated. To repeat in a simpler way, putting isotope A, B, and C in zones 1, 10 and 20 respectively helps determine production along the lateral, where running a flowtest tool is nigh-impossible (Due to downhole tools such as sleeves and the need to pump a tool sideways against production.

    — I believe North Dakota has a state-wide policy that requires a pressure-relief system to be present on every hydraulic fracture job; This helps ensure that if, for some reason, pressure exerted by the service company’s pumps exceed a certain level, a mechanical valve opens to relieve that pressure into a nearby vessel. There are also electronic controls that allow a computer to kill a pump’s power if excessive pressure is read.

    If companies refuse to submit samples of fluids for “proprietary reasons”, I would suggest that they allow a suitable, inert substance, harmless in drinking water, be substituted, which would allow their drilling fluids to be “fingerprinted” by a chemical analysis. Such a compound would not hurt their drilling, but allow EPA (or whatever agency willing to be the “adult”) to identify the source without question.

    —Again, confusing drilling with hydraulic fracturing, but hey. Service companies that use proprietary fluid systems (primarily, in my experience, plant fiber derivatives and metallic “crosslink agents”) spend a lot of R&D to make a fluid that will:
    1. Carry high sand concentrations (anywhere from 0.5 ppg to 8+ ppg) downhole and *sideways* through casing, then *into formation* *through fractures* (high shear!) to place the sand as far down those cracks as is feasible.
    2. “Break” once it has placed sand in formation (and not before!), and allow fluid to flow through the sand (er, “proppant”, soz) so that oil/gas can migrate back through the high-conductivity sand-packed frac they made.
    3. Be resilient to varying water quality. Water is typically supplied by the operator by third party “water haulers”, who probably use local water sources to supply the operator’s needs. Typically, a service company tests for 5 to 8 types of contaminants, including salt, iron and bicarbonates. This can be done on-the-fly during a job or between zones, or just at the start, depending on their QA/QC policy.
    4. Be reasonably cheap (*cough* “Cost-effective”), decently safe to handle on surface (Can’t have everyone on location in a Tyvek suit and respirator, after all) and be easily obtainable.

    — Several service companies *are* submitting data to a third-party database. Check out fracfocus.org . Some companies even have started disclosing the proprietary chemicals used, but will omit exactly which component of their fluid system it’s present in (to help protect it’s purpose, etc). I have no idea if the general public has access to this, however.

    I respect the dangerous, dirty, highly technical, (and actually, quite interesting) work the oil and gas companies do. I drive a car and heat my home. I just don’t think your arguments that pollution will never happen hold a lot of water.

    — Thanks! We need to do a better job of showing people how well we are actually doing in the industry.

  110. As a petroleum engineer who was involved in the first 18 or so Barnett Shale wells while working for Mitchell Energy back in the early 80’s I find this article a very basic overview and somewhat helpful to lay readers. The process of development of the Barnett started out with attempts to complete the wells by simply perforating the casing (just a puff of gas production), to a nitrogen frac (yes we did not use the k until the media bastardized the word and we also used fracing because we knew what we were talking about), followed by CO2 (OMG not that poisonous stuff), foamed CO2, foamed CO2 and water, to a small sand/water frac, then up to a 2 million pound sand/water frac (the total sand was the 2 million mixed at various concentrations). It was a very expensive science project that took a lot of foresight, perseverance, and money that was provided by Mr. George Mitchell. This was done in conventional vertically drilled wells.

    I find it funny to read most media releases about fracing. You can immediately tell the slant you are to get as soon as you read their description of a frac job – “a process where drillers complete the well by blasting large volumes of chemicals, water, and sand to fracture the formation…”. How dramatic is that. Oooohhh, “Blasting” and “Chemicals”, I’m so scared, OH NOES, EVERYBODY PANIC.

    Here is a link that gives a simple explanation of most frac fluids http://www.energyindepth.org/frac-fluid.pdf in an easy to follow graphic layout.

    A rule of thumb for fracs is that <3000 ft. they are horizontal and deeper than 3000 ft. they transition to vertical, even those in horizontally drilled wells.

    Fracing is not part of the drilling process as pointed out above. It is part of the completion phase. You can break the process into drilling/casing, completion, production (including reworking the well), and plugging/abandoning. Drillers almost never have anything to do w/the completion of normal wells let alone the massive frac jobs. They are long gone.

    There is so much more on this but I must go, lunch is over.

  111. t3eak says:
    May 1, 2012 at 6:36 am
    Thanks for the comments and your explanations.

    William McClenney
    Thanks for the write-up.

  112. the1pag says: April 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Dear thelpag

    With regard your question about cementing techniques. This subject is a bit too complex for this forum. If your interested in the basics of cementing I would suggest the site:

    gekengineering.com

    Look down the list of free downloads. I’d start with the PDF entitled “cementing” to get the overall picture and then move on the PDF entitled “Cementing Chapter 3″.

    The remaining articles should provide good starting point on any questions you might have regarding a variety of drilling issues.

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

  113. Jeff L says:
    April 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    The risk vs benefit analysis is a no-brainer as the benefits so far out way the risks.

    That’s “out-weigh”.
    But it’s only true if you value things like prosperity and employment. If you consider those to be blights on Big Momma Gaia, then …

    ;)

  114. tonyb says:
    April 30, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Anthony

    The trouble with pushing the boundaries with these two milestones is that we here at WUWT will expect ever greater efforts in future. So, when will you be authoring your first article from the space station-or the depths of the sea- anywhere else will seem pretty tame :)
    tonyb

    Give him a break! He checked and posted it. It was really “authored” by the Guest Author, one William M., if you consider creating the content to be an essential part of “authoring”, outside of blog lingo. ;)

    That said, I guess the Muse and inspiration could strike anywhere … maybe Genesis III?

  115. Richard111 says:
    May 1, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Tom G(ologist) @ April 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for the explanation. I take it you aren’t looking for O&G. :-)
    I am curious to find what sort of creatures lived in such abundance
    in the far past to provide all the current O&G fossil fuels.

    Assuming it is indeed biotic oil, the same ones as make up the great bulk of living matter now. Germs. Bacteria. Viruses. Algae. Anaerobes. Archaea. Phytoplankton. Etc.
    You get the idea.

  116. That McClenney article has been inactive for a week now. The final post is dated May 2, so I’ll have to wait for another opportunity to express my lack of convincularity that all opposition to fracking is purely gangreen propaganda.

    On second thoughts, bugger it, this thread has too many parallels with the WUWT-On-Fukushima stories in which (self-proclaimed) experts were arguing along the lines of “the claimed nuclear disaster is just a puff of steam and they’ll be back in business shortly”. Didn’t that turn out well, eh! Perhaps other WUWT readers also are still waiting for those nuclear experts to apologise for the BS they posted here.

    So tell me guys, Why should I not think you are appealing to your own authority for the purpose of justifying your careers? After all, the green involvement in Australia has seemed to favour the frackers, not frustrate them. (I wonder where I got an idea like that?) Apparently if we can run our buses on shale gas it will make less CO2 and save us all from globull warming. It’s been my perception that it is mostly farmers who are upset about not having the right to keep frackers off their land, not having any guarantee their land will not be polluted or otherwise degraded, and having no assurance that groundwater/borewater will remain both available and safe. Where’s the green in that?

    In the unlikely event that you guys are even half right, only a point by point refutation along with concise and detailed explanation has any chance of convincing anyone as ignorant as myself. It’s not enough to claim the “impossibility” of fracking chemicals polluting bores or aquifers or whatever. You’d better be able to prove it. So far, you haven’t even convinced me that Greens and Frackers are on opposite sides of the fence. Aren’t the Greens demanding that we frac for gas?

    What are the ideological differences between the arguments put forward by you geologists and those of the nukers who preceded you? Both teams want to insist that everything is perfectly safe, while evidence increasingly points in the opposite direction.

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