More Frac'ing Lies from the EPA, Part Deux

Guest post by David Middleton

This is the promised sequel to More Frac’ing Lies from the EPA.

The EPA’s new report on frac’ing can be downloaded here:

Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States (Final Report)

Most of this report deals with everything other than frac’ing.


The only section directly relevant to frac’ing is “Well Injection.”

The report supposedly supports this statement:

“There are instances when hyrdofracking has impacted drinking water resources. That’s an important conclusion, an important consideration for moving forward,” said Thomas Burke, a deputy assistant administrator and science adviser at the EPA, on a call with reporters Tuesday.

The Hill

What evidence does the EPA present to support this pack of lies?

Let’s go to Chapter 6 of the EPA report, “Well Injection”…

Page 6-3:

Production wells are sited and designed primarily to optimize production of oil or gas, which requires isolating water-bearing formations from hydrocarbon-bearing formations in order to prevent the water from diluting the hydrocarbons and to protect drinking water resources.4 However, problems with the well’s components or improperly sited, designed, or executed hydraulic fracturing operations (or combinations of these) could adversely impact the quality of drinking water resources. (Note that, due to the subsurface nature of activities in the well injection stage, the drinking water resources that may be directly impacted are groundwater resources; see Chapter 2 for additional information about groundwater.5)

Production wells are sited and designed primarily to optimize production of oil or gas, which requires isolating water-bearing formations from hydrocarbon-bearing formations in order to prevent the water from diluting the hydrocarbons to protect drinking water resources”… No schist, Sherlock.

“However, problems with the well’s components or improperly sited, designed, or executed hydraulic fracturing operations (or combinations of these) could adversely impact the quality of drinking water resources.” 

Yes… Problems *could* cause all manner of bad things.

What follows is about 65 pages of dissertations on well casing, cement jobs, how fluids can migrate through the subsurface, microseismicity, examples of frac’ed wells being in pressure communication with one another and a lot of blather about how these things *could* affect groundwater.

It’s not until section 6.4 that we get anything truly relevant.

Page 6-70:

6.4 Synthesis

In the injection stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle, operators inject hydraulic fracturing fluids into a well under pressure that is high enough to fracture the production zone. These fluids flow through the well and then out into the surrounding formation, where they create fractures in the rock, allowing hydrocarbons to flow through the fractures, to the well, and then up the production string.

The production well and the surrounding geologic features function as a system that is often designed with multiple elements that can isolate hydrocarbon-bearing zones and water-bearing zones, including groundwater resources, from each other. This physical isolation optimizes oil and gas production and can protect drinking water resources via isolation within the well (by the casing and cement) and/or through the presence of multiple layers of subsurface rock between the target formations where hydraulic fracturing occurs and drinking water aquifers.

6.4.1 Summary of Findings

In this chapter, we consider impacts to drinking water resources to occur if hydraulic fracturing fluids or other subsurface fluids affected by hydraulic fracturing enter and adversely impact the quality of groundwater resources. Potential pathways for fluid movement to drinking water resources may be linked to one or more components of the well and/or features of the subsurface geologic system. If present, these potential pathways can, in combination with the high pressures under which fluids are injected and pressure changes within the subsurface due to hydraulic fracturing, result in the subsurface movement of fluids to drinking water resources.

The potential for these pathways to exist or form has been investigated through modeling studies that simulate subsurface responses to hydraulic fracturing, and demonstrated via case studies and other monitoring efforts.


Finally!  On page 70 of Chapter 6,page 346 of 666 pages… “demonstrated via case studies and other monitoring efforts”… Observations!!!

Page 6-71: Impacts to Drinking Water Resources

We identified some example cases in the literature where the pathways associated with hydraulic fracturing resulted in an impact on the quality of drinking water resources.

One of these cases took place in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, in 2007. Failure to cement over-pressured formations through which a production well passed—and proceeding with the hydraulic fracturing operation without adequate cement and an extended period during which the well was shut in—led to a buildup of natural gas within the well annulus and high pressures within the well. This ultimately resulted in movement of gas from the production zone into local drinking water aquifers (Section Twenty-six domestic drinking water wells were taken off-line and the houses were connected to a public water system after the incident due to elevated methane levels.

“Failure to cement over-pressured formations through which a production well passed… resulted in movement of gas from the production zone into local drinking water aquifers.”  Failed cement job.  Not caused by frac’ing.  Not an example of frac fluid polluting groundwater.


Page 6-72:

Casings at a production well near Killdeer, North Dakota, ruptured in 2010 following a pressure spike during hydraulic fracturing, allowing fluids to escape to the surface. Brine and tert-butyl alcohol were detected in two nearby monitoring wells. Following an analysis of potential sources, the only source consistent with the conditions observed in the two impacted water wells was the well that ruptured during hydraulic fracturing. There is also evidence that out-of-zone fracturing occurred at the well (Sections and

“Casings at a production well near Killdeer, North Dakota, ruptured… allowing fluids to escape to the surface. Brine and tert-butyl alcohol were detected in two nearby monitoring wells.”  Casing failure.  Not caused by frac’ing.  Not an example of frac fluid polluting groundwater.

Page 6-72:

There are other cases where contamination of or changes to the quality of drinking water resources near hydraulic fracturing operations were identified. Hydraulic fracturing remains a potential contributing cause in these cases.

That’s it?  Really?  Are you frac’ing kidding me?  Oh wait… There’s more…

Page 6-72:

There are other cases in which production wells associated with hydraulic fracturing are alleged to have caused contamination of drinking water resources. Data limitations in most of those cases (including the unavailability of information in litigation settlements resulting in sealed documents) make it difficult to assess whether or not hydraulic fracturing was a cause of the contamination.

Wawaaaaaaaaaaa!!! They won’t give us the evidence!!!

Page 6-75:

6.4.3 Uncertainties

Generally, less is known about the occurrence of (or potential for) impacts of injection-related pathways in the subsurface than for other components of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle, which tend to be easier to observe and measure. Furthermore, while there is a large amount of information available on production wells in general, there is little information that is both specific to hydraulic fracturing operations and readily accessible across the states to form a national picture.

Good frac’ing grief!!!  Since they don’t know much about how the actual frac’ing operation could impact groundwater, they just expand frac’ing to include “hydraulic fracturing water cycle” in their definition of frac’ing.

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December 14, 2016 6:47 am

How do you get a fracking water cycle that is miles below and disconnected from any real water cycle?

Reply to  Resourceguy
December 14, 2016 7:40 am

Theoretically writing, one can envision a case where the fracturing operation was carried such that the casing strings were exposed to high pressure pulses, which in turn burst the well. I wrote “the well” because it’s common practice to have two well cemented casing strings through the fresh water zones. This means the pressure pulse has to breach both (this is actually possible, although it’s difficult to achieve in real life).
I think we do have to agree that any sort of industrial operation which involves a lot of steel, high pressures, and a lot of water, can, in some circumstances, lead to an undesired outcomes. I was trained to call these incidents and not accidents, because in general practice one has to be quite stupid and irresponsible to line up all the errors required to beat the odds and get somebody killed or cause a pollution incident.
I didn’t read the full report, but my professional opinion (and it’s very professional) is that the EPA report is ok until it starts introducing the key sentences needed by politicians to do partisan work. As far as I’m concerned Mr Burke is simply doing what he thinks is required to finish his gig at the EPA with a flourish. I’m not sure about his background, but I wouldn’t recommend him for a job.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
December 14, 2016 10:52 am

In the nuclear industry, we had to confront the possibility of stacked events after Fukushima. At least, confront them in a more direct manner. As unlikely as those scenarios are, they do occur sometimes. Still, designing safety systems to handle a series of unintentional, random, or natural catastrophic events is quite different from hardening a design against deliberate stupidity or sabotage. Quite different!

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Fernando Leanme
December 14, 2016 4:43 pm

“As far as I’m concerned Mr Burke is simply doing what he thinks is required to finish his gig at the EPA with a flourish.”
So correct on that whole assessment. Aside from this, they have quickly pushed through ICR (information collection request) on random onshore operators (700,000 wells) and all the natural gas infrastructure up to the gas service. The whole thing is another classic inept move from the Obama EPA that is going to do nothing but cost industry money. They estimated iirc $80 million cost in total, but I estimated $280 million in cost to the operators alone, and their estimate on the gatherers was about twice as large as their estimate to operators.

Reply to  Fernando Leanme
December 15, 2016 1:41 pm

Agreed. My professional opinion (and it is professional) is the same as Fernando’s.
There are three possible conclusions for this report:
1) Fracking is an inherently dangerous activity, and thereof must be highly regulated or even banned.
2) Fracking results in occasional incidents, which should be monitored and prevented.
3) Fracking is extremely safe, and only rarely, under very unusual circumstances, could something bad happen. Frack on!
Only one of these conclusion is worth 6 years and millions spent. Conclusion 1. It is the only question that should be answered in this type of study. Is fracking MORE dangerous to aquifers than not fracking? Of course it is. Just like driving is more dangerous than sitting on the couch. So? I could have told you that for a cup of coffee, not six years and millions spent. In fact conclusions 2 and 3 are obviously true. No study necessary. The only possible reason for this study to exist is to prove/disprove Conclusion 1. And the study definitively shows that Conclusion 1 is not correct. There is no debate on this point, and the draft report clearly stated this fact. Mission accomplished.
The problem is that someone edited the report to pretend that conclusion 3, or maybe 2, is the same thing as conclusion 1. It isn’t. They are not remotely the same thing. In fact they were never really in question. could a fracking accident result in problems. Uh, yeah. So?
I’ve had dozens of meetings with companies where we sat down and tried to minimize our waste and chemical usage. We don’t do it because anyone loves the environment. we do it because chemicals cost money. Handling chemicals is dangerous, and could hurt someone. Anytime people find a food grade, or biodegradable substitute for a hazardous chemical they get awards. An OSHA reportable incident can cost millions in lost time, wages, medical bills, insurance costs, etc. Plus telling the family of your co-worker he got killed, or lost a leg. Spills cost money – millions. They can shut down a project, end your career. No one wants to handle more water than they absolutely need to – again, water is heavy, handling water costs money. No one wants to pump, or dispose of, a gallon more than absolutely necessary.
So all the incentives, not just regulatory, but monetarily, culturally, morally, socially, are in favor of not causing impacts to aquifers.

Reply to  Resourceguy
December 16, 2016 12:25 pm

@ Tenn. You can say the same thing about medical malpractice. Or any profession really. Most busineesses and professions do not intentionally F-up. But it happens. Usually rarely. But it happens.

Reply to  davidgmills
December 19, 2016 10:49 am

Was the study designed to prove that mistakes happen? or don’t happen? Or could happen?
You don’t need a big study to prove something bad might happen. I don’t need a study to prove that doctors might occasionally, accidentally, prescribe the wrong drug. Such a conclusion is obvious. Everyone works very hard to prevent that, and mistakes are investigated to reduce the odds even further. But I certainly would not ban drug prescriptions based on the small chance of an error.
The problem with the report is the wording was changed to make the chance of an accident occurring sometime somewhere into a reason such an activity should never be allowed. Such a case might be made if the upper limit of the potential adverse impact was such was too high, or the benefit too small. Neither is the case here.
Unfortunately this has become an all too common corruption of science – assigning infinite damages to very small risks.

December 14, 2016 6:50 am

Where is the section on disregarding other direct and definitive isotopic tracer tests conducted by Federal agencies on the issue and already paid for by taxpayers? Is that section near the one about implementing the “out of abundance of caution despite the findings” methodology of NY.

Phil R
Reply to  Resourceguy
December 14, 2016 9:09 am

I have theory as to why NY has imposed the moratorium on fracking in NY. This is my personal idea (though others may have come up with it independently) and has not been vetted or verified, but I think I’m right.
New York is run by a liberal/progressive crime syndicate, with its biggest support base in the gutters of New York City and other big metropolitan areas. most of central (or upstate) New York is much more rural and conservative. My theory is that they imposed the moratorium to prevent the sudden appearance of a bunch of rural, conservative millionaire landowners and leaseholders that suddenly had the money to confront and take on the powers that be.

Reply to  Phil R
December 16, 2016 12:27 pm

They ain’t never taking on Wall Street who calls the shots in NYC.

Joel O’Bryan
December 14, 2016 7:02 am

Well it is Obama’s EPA science. It is consistent with his administration’s very clear willingness to deceive the public when it aided a political purpose.
Does anyone think a NYT or WaPo reporter is going to be allowed to report on how flimsy this EPA fracking report is? They have got their goose-stepping marching orders from the Obama WH and ThinkProgress to de-legitimize Donald Trump. Nothing else matters to the US Marxist Media at this point.

December 14, 2016 7:03 am

When they discuss fracking problems they never use has caused, have caused or will cause (etc) they only use may, might, can and could (etc)…I wonder why?

George Tetley
Reply to  mikerestin
December 14, 2016 12:11 pm

Ask any old oil-patch hand, 99.9% of producing gas,oil wells have been “fracked”

Reply to  George Tetley
December 15, 2016 1:45 pm

Yep. 99.99% of them multiple times without incident.

Reply to  Tenn
December 16, 2016 5:33 am

Used to be called “torpedoing” a well, back in the oil boom/wildcatter days. Putting an explosive charge down the hole and setting it off. In Kennerdell PA there is a small monument to a group of men killed in an explosion. They were transporting nitroglycerin to be used in oil wells.

Reply to  mikerestin
December 15, 2016 1:16 am

There is not much scientific information about fracking effects. Even the bit that we do have is utterly lacking in unequivocal evidence regarding the deleterious effect of fracking fluids. The mention in the OP of the detection of brine and tetrabutyl alcohol potentially associated with a failure event is not clearly causal. And, tetrabutyl alcohol occurs in beer and garbanzo beans. It’s organic and biodegradable – just like methane, and might be the result of deep dwelling bacteria metabolizing methane.

December 14, 2016 7:06 am

Its almost like someone is aware of the risks and designs the wells to mitigate those risks.

December 14, 2016 7:10 am

It has been this way since Obama shoved his EPA into this. They have rolled the entire operational cycle into the incorrectly spelled term frac[k]ing because there has been NO (ZERO) instance of fracing actually causing an impact to potable groundwater. NONE! Two million hydraulic fracture treatments, in over one million wells, in 27 O&G states, over a period of 65 years – and NOT ONE INSTANCE.

H. D. Hoese
December 14, 2016 7:18 am

Check page 54, on “Natural Hydrocarbons in Muds.” Cataloged date is wrong, actually 1962, language from the past, possibly difficult to read now. Other sections on pollution, including bleedwater.

Keith J
December 14, 2016 7:19 am

No schist, that would be found below kerogenic shale ;*).
BTW, the term is frac’ing a contraction of fracturing. The process is highly controlled with both upper and lower packing to isolate zone of work. Pressure and volume are highly controlled and any annulus defect is detectable by pressure and or volume migration past packers.
The real problem is chemophobia. If the public knew what hydrogen hydroxide and dihydrogen monoxide were (the most common injected chemicals), this wouldn’t be an issue 😉

Joe- the climate scientist
Reply to  Keith J
December 14, 2016 7:28 am

Keith – dihydrogen monoxide were (the most common injected chemicals), this wouldn’t be an issue 😉
Dihydrogen monoxide is fatal if inhaled – (almost always fatal when inhaled) geez

Keith J
Reply to  Joe- the climate scientist
December 14, 2016 7:40 am

I exhale both dihydrogen monoxide and carbonic acid anhydride…be they well diluted in nitrogen with a touch of oxygen 😉
I have learned to live with the fact I am a series of complex chemical reactions.

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Joe- the climate scientist
December 14, 2016 9:10 am

…the dose makes the poison 🙂

Reply to  Joe- the climate scientist
December 14, 2016 10:29 am

Dihydrogen monoxide is only fatal if inhaled in its liquid phase.

Reply to  Joe- the climate scientist
December 14, 2016 5:28 pm

It also acts as a very good form of truth serum when Inhaled in its liquid phase.

Reply to  Keith J
December 14, 2016 7:45 am

“hydrogen hydroxide and dihydrogen monoxide”
Blast it, I hesitated!

Reply to  HotScot
December 14, 2016 4:57 pm

Pretty nasty if high temperature hydrogen hydroxide vapor is inhaled or even comes into contact with the skin. Possibly fatal.

Reply to  Keith J
December 14, 2016 8:18 am

Don’t forget the hydroxylic acid!

Luther Bl't
Reply to  catweazle666
December 14, 2016 11:12 am

Natch. But calling it that makes it sound a bit fruity, a bit not-really-real-acid. I prefer the shorter ‘hydroxic acid’. You can easily imagine sitting on the lab shelf in a stoppered glass bottle fuming away to itself, waiting for an innocent alkali to wander by. Oh, and it rhymes nicely with ‘toxic’, too.

Reply to  catweazle666
December 14, 2016 1:29 pm

They don’t call it the “universal solvent” for nothing !!

Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 7:47 am

I had to learn it in 6 weeks or I would have been fired. What really complicated matters was getting the morning wires from a bilingual rig overseas. Some of the reports were prepared in both languages and jumped back and forth. And then there was this guy who only sent: “rigged up, fixed well, rigged down, moved to next well”.

December 14, 2016 7:44 am

In the industry, which invented the term, we use fracing or frac’ing. Since we invented it….
Actually, the highest volumetric chemicals injected are di-hydrogen oxide and silicon dioxide.

Joe- the climate scientist
Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 8:24 am

Revoler brewery has an excellent stout call mothers little fracker – that will pollute the groundwater after consumption

Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 2:55 pm

Fracing was always spelled “fracing” up until Josh Fox produced his pack of lies. Fox did so little research, including having knowledgeable people “peer” review his work, that he misspelled the word used to describe the process. That should give everyone an idea of how poorly researched Josh Fox’s movie was.

Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 2:57 pm

It can be argued that language is the most important foundation of civilization. As Orwell knew controlling language, controls the society.

Louis Hooffstetter
Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 5:57 pm
Reply to  David Middleton
December 15, 2016 11:16 pm

I thought the standard euphemism for that word was “frigging”?
But ‘fracturing’ has the ‘c’ with the standard ‘k’ sound before a ‘t’ – think “manufacturing”, “faction”, “diffraction”, etc. So if you are going to shorten ‘fracturing’ you must either replace the ‘c’ by a ‘k’ so as to retain the ‘k’ sound (fraking – but here the ‘a’ would become a long ‘a’, as in ‘baking’, so not acceptable) or just add the ‘k’. ‘Fracing’ would be normally pronounced in English as ‘fra-sing (again a problem with the long ‘a’, think ‘phrasing’). Remember ‘c’ before a ‘i’ or an ‘e’ is normally pronounced ‘s’, while ‘c’ before ‘a’, ‘o’ or ‘u’ has the hard ‘k’ pronunciation. Before someone takes me up about the English ‘Caesar’, remember that this is one of those words derived from latin, where the original vowel was the diphthong ‘ae’, which became recognised as an ‘e’ in English (think also English ‘oe’ as in “Foetus” = American “Fetus”).

Reply to  Tom G(ologist)
December 15, 2016 1:25 am

How was the word “fracing” originally pronounced. Did it rhyme with “tracking” or “lacking”? If so, then this explains why many scientists have trouble communicating with the public on even the most basic level. Standard English pronunciation of any “-acing” would give it a soft “c” same as “s”, not a hard “c” like a “k”. “Fracing” only works as a spelling if it rhymes with “facing” or “tracing”, in which case people should be corrected on their pronunciation.

December 14, 2016 8:36 am

They also tried to claim that fracking had reversed a historical declining trend in atmosperic ethane

Bubba Cow
December 14, 2016 9:08 am

I subscribe to various energy newsfeeds and periodically I get stories about microwave “fracking” –
but then I look further into Peter Kearl, co-founder and CTO of Qmast and it’s crickets so ???

December 14, 2016 9:35 am

I propose resolving the issue by calling it “fracting.” That way, it won’t hit you in the frace.

glen martin
December 14, 2016 9:37 am

The only reason Obama didn’t order the EPA to manufacture some excuse to ban fracking was the low oil prices it produced were the closest thing to real sanctions against Russia he had available.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  glen martin
December 14, 2016 10:02 am

If he thought he had the Executive authority, without a Federal Court judge’s injunction coming in, thus stopping him, he would have had the EPA issue an endangerment finding on fracking and then rule on a ban.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  glen martin
December 14, 2016 10:05 am

Until 4 weeks ago, they thought they had another 4 years to continue their War on Carbon Fuels. The climate hustle is 5 weeks and 2 days from ending.

Reply to  glen martin
December 14, 2016 12:29 pm

Also, the low oil prices, as contrasted with “skyrocketing electric prices” and “bankrupting coal companies”, provided the only positive thing BO could point to in eight years of his economy.

December 14, 2016 9:48 am

I will predict here and now that Scott Pruitt will not be confirmed by the Senate. A few soft Republicans who mouth climate change platitudes, or are frightened by EPA’s claims about groundwater, or find the “fox in the henhouse” meme too distasteful, will knuckle under. Olympia Snowe comes to mind.

December 14, 2016 10:08 am

Brine and tert-butyl alcohol
so salt water and stuff that freezes in the mid 70’s F ?

Reply to  dmacleo
December 15, 2016 1:23 am

And occurs in beer and garbanzo beans

December 14, 2016 10:21 am

“Olympia Snowe comes to mind.”
Another is Marco Rubio: two is enough to scuddle the nomination.

Reply to  Roy Denio
December 14, 2016 12:33 pm

You really think all of the red-state Dems will bow to Schumer? Not likely!

Reply to  skorrent1
December 14, 2016 2:41 pm

How many red state Dems are on the Judiciary Committee? And how many come up for reelection in 2018? I honestly don’t know the answers, but it only takes one Republican defector on the committee to stall the confirmation, and two to reject outright.

Gary Pearse
December 14, 2016 10:37 am

In ’61-62 I was a geohydrologist (hydrogeologist for some) evaluating all aspects of groundwater along and near the rightaway for the Greater Winnipeg Floodway, at the time the 2nd largest excavation project surpassed only by the Panama Canal.
Anticipating likely claims of damage to waterwells in the rural area, it was decided to evaluate private wells, their depths, levels, water quality and state of repair as part of the work and to put in some extra strategically located observation wells. We provided a free service advising on upgrades to wells in poor repair.
Sure enough, complaints did come in, but the records were able to show that not one was compromised by the Floodway. I would have thought this precaution would be exercised as a matter of course elsewhere, however, apparently not. It would be a kindness if adopted to call it the Pearse Strategy!
I also wrote a published report “Proppants: North American Industry Markets and Outlook” (2015) (about the frack sand-natural and ceramic) for Roskill Information Services in UK. It’s pricey, intended for industry, so lm not looking to promote to readers.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 14, 2016 11:50 am

Evaluation and analysis of all offsetting wells is done routinely in Canada and in Alberta as a requirement prior to fracturing operations. Precautions are proactively taken to minimize risks to people and the environment including ground water protection. It’s been this way long before the environs got involved.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  GPo
December 14, 2016 3:14 pm

“Canada and Alberta”? As in distinct?

December 14, 2016 10:57 am

Yes, a truism of life is that every action MIGHT have an adverse consequence. What a stunning revelation!

December 14, 2016 11:13 am

It is certainly time to drain the EPA swamp. But the vermin eliminated will be howling like crazy! LOL!

December 14, 2016 11:21 am

David, your reference to the Killdeer, ND incident intrigued me so I looked at the reports. You say the casing failed but this was NOT caused by fracking. However the reports clearly say that the production, surface and conductor casing failures occurred during the Sept 2010 frac at the Franchuk 44-20 well when pressure spiked to 8390 psi. All the failures were at groundwater aquifer depths. Why do you claim otherwise?

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Ray
December 14, 2016 1:06 pm

The failure occurred at the production level (i.e. near the surface). The problem was not related to the fracturing of the oil formation, but either an equipment malfunction that caused the pressure spike or the casing that didn’t hold up to its rated capability.

Keith J
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 14, 2016 4:11 pm

Which means improper packer set. Now we open Pandora’s Box in that this happens everywhere. :!
Incidents happen, just like wind turbines killing endangered raptors.

Reply to  David Middleton
December 14, 2016 3:38 pm

I question the EPA’s assessment of the casing failure in ND. During a frac, there are numerous pressure relief valves at surface to protect the casing and/or tubing. If the production casing were breached, the weak point would be at the shoe of the surface casing; well below the level of the groundwater aquifers.
This would suggest a failure of the relief valves, wellhead and/or surface piping used in the frac process; putting some frac water of the drill pad. And somehow this water made it to the monitor well.
The EPA, in it’s never ending effort to discredit fracing, probably used it’s most sensitive equipment to find traces of a chemical that would have been in the ppb range. The concentration is not significant, only the detection. This is the bias that is embedded in the EPA.
I think a better question for the EPA is whether the identification of a of a chemical in a barely detectable range is equal to the death of one bald eagle by a wind turbine? The EPA needs to be challenged on what “equivalency” it uses to justify it’s decisions to penalize the fossil industry and reward the renewable industry.

Reply to  David Middleton
December 15, 2016 6:23 am

Does the report provide distance from production well to the two impacted water wells? How significant was the groundwater aquifer impacted from incident? If only two wells were reportedly impacted, were there mitigation procedures conducted, and if so, how successful? Water wells are impacted annually from all sorts of activities, from agricultural processes, leaky septic fields, to nearby roadway spills and activities (think routine heavy “salting” activities during winter snow/ice clearing). We have TWO wells “possibly” impacted from this fracturing activity, that’s it….

December 14, 2016 11:43 am

“Can anyone recall any climate skeptic, anywhere, ever demanding the deletion of climate data?”
“Can anyone recall any liberal who was ever concerned about Russian intelligence?”
“Can anyone recall any liberal who was ever concerned about fake news stories?”
“Can anyone recall any liberal who was ever concerned about voting irregularities?”
Nope, not until Trump won.

George Tetley
Reply to  harkin1
December 14, 2016 12:16 pm

harkin 1
plus 1 =2
great post

Reply to  harkin1
December 14, 2016 8:55 pm

David – Yes, Killdeer was a blowout but it happened during the frac. That well would not have experienced a blowout during normal operation because its maximum shut-in pressure was very likely far below 8390 psi, given its depth. The frac caused the blowout. This is what critics will home in on. Those outside our industry can not or will not make the distinction you are trying to make.
Also, why do you question the EPA assertion from page 9-23 that the TBA is very likely from the frac fluid at this well? Their reasoning seems pretty tight to me.
I realize the EPA has only managed to scrape up a few isolated incidents but that’s all the critics need. As industry professionals, we must address valid criticism head on.

December 14, 2016 12:54 pm

“Could” is the frustrating quibble which opponents of fracking will drive their idiot truck through. Of course we know all to well the analysis paralysis that reports like this are meant to create.
Think of the moon junk we left from the space program or the many criminal uses of the internet. Your good grief lament is apt.

Jeff in Calgary
December 14, 2016 1:02 pm

So, two documented cases, neither of which were the fracturing process, but were part of the legacy well process. One had a happy ending (residence that had previously had to rely on wells now got proper water hookups) and the other only affected monitoring wells (i.e. not effecting residence). So the conclusion should be that current processes are adequately monitoring for faults.
ps. the first example was a double fault situation. Both improper cementing, and an extended period during which the well was shut in (with no apparent pressure monitoring). That can’t be used as a national case study for fracturing. Maybe for accident resolution…

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 14, 2016 3:05 pm

Yes I too was surprised to see such a broad conclusion reached on the basis of only 2 examples. And as you explained the examples are not even relevant to fracking as practiced today.
For me this report further cements the conclusion that the EPA is primarily a political organization.

Steve from Rockwood
December 14, 2016 4:00 pm

In defense of the masses, most people do not realize that the water with the oil is not the water they drink. Geologists do a disservice to their industry by not explaining (patiently) that the water that occurs with the oil at 18,000 ft is an undrinkable brine.
A second disservice by geologists is the non-discussion of surface showings of oil & gas, which are common and have been reported many years before fracking was ever attempted. If oil & gas has been naturally making its way to surface for thousands of years the chance of it entering drinking water is 100%.
So I blame the geologists. They drink so much beer that they are unable to explain to the hobbled masses that the water contaminated by fracking is not drinking water and the drinking water contaminated with oil & gas can occur (and does) occur naturally. I say more beer for the geophysicists and less beer for the geologists.
It is foolish to think that oil & gas drilling does not affect drinking water. It certainly does. But fracking does not affect drinking water. This is the problem with politics. Those who want to stop fracking use the bad results of poor cementing as proof. This lets the poor cementing problem off the hook.

Gary Pearse
December 14, 2016 4:35 pm

Something not mentioned when reporting the two instances of failures that appear to have been frack related, there are some 1.7million currently active o&g wells in the US and even conventional wells have been fractured since the beginning of the industry. The idea was the invention of a US Civil War veteran in the 1860s using gun powder to stimulate…. water wells of all things! Further development led to use of nitro glycerine and a number of workers were killed in the early days. This was followed up by ‘torpedoing’ of wells right up to the late 1960s at least. The first frack was done on a gas well in the Hugoton gas field in Kansas in1947. Development continued until fair results began to be achieved in the Barnet Shale in Texas in 1982. It was only after the advent of horizontal drilling did hydraulic fracturing become big time and most hydraulic frac jobs were done after 2002.
So, somehow, it took 150yrs. of formation fracturing before it got noticed! The hype and angst was developed only when the anti democratic, new world order totalitarian elites mobilized their useful fools when it was clear that peak oil and gas hadn’t occurred and they weren’t done with fossil fuels after all. Masters of fake news, they generated all the ills of the technology. They had already been enlisting peak oil as a reason for promoting Luddite tech to replace them.

December 15, 2016 2:13 am

After reading a lot about fracking and Pavilion Wy, I made several observations:
Land surface has been washed by rainfall for hundreds of millions of years. Living things have adapted to the “chemicals” that are normally found in surface runoff and in the water that drains into shallow aquifers. Anytime we extraction fossil fuels or metal ores from the ground, we bring material to the surface to which we may not be adapted – most notoriously mine tailings. One of the best things about fracking is that relatively little waste material is brought to the surface. However, the water in fracked wells is a concern – probably not from the “toxicity” of additives in fracking fluids, but the organic chemicals that leech from the fracked rock.
One vulnerable spot is the casing where wells pass through drinking water aquifers. Unfortunately, we have been drilling wells through aquifers for about a century in hydrocarbon rich regions (the Pavilion area has many old wells) without always being careful at this point of vulnerability. I’m more worried about the threat past drilling operations (and resulting surface contamination and improper waste disposal) pose to drinking water than modern fracked wells. A fracking operation causes nearby wells to be tested and problems discovered – and most likely those are existing problems. It seems absurd for contamination to travel a significant distance underground to a nearby well within a few months of fracking. Traveling from an old well over a few decades makes far more sense. The fracking industry should be testing all nearby wells before beginning operations, because their owners will be testing afterwards. Perhaps this is routine now, but it wasn’t in Pavilion.
Aquifers are an critical resource that produce value for local residents “forever”. Extraction of fossil fuels produces benefits (mostly to outsiders) for a short period of time.

Reply to  Frank
December 15, 2016 3:23 am

Following a frac, the first action is to flow the well back; retrieving much of the fluid used in the frac. In the case of a gas well, once the well cleans up enough to meet pipeline requirements (reduced water, sand and possibly CO2) it is switched to sales.. The gas production companies are not allowed to sell gas until the gas meets pipeline quality standards and the production companies required to flare the produced gas until it does meet these strict standards.
The environmentalists are always complaining about the amount of gas flared by production companies but it is the pipeline company standards that must be met before putting a well to sales. These standards are in place to ensure the safety of the pipeline from corrosion and scale. Production companies want to minimize their flaring and put the well on production ASAP to start generating income but pipeline safety comes first.
Frank, to your point. From the time the frac is flowed back until the well is plugged and abandoned, the bottom hole pressure is reduced and no fluid moves away from the well, only to the well. Only in cases such as a conversion to a water injection well for reasons of secondary recovery will the bottom hole pressure be increased. The only place frac fluids can be recovered is from the well that is fraced.
As for Pavilion Wyoming, in subsequent testing no contamination could be found. The Federal EPA finally gave up trying to find contamination and passed the testing to the Wyoming state EPA. I don’t believe any new issues have popped up in Pavillion for some time and that production continues.

Reply to  Frank
December 15, 2016 2:24 pm

Sorry, but I call B.S.
You do the classic environmentalist trick of pretending chemicals (gas, oil saltwater, fracking fluids) are “infinitely” hazardous, or in “infinite” supply. Even the most screwed up oil and gas well can only impact a limited area due to hydrology and dilution factors. Yes, I suppose, you can find or invent a scenario where it could, or has happened. Don’t waste your time posting it – the 99th percentile situation is not actually all that relevant to the discussion.
Aquifers will be theoretically used “forever”. However, oil, gas, and other potential contaminants cannot contaminate an aquifer “forever”. This is not a point of contention – this is chemistry and physics. Chemicals break down, or dilute, after a finite period of time.
So you are projecting out this aura of infinite risk to irreplaceable resources, when there is no such thing. We are discussing finite risks to finite resources, and how best to mitigate those risks.

December 15, 2016 3:03 am

Any one who’d want to drink water from a hydrocarbon formation is an idiot.

December 15, 2016 5:15 am

Why would I want to spend a million or more dollars and and not insure it is going into the formation to produce the most oil and gas.

Reply to  William W Jackson
December 15, 2016 10:03 am

Yes, a key point. It is not in the operators interests to pollute local groundwater, because that would mean they are losing valuable product and money. People who do that will get fired, before the EPA becomes involved.

December 15, 2016 5:20 am

As one living here in the heart of Evil Marcellus Shale country there is no ground water contamination from fracking. The only ground water contamination so far documented by EPA and PADEP is from fuel spills at work sites. And spare me Dimock PA, the water in that region has been known to have high methane content from the very first settlers to establish there.

Horse Feathers
December 15, 2016 8:43 am

I believe that I shall coin a new term. (label if you prefer to be honest, unlike the media) COULDAPHOBIA. Another item in the Phobia family. Couldaphobiacs are afraid of any news that contains the word, “could”. This “could” happen, or something else – even worse – could happen if you don’t…(fill in the appropriate blank but be sure to insinuate the requirement for donations to defeat the enemy-du-jour.) So, if a couldaphobiac near you, should suddenly require a “safe space”, be sure not to agree with anything they say and get the heck out of there. In my humble opinion (well, not so humble, today 😉

Reply to  Horse Feathers
December 16, 2016 5:26 am

Couldaphobia. I like it!

Horse Feathers
December 15, 2016 8:46 am

I have taste water filled with gas in a rural area, years ago. The people who lived there (pre-bottled water era) would leave the water settle out to allow the gas to escape. The taste is always there though and the people who lived there adjusted. True story. I made several visits and drank their tea. I’m still here, decades later, FYI.

Reply to  Horse Feathers
December 15, 2016 10:08 am

And the microbes in your colon also produce far more methane than you could ever ingest by drinking such water. It’s called flatulence, and several other words.
Basis biochemistry which Greenpeace doesn’t like to explain to the people they dupe out of money.

Reply to  Horse Feathers
December 15, 2016 11:36 pm

I have tasted water that came from underground in London. Very highly contaminated with calcium carbonate. In fact, the rest of Croydon had a different extraction point, and the water was so highly contaminated that the Water Authority had to extract much of the contaminant to make the water saleable. They had a mountain of white stuff which had been removed from the water.
The water was put into pressure bottles – glass contained within a stainless steel mesh – and then was injected with high pressure carbon dioxide. This was quite drinkable, in spite of the rubbery taste, which I think came from the rubber seals. However the rubbery taste was, I believe, not noticeable when the water was mixed with ethyl alcohol, and a host of minor carbohydrates and minerals.
You will have read about this process in many books of the Victorian era, where people drank it. They called it a “Whisky and Soda”. No known addition of sodium, however.

December 15, 2016 11:22 am

Also known as the EPA’s new report on who to fire in January….

Johann Wundersamer
December 20, 2016 3:37 am

The report supposedly supports this statement:
“There are instances when hyrdofracking has impacted drinking water resources. That’s an important conclusion, an important consideration for moving forward,” said Thomas Burke, a deputy assistant administrator and science adviser at the EPA, on a call with reporters Tuesday.
– they’ve already said ‘having no clue’ !

Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
December 20, 2016 3:52 am

What has been found so far is water contamination by fuel spills on work sites. EPA and PADEP have both had to admit in front of a judge that they have only found fuel spill contamination and no contamination from “hydraulic fracturing” here in PA. Have not seen any proof that fracking has been found to be responsible for water contamination anywhere else, either. Oh, EPA was caught falsifying test data in several cases out west. There is that, I guess.

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