The Barnett Shale Education Council sent out their news letter today and it included a link to myths and facts that are–ah, hum–skewed.
Parker County Area Residents Committed to Halting Excessive Drilling (PARCHED) BUSTED the BS myth busting:
The BSEC BS is in brown like bs should be.
PARCHED: followed by factual information responsible for the “myths” is in blue
I chimed in a few places in red.
MYTH: Energy companies are exempt from meeting any sort of safety and environmental standards.
FACT: Operators are required to follow all Railroad Commission of Texas regulations, which are designed to ensure protection of the public and the environment. For example, energy companies must obtain and file a “Water Board Letter” from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that identifies the depth to which fresh water must be protected so a well can be designed to ensure protection of subsurface freshwater.
PARCHED FACT: Operators ARE exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and do NOT have to disclose the chemicals used in the fracturing process. At the urging of Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, Congress exempted fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
TXsharon: Oil and Gas enjoys broad exemptions from many of our environmental laws. Read about the exemptions here
MYTH: Natural gas drilling releases dangerous levels of NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) into the environment.
FACT: NORM is low-level radioactive material that comes from natural sources, such as the earth, water and air. It may be brought to the surface in formation water from oil and gas production. The health risk of NORM to the general public is virtually non-existent, and the risk of NORM exposure to site workers is slight.
NORM found in oil and gas operations is generally found in two forms: as scale inside piping and tubing or as sediment inside tanks and process vessels. It can take several years before scale accumulation in oilfield equipment reaches a regulatory threshold. Exposure to either form can only occur when repair work is performed. As long as the NORM equipment is being used it presents no risk to workers or the public. When work is planned, appropriate measures are implemented to contain the solids and scale and remove any chance of exposure to site workers. When NORM equipment is taken out of service, the openings are covered to contain any loose material and prevent release to the environment.
The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) regulates the identification and labeling of equipment containing NORM and disposal of oil and gas NORM waste. The Texas Department of Transportation regulates the transportation of NORM on public roads, and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) regulates all other oil and gas NORM activities.
PARCHED FACT: The Texas Railroad Commission relies on SELF REPORTING by the operators for NORM. There is NO SAFE exposure to radium 226 and radium 228.
“Saltwater” spills may contain radioactive particles detectable by geiger counter.
TXsharon: NORM has a 1622 year half-life
MYTH: Natural gas producers are not doing anything to control methane emissions from drilling.
FACT: Methane is emitted from both human-related and natural sources, and the biggest human-related cause is landfills, according to the EPA. Methane is generated in landfills and open dumps as waste decomposes under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.
Many of the energy companies operating in the Barnett Shale are partnering with the EPA in its voluntary Natural Gas STAR program, which strives to improve the companies’ environmental performance through the implementation of cost-effective technologies and practices to reduce methane emissions.
Five members of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council participate in this EPA partnership: Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy Corporation, EnCana Corporation, XTO Energy Inc. and Quicksilver Resources Inc.
In 2006, the nation’s Natural Gas STAR partners reported emissions reductions of approximately 85.9 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is equivalent to removing approximately 7.5 million cars from the road for one year.
PARCHED FACT: A draft study by Professor Al Armendariz of SMU said (Barnett Shale Gas Drilling) tanks and compressors could account for about 262 tons of pollution a day — almost as much as all the cars and trucks in the Metroplex. Star Telegram 10/15/2008
TXsharon: Methane is the worst greenhouse gas, 75 times worse than CO2. Devon Has Duty to Minimize Air Pollution. (And they can afford it!)
MYTH: Energy companies are using too much of an increasingly scarce resource, water, and natural gas drilling operations will sharply reduce our supply.
FACT: The amount of water sold to gas drilling operations in fiscal year 2006 only accounted for 0.25% of the total water Tarrant Regional Water District sold that year. The percentage has likely increased since then as drilling activity has intensified. Research is now being conducted to determine how much public water was used in 2007. Freshwater must be used in natural gas drilling because saltwater corrodes wells and drilling equipment and it isn’t compatible with the additives that are used in drilling and fracturing operations.
According to David Burnett, a professor at Texas A&M’s Global Petroleum Research Institute, industry has an incentive to recycle more water used because of the expense and impact of hauling it to off-site disposal locations. The energy industry and researchers at Burnett’s Institute are studying techniques for recycling wastewater for use in fracturing operations as well as other applications.
Devon Energy Corporation is a forerunner in this area, and is using distillation technology to recycle water produced at several drilling sites in its Barnett operations. Each of its four recycling sites treats 200,000 gallons of water per day. In the very near future, it may be possible for companies to recycle about a third of the water used in natural gas operations, according to Burnett. In another two or three years, about 50 percent of the wastewater may be recyclable due to advances in the technology.
PARCHED FACT: Not ONE DROP of frac water has been recycled in Parker County.
MYTH: Salt-water disposal wells leak wastewater into our clean groundwater supply.
FACT: Disposal well operations are inherently safe when they are monitored and operated according to permit. A very small risk exists where there may be an old, improperly abandoned well deep underground and no public record to reveal its location. In these very rare instances it is possible for wastewater to leak into the fresh groundwater supply until the situation is discovered and corrected. The Railroad Commission of Texas and energy companies are designing disposal wells to be dug so deep that they are far beneath the fresh groundwater supplies used by the public for drinking and other uses.
PARCHED FACT: New disposal wells have mechanical integrity problems, too, as evidenced by of the 18 month old CES facility in Aledo closed twice for repairs.
TXsharon: Like Texas has any kind of oversight or monitoring of anything related to oil and gas. See for yourself! There have been several injection well failures in Wise County.
MYTH: Pipeline incidents are a significant risk where natural gas drilling occurs.
FACT: According to government statistics, less than 1/100th of one percent of all transportation incidents are attributed to pipelines. National Transportation Safety Board statistics show that pipelines are indisputably the safest way to transport natural gas and other energy products, both for the public and the environment.
Nationwide, the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents is outside damage, typically a contractor, landscaper, farmer or do-it-yourself homeowner who hits the pipeline while digging.
Texas law requires contractors and homeowners to call 811, the One-Call Center, to have the location of underground utilities marked before starting an excavation project.
PARCHED FACT: “… a heavy machinery operator with Crosstex Energy struck a high pressure pipeline (near Lake Weatherford), sending balls of flame hundreds of feet into the air.” Weatherford Democrat 3/12/2007
TXsharon: Statistical Analysis of “Significant Incident” Data for Barnett Shale Gas Wells
MYTH: Pipeline safety is not a top priority for energy companies – they are only out to make a profit.
FACT: Pipeline companies follow strict regulations and standards to ensure pipeline safety. Pipeline personnel check for visible signs of leaks or corrosion during regular aerial and foot patrols. They use special equipment to inspect and clean the inside of pipelines; they routinely test valves and test gas samples to identify early signs of corrosion.
PARCHED FACT: Texas Railroad Commission reports from Oct. 31 and Nov.5 indicate that there were several leaks in a 6 inch steel pipe (near Brock) and that the pollution is in an area 800 by 400 feet…According to the lawsuit, about 3000 cubic yards of soil have been removed. Star Telegram 11/15/2008
TXsharon: Texas Railroad Commission Ignores 33 Acre Environmental Disaster Until Exposed By Media.
MYTH: Sound emissions from compressor stations are a major noise disruption in urban neighborhoods.
FACT: Recent technologies have made great strides in minimizing sound emissions from station facilities. Many energy companies operating in the Barnett Shale use acoustical control buildings to house compressor stations. These buildings decrease the sound from compressor stations and blend in with the surrounding landscape.
PARCHED FACT: Most energy companies operating in Parker County DO NOT use acoustical control buildings to house compressor stations. (See Civil Suits filed against Crosstex in Parker County District Court September 9 and November 4, 2008).
TXsharon: Compressor stations in Wise County are out in the wide open.
MYTH: Pad sites that serve as the base for drilling rigs require the removal of all vegetation, which companies will never replace.
FACT: Before, during and after the drilling process, producers in the Barnett Shale are diligent about minimizing the environmental footprint. Once the drilling and completion processes are completed, all fluids are removed and either reused, or disposed of, and the drill site is fenced. If the well site is located in an urban area, landscaping is added around the site according to local ordinances.
PARCHED FACT: Drill sites DO require the removal of all vegetation and leave a large unsightly gravel pad. Most drill sites in Parker County will never be landscaped around the site.
TXsharon: Oh, this one is funny.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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An excellent post. Keep up the good work. There are more details relative how we are being ruined by the current onslought of drilling in TX.
For instance, the RRC does not limit, prohibit or prevent the emission to the air of any material, what-so-ever, unless it has a commercial value–and they let the operator decide if it has a commercial value!
Also, the RRC does not require the conduct of cement bond logs on surface casing for wells–nor do they require the filing of results for same!
Want more deficiencies?
Yes, please. I want more. One person can’t keep up with it all.
The RRC seems to only regulate the “hole in the ground”. The TCEQ does not regulate or concern them selves with emissions at well sites. So dumping at well sites seems to be OK! See following language directely from the industry friendly TCEQ:
“The TCEQ does not have jurisdiction over well sites in Texas. Based upon
the information contained in your e-mail, this is an issue under
jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission of Texas. 16 TAC Part 1
§3.30(d)(1) speaks to the concern.
. . . . Under the Texas Water Code, Chapter 26, the TCEQ has
jurisdiction over discharges of waste into or adjacent to water in the
state, other than discharges regulated by the RRC. The RRC regulates
discharges of waste from activities associated with the exploration,
development, or production of oil, gas, or geothermal resources,
including transportation of crude oil and natural gas by pipeline . . .”.
See if you can figure it out!
The worthless Texas politicians pass a law which can be interpreted in several ways. Then the industry friendly state agencies take that law and interprete it in the MOST industry friendly manner that is possible!!! Then, we the peasants have to live with NO PROTECTION!
Wonderful system here in Texas!!
Change the people who are making the laws.
Change the people who interpret the laws.
The TX Supreme is 100% Republican and they over-turned 80% of lower courts’ decisions in favor of big business.
The solution is a political one.
How true, it’s rotten from the basement of the local court house to the roof of the white house. For sure, the TX Supreme!