I know that industry very much wants to have their frack and eat it too. And I know that they have gotten away with that for a very long time now, but I think they are facing a reckoning here.
In response to my post, Absolution in Marcellus Shale Water Contamination Premature, I got the following comment:
Hydraulic fractures extend approximately 200 to 250 feet from the wellbore. The aquifer in this area is at least 5,000 feet above any hydraulic fracture. If Marcellus gas is contaminating the water wells, it is leaking from a poor cement job in the casing, not from the hydraulic fractures.
We really don’t know where the gas is coming from. We do know it wasn’t there before the hydraulic fracture occurred.
From Halliburton’s Manual for the Independent Operator:
“An improperly designed or poorly performed stimulation treatment can allow a hydraulic fracture to enter a water zone.”
From a recent court case:
Dispute has industry, mineral owners nervous
The problem is, however, that fracture stimulation isn’t a precise science, and doesn’t always crack the shale in equal portions. In some ways, cracking the shale evenly could be thought of as trying to hammer a dinner plate into equal pieces – it’s not easy.
“You may plan a fracture that will go 1,000 feet, and it might go 2,000 feet or 400 feet,” said John S. Lowe, a professor of energy law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.
But knowing what has happened thousands of feet below isn’t easy.
“How do you prove any fracing was correct or incorrect in an area that is not precise to begin with?” asked Holden, who has practiced natural resources and energy law for more than 30 years. “Either side has to prove what’s going down below, and that’s hard for both sides.”
When faced with charges of water contamination, industry claims hydraulic fracture is precise.
When faced with paying royalties because fractures went astray, industry claims hydraulic fracture is imprecise.
Which is it?
Updated to include more industry double speak:
“These are surgical operations utilizing the most advanced drilling technology known to man,” Tom Price Jr., senior vice president of Chesapeake Energy, told state lawmakers in Albany at a recent hearing.
Thanks to Abrahm Lustgarten & Propublica
Surgical operations should be fairly precise. But wait! Maybe not…
And, from a presentation given by James Herman:
S.C. Maxwell and T.I. Urbancic, ESG International, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
N. Steinsberger, Devon Energy, Fort Worth, Texas and
R. Zinno, Schlumberger, Houston, Texas.
Hydraulic fracture geometries are difficult to predict. Even in environments with relatively simple fracture geometries, hydraulic fractures can grow asymmetrically, have variable confinement across geologic horizons, and change orientation. In naturally fractured reservoirs, such as the Barnett Shale, hydraulically created fracture patterns become amazingly complex as the injected slurry preferentially opens the pre-existing fracture network.
This excerpt is from Schlumberger’s publication Oilfield Review Winter 2005/2006.
Article title: THE SOURCE FOR HYDRAULIC FRACTURE CHARACTERIZATION; p.46.
“While it is possible to have a good understanding of existing natural fracture systems, our ability to determine hydraulic fracture geometry and characteristics has been limited. Geologic discontinuities such as fractures and faults can dominate fracture geometry in a way that makes predicting hydraulic fracture behavior difficult. Clearly, the exploration and production (E&P) industry still has much to learn about hydraulic fractures.”
Hat tip to un-naturalgas.org for the assist.
Four wells have been fraced and are producing gas, but
Bill Barrett has had troubles with its frac jobs diverting into salt formations. When that happens, saltwater flows up along with the gas.