Monday, October 10, 2011

Fracking Evil Oil Companies!

As y'all know, I work for a company that manufactures and delivers tanks for many purposes, not the least for the oil industry. I've talked about the oil boom in North Dakota drilling into the Bakken Formation. That post was about how the efforts to expand oil production are pretty well maxed out, even with the current administration's interference and avowed hatred of petroleum energy. I found this interesting:
Two years ago, America was importing about two thirds of its oil. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration, it imports less than half. And by 2017, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts the US could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world's largest oil producer.

And this from the same source:
Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University says in the next decade, new oil in the US, Canada and South America could change the center of gravity of the entire global energy supply.

"Some are now saying, in five or 10 years' time, we're a major oil-producing region, where our production is going up," she says.

The US, Jaffe says, could have 2 trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drilled. South America could hold another 2 trillion. And Canada? 2.4 trillion. That's compared to just 1.2 trillion in the Middle East and north Africa.

Jaffe says those new oil reserves, combined with growing turmoil in the Middle East, will "absolutely propel more and more investment into the energy resources in the Americas."

Russia is already feeling the growth of American energy, Jaffe says. As the U.S. produces more of its own natural gas, Europe is free to purchase liquefied natural gas the US is no longer buying.

"They're buying less natural gas from Russia," Jaffe says. "So Russia would only supply 10 percent of European natural gas demand by 2030. That means the Russians are no longer powerful."
Another part of the reason we're not importing as much oil is because the economy sucks and there is less demand. Of course, silly me, that's all Bush's fault. The current administration wouldn't have any sort of responsibility in this regard.
The American energy boom, Jaffe says, could endanger many green-energy initiatives that have gained popularity in recent years. But royalties and revenue from U.S. production of oil and natural gas, she adds, could be used to invest in improving green technology. "We don't have the commercial technology now," she says, noting the recent bankruptcy of American solar companies like Solyndra.
"The point is you can't force a technology that's not commercial. Rather than subsidize things that are not going to be competitive, we need to actually use that money to do R&D to create technologies — the same way that the industries created these technologies to produce natural gas and it turned out so commercially successful."
Heh. An article from NPR that ballyhoos the current administration's funneling the big bucks into non commercially viable industries even though they are "green?" Whoda thunk it?

Getting back to the oil patch, two terms bandied about are horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) - and the combination of the two is the technological evolution that makes oil recovery from a "tight" formation possible.

Horizontal drilling differs from the standard method in that as the well is drilled, the bit can be directionally controlled. When the well is at the proper depth, it is turned so that eventually, the path goes from vertical to horizontal. From what I've heard - the well actually goes somewhat uphill rather than a perfect horizontal. This allows the oil to flow "downhill" to make pumping it easier. Notice how much deeper the oil well goes past the water table. This will become important later.

This is a video from Continental Resources explaining hydraulic fracturing. Now, I realize that this is nothing but a propaganda video to the more vehement of fracking's opponents, but it is based in fact rather than conjecture. Two things to note: The pic and video both came from their site, and this company is a customer of my company.

Another thing Continental has come up with are Eco-Pads. This is basically bundling wells into one "pad" or well site with all the accoutrements such as storage tanks, pumps, wellheads rather than scattered over several single pads, minimizing the impact on the environment. I've seen four wells on one pad with them - and they aren't just drilling into the Bakken anymore, either. There is another oil bearing formation that is just now showing up on the radar - the Three Forks. Those four wells were drilled into either one, the other, or both, plus they are also doing a sort of "lateral" line technique - there might be more than one horizontal line in one well.

Now - addressing the concerns of those against fracking. The fracking occurs miles below the water table. It has no effect on the water table because it does not open access through all those miles of rock to get the oil and gas into said water table. The only way a well can contaminate the water table is if the well casing is poorly made or breaks down at the water table level - and both are possible. However, the oil industry has been drilling oil wells right through the water table for years now with a pretty decent record of safety as far as contamination is concerned. Fracking a well does not affect the strata associated with the water table. It's just too damn far away!

Now, I'm not here to defend the instances where a well casing failed due to poor installation or whatever. But to my mind, people who suddenly find their water blaming their water smelling like gas after fracking is done on wells in their area need just a little more science involved before the connection can be made. Like real, hard data. Was the water not contaminated before the wells were fracked? Is it now? What is the chemical makeup of the contaminant?

The large majority of petroleum based water table contamination occurs on the surface and seeps down. Pipeline leakage or failure, old storage tanks leaking, point contamination where oil has been continuously dumped to saturation and migrate down, oil spills and yes, oil casing leakage have been responsible for ground water pollution. An old refinery in Wichita was responsible for some contamination several years ago, for instance.

But fracking causing water contamination directly? I'm gonna need some hard data on that, personally. Just because both happen underground where we can't see it doesn't make it likely.


CGHill said...

The other Scary Specter being raised is that of fracking-induced earthquakes.

Geez, if it were that simple, I'd go buy up a couple of leases on the San Andreas, just for S&G.

Anonymous said...

Frac'ed my first well in 1984. Blew out a well frac'ing one in 1986 or so....and that was exciting for about 24 hrs or so.

A frac job is a major opertion, expensive and dangerous. But no more complex, expensive or dangerous than most other industrial processes.

Bottom line is: No frac'ing, no new Domestic oil or gas production.

And you think we have problems now?