Techbits: SPE Summit Addresses Hydraulic Fracturing Issues
- John Veil (Argonne National Laboratory)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 30 - 31
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The first SPE Technical Summit, titled “Hydraulic Fracturing: Ensuring Groundwater Protection,” was held in conjunction with the SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference in the Woodlands, Texas, in January. About 80 people representing industry producers and service companies, consulting firms, academia, national laboratories, state and federal government, and national governmental organizations (NGOs) participated.
The discussion focused on the impact of fracturing on groundwater. The summit began with a keynote presentation by a state regulatory official on how state oil and gas agencies are evaluating and regulating hydraulic fracturing. Organized into four 90-minute sessions, each session had two or three short presentations by experts who provided information and stimulated discussion. The themes were:
- What is hydraulic fracturing?
- What are the issues?
- Environmental risks and issues—facts vs. perception
- How to move forward?
US states have the lead role in regulating most oil and gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing. Among the approximately 30 oil- and gas-producing states, there is a range of requirements and levels of detail regarding the type of hydraulic fracturing information that must be reported to the agencies.
One presentation introduced the collaborative efforts of a nonprofit, multi-stakeholder group known as the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) that provides critical reviews of state oil and gas programs and offers suggestions for improvement. Teams made up of members from states, industry, NGOs, and others periodically conduct detailed reviews of state oil and gas regulatory programs. The group developed guidelines for hydraulic fracturing in January 2010. They set forth general principles such as:
- Wells should be properly designed and constructed.
- Water, wastewater, and waste management should be planned and conducted in a careful manner.
- Information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations should be disclosed and reported.
Focused reviews of state hydraulic fracturing requirements have been conducted in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and reviews of Oklahoma and Louisiana requirements are in progress. STRONGER also is an advocate for sufficient funding and training of state agency staff in order to provide a better oversight of oil and gas activities.
What is Hydraulic Fracturing?
This session discussed the history of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on the oil and natural gas industry both past and future. It laid out the foundation of horizontal wellbore construction and described the principles of hydraulic fracturing and its integral role in recovering natural gas.
The first use of the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing began in 1985 in the Austin Chalk in Texas. These efforts showed good results and were soon transferred to the Barnett Shale and later to other shale formations.
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