Comments: Fracturing Threat
- John Donnelly (JPT Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2009
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 14
- 2009. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 71 since 2007
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Legislation introduced in the US could place heavy restrictions on the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, resulting in higher drilling costs and production delays.
With a new administration and Congress in place, the US oil and gas industry appears to be facing a new era of regulation. Three Democratic congressmen introduced a bill in June that would eliminate an exemption for hydraulic fracturing under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Currently, individual states in the US regulate fracturing but not the federal government. The legislators claim that fracturing may be releasing harmful chemicals and contaminating underground water reservoirs.
No federal or state studies have concluded that fracturing contaminates the water supply or has caused health problems. The exemption for hydraulic fracturing was part of the 2005 energy bill passed by Congress during the Bush administration and followed a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that found little or no threat to drinking water from fracturing. And in a report earlier this year, the US Department of Energy stated that “ground water is protected during the shale gas fracturing process by a combination of the casing and cement that is installed when the well is drilled and the thousands of feet of rock between the fracture zone and any fresh or treatable aquifers.”
The industry, including the American Petroleum Institute and the Independent Petroleum Producers Association, is gearing up for battle over regulating this common production practice. Fracturing is widely used in the US, and is critical in some of the country’s biggest production areas, including the Haynesville, Barnett, and Marcellus shale plays as well as tight gas production in the Rocky Mountains region in the western US.
The proposed legislation could give the EPA power to limit the type of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, control chemicals used in the practice, or prohibit hydraulic fracturing altogether. The proposed bill also would require companies to detail what chemicals or additives they use in fracturing, information that is usually considered proprietary. Fracturing fluids are generally water-based fluids mixed with additives to help the water carry sand proppant into fractures. Water and sand make up 98-99% of fracture fluid, with the rest chemical additives. The use of fracturing is one reason why shale gas production has become economically feasible in the past few years.
Eliminating the use of fracturing would cause a 45% drop in US natural gas production and a 17% decline in oil production within 5 years and continued declines after that, according to a study by IHS Herold. Restricting fracturing fluids would cut gas and oil production by 22% and 8%, respectively, while restricting chemical injection would lead to a 10% fall in gas output, according to the study. In addition, more regulation in this area would lead to higher costs, delays in drilling plans, and the possibility of litigation.
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