Thursday, February 14, 2013


Many towns across the USA are taking up the issue of fracking.  Most people don't seem to interested in having the neighborhood "fracked."  Who can blame them?  Fracking brings with it enormous problems and risks (despite what the oil and gas industry want you to believe).  Gary Wockner, PhD., an environmental activist in Fort Collins Colorado points out four key areas of concern:

Water: Thousands of spills and releases of drilling and fracking chemicals have occurred in drilled and fracked areas of the state, many impacting groundwater and some impacting surface water. Aquifer contamination has occurred. Wells have been poisoned. Water supplies are being stretched even thinner as rivers and farms are poised to be drained for drilling and fracking. 

Air: Two scientific studies - one by CU and another by NOAA - have found serious problems with air quality in heavily drilled and fracked areas of the state. Headaches, nose bleeds, dizziness, and asthma attacks are the most common complaints as methane, ozone, and other cancer-causing chemicals blow into nearby homes and communities.

Property Values: Residents across the state who have wells and drilling permits within a few hundred feet of their homes report difficulties selling their homes, negative impacts on their property values, difficulties buying homeowners insurance, and that mortgages and home equity loans are more heavily scrutinized.

Wildlife: All across the state in drilled and fracked areas, wildlife have been impacted including elk, mule deer, antelope, and sage grouse. Drilling and fracking may cause the Greater Sage Grouse to be listed as Endangered Species, and are increasingly impacting Colorado's hunting and recreational economy.

These, of course, are not the only issues of concern.  Take a look at what happened recently in Ohio where the  owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company accused of dumping more than 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River on Jan. 31 was charged criminally today with violating the federal Clean Water Act.  Ben Lupo is accused of ordering his employees on numerous occasions to dump tainted waste into a storm drain which led into a tributary to the Mahoning River.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Employees have told investigators that he ordered them to dump the waste at least 20 times and directed them to lie to investigators about the number of times they dumped the waste, according to documents related to the charges.

Did I forget to mention that Lupo's company, D and L Energy was the owner of a disposal well that Ohio officials have linked to series of earthquakes that shook the Youngstown, Ohio are in 2011 and 2012, 

A battle has been going on for a while now in Fort Collins, Colorado to stop fracking.  That battle is far from over.

However, an "accident" this week might open the eyes of those who are still supporting fracking in and around their town.  Oil laden fracking fluid poured out of an oil well near the city for nearly thirty hours before it was finally stopped.  Fifteen hundred feet away sits the home of some lucky family.  They aren't the only ones nearby, just the closest.

PDC Energy senior vice president of operations, Bart Brookman, quickly stated the accident would cause no environmental problems.  He also said he had no idea how much fluid spilled.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission currently estimates about 2,000 barrels or 84,000 gallons of fracking flowback water gushed into the environment during the incident. 

PDC Energy has been involved in 260 mostly small oil and gas spills and releases in Colorado since 2005.

Oh, I see...

The following post indicates old Bart got his facts wrong or "misspoke," and  is from the Coloradoan.


Green fluid gushes out of oil well for 30 hours
Green fluid gushes out of oil well for 30 hours: Oil-laden fracking fluid gushed from an oil well near Fort Collins, Colorado for nearly 30 hours before it was stopped.
    Oil-laden water leaks from an oil well east of Fort Collins Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. / V. Richard Haro/The Coloradoan

    The gushing fracking water leak has stopped, but many questions remain about its impact.

    It took at least 20 people to wrest control of the oil and gas well that spewed a horizontal geyser of green-tinted fracking water for more than 30 hours Monday and Tuesday about four miles east of Fort Collins.

    After that crew gained control around 4 p.m. Tuesday, well operator PDC Energy has five days to file a final report to state oil and gas regulators detailing the cause and impact of the accident, PDC Energy Vice President Bart Brockman said Wednesday.

    The volume of fluid released still isn’t known, but it will be revealed in PDC Energy’s report to the state, he said.

    What that fluid contained and what hazard it posed to the people living in the area are much more complicated questions to answer.

    A hydraulic failure caused a piece of equipment to fall and shear off a pin at the well head, breaking a valve and causing the release of a very large amount of “flowback” water, Brockman said.

    The well, called the “Ochsner 50-441,” was hydraulically fractured, or fracked, by Halliburton on Feb. 5, according to a report on the industry’s fracking disclosure website,

    Fracking involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into the oil well bore. In this case, Halliburton used 4.09 million gallons of water to frack the Ochsner well.

    The chemicals used to frack the well included at least 15 solvents and other chemicals composed of various hydrocarbons, surfactants, salts, sand and other ingredients.

    Some of those include petroleum naptha; naphthalene, a possible carcinogen; trimethylbenzene, a toxin not classified as a carcinogen; potasssium chloride, which is sometimes used for lethal injection; a toxic chemical commonly known as Tergitol NP-4; and many others, according to a list available on FracFocus.

    “The failure had nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing process,” Brockman said, calling the fluid that gushed from the well “flowback water” unrelated to fracking.

    “During a stage of well completion known as ‘flowback’, fracturing fluids, water and reservoir gas come to the surface at a high velocity and volume,” according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet on proposed EPA oil and gas air quality regulations.

    Brockman said that the flowback returning to the surface includes fracking fluid and a lot more: All the hydrocarbons -- crude oil and natural gas -- the well was drilled to produce.

    The EPA fact sheet says the flowback contains a high volume of volatile organic compounds and air toxics including benzene, ethylbenzene, and n-hexane.

    “The EPA estimates that uncontrolled hydraulically fractured wells may emit 240 times the amount of hazardous air pollutants as an unfractured well,” according to another EPA document. “The concern is that once the well has been hydraulically fractured, the large amount of fluid returns up the well bore to the surface where it was vented, releasing large amounts of hydrocarbons and chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process into the air.

    “These flowback emissions are short-term in nature but are substantial,” according to the EPA.

    About 1,000 feet away from the Ochsner well during the leak, a very strong petroleum odor wafted through the air. The nearest home was 1,500 feet away.
    Brockman said a mechanical failure of this magnitude is rare.

    “Operators all through Weld County have smaller spills on a more frequent basis related to their day-to-day operations,” he said.

    PDC Energy alone has been involved in 260 mostly small oil and gas spills and releases in Colorado since 2005, according to state records, which show that there have been more than 1,800 such spills, leaks and releases in Weld County and at least 46 in Larimer County since 1992.

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