March 5, 2012

Where is fracking taking place in the U.S.?

Lest you think that fracking is only accelerating in Pennsylvania, here's a brief look at just a few places it's occurring. It may be a case of  "speed trumps safety" as permits are approved in the blink of an eye.

Kansas: The burst of drilling pushed temporary water permits for oil and gas exploration in Kansas along the geologic formation called the Mississippian to a nearly 30-year high in 2011—600, and they approved all but two. Those were turned down only because of a lack of water in the area. One company in Kansas has about 1.4 million acres for drilling and expects to have at least 57 wells in the state by the end of the year, And this is in an area that had severe drought problems in 2011.

Ohio: In addition to MANY permits for disposal of fracking water and chemicals, new drilling activity was going strong in the Utica Shale deposit in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued 18 permits to one Chesapeake Company to drill horizontal wells in ONE county alone. This same company has permits for another 50+ wells in Ohio, with 10 wells waiting to be fracked any day. In early January, Ohio joined Arkansas in imposing a moratorium on these wells after several minor earthquakes--11 since last March--in a state not known for seismic activity. As wastewater was injected into Ohio wells under pressure, some of it might have migrated into deeper rock formations, unclamping ancient faults and allowing the rock to slip. Scientists refer to this as induced seismicity. The Ohio Governor says he will introduce new energy legislation by mid-March that will impact Utica and Marcellus Shale drilling in his state. Stay tuned.

State records show that more than 5,500 oil and gas industry pollution complaints have been filed in Oklahoma since 2007, including reports of groundwater contamination, oil and gas leaks and spills of drilling water. Officials issued 380 violation orders with fines, but dismissed most of the complaints, a record that some environmentalists say shows the need for more federal oversight.

North Dakota: Their Bakken oil and gas fields are now booming with rigs. The fracking boom there was the subject of recent news specials as large numbers of unemployed from Florida have migrated to North Dakota, overwhelming the infastructure, but getting jobs.

Texas: The Big Oil state now has about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 a dozen years ago. To get at the rich deposits of the13,000 square mile Barnett Shale deposit, geologists are frequently drilling right next to subdivisions and shopping centers. Fort Worth has more than 2,000 gas wells right in the city itself, most of that growth taking place within just the last five years. On the other hand, Pittsburgh, facing the prospect of urban drilling, forbade it last year by a vote of the City Council.

One hospital system near many fracked wells said in 2010 that it found a 25 percent asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7 percent. HMMMM?

But the drop in natural gas prices has put a damper on the drilling in the Barnett. Plus the record heat and drought in Texas in 2011 is making them take a hard look at the amount of water needed in fracking here.

Wyoming: The Cowboy State has seen hundreds of new gas wells drilled in the past 15 years, with 200 near the town of Pavillion alone. But residents started alleging a connection between the drilling and water contamination in their wells about ten years ago. The EPA began a review in 2009 and last December stated that harmful chemicals from fracking fluids were likely present in the Pavillion aquifer. The EPA was careful to note that its findings "are specific to Pavillion" and are not applicable to fracking projects all over the country. the aquifer in Pavillion will never be cleaned. The contamination there, for the foreseeable future, is permanent Hmmm.