Wow — fracking without sand

Bill Ferullo captured fracking dust rising from a natural gas site near his Pennsylvania home.

Bill Ferullo captured fracking dust rising from a natural gas site near his Pennsylvania home.

Whenever the oil & gas industry does something that saves them money they call it common sense. But when it comes to worker safety and public health, any changes are deemed too costly.

For years residents living near well pads have complained about the dust associated with the use of silica sand in fracking. The Daily Sentinel published an article today by Dennis Webb about Encana’s efforts to eliminate sand from the fracking process. The article is free for non-scribers.

The silica solution

A “what-the-heck” experiment by a leading energy company in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin is paying off with big cost savings and elimination of a newly emerging health concern for oil and gas workers.

The endeavor by Encana USA also is challenging one of the basic tenets of the process of hydraulic fracturing, the practice that has unlocked the basin’s natural gas resource.

Hydraulic Fracturing 101 holds that to develop that gas, and oil and gas reserves in many states, companies inject a mix of water, chemical additives and sand into wells under high pressure to create fractures that are kept open by the sand that’s left behind.

Now Encana is rewriting the book on fracturing, at least in the sandstone formations where most Piceance gas development occurs. It has eliminated the sand and found it doesn’t harm well productivity. The company is careful to emphasize that the approach wouldn’t likely work in a lot of situations, such as in emerging oil and gas development in shale formations in several states, including in Colorado and specifically the Piceance. Still, Encana’s determination that it doesn’t need sand or a similar proppant in its Piceance sandstone formation wells is turning heads.

“Interesting. Wow,” said Jeremy Boak, an assistant research professor at the Colorado School of Mines.

“Wow,” agreed Frank Smith of the Western Colorado Congress citizens group …

My comment:
“Wow” is the word for it all right. Here we have the industry basically admitting that fracking dust is hazardous to the health of workers and residents living nearby but not until they could realize a cost savings were they willing to do anything about it. And this is just one company – Encana — in one region – Piceance Basin. Fracking dust is still a problem in oil & gas plays all across the U.S.:  Worker Exposure to Crystalline Silica During Hydraulic Fracturing

It’s disturbing to see another case of government and industry blatantly putting profits ahead of worker safety and public health.

And they’re still using up more water for fracking in place of sand. Yes, they’re quick to tout their wastewater recycling efforts but that’s another area where costs come into consideration as revealed in this April Denver Post article:  Oil, gas companies urged to clean, reuse muck, but process expensive

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Bob Arrington’s comment:
In their euphoria of cost saving and extolling other benefits of fracking without sand, did admit it was hazardous to workers.

For Dave Devanney’s video, he received many obnoxious comments from workers, but almost all said how it was benign and harmless. The obvious question is what are workers told?

The result of this will be the drillers will examine their drill cuttings to determine if the fracking needs sand or not. It has long been a practice to hit as many cracks as possible in shale formations and, in Divide Creek seep, this may have been a factor in there drilling choices if the crews were fresh from shale drilling..

This does not change the use of chemicals and it may be that more acid use is being done. It is also a fact that more sand use will probably be necessary in fracked shale, as the shale often closes about the sand particles.

Once again the old argument arises about how safe it is being thousands of feet underground, with the geologic turmoil many formations have experienced and in particular the Silt area, these cracks, faults and the producing formations themselves come clear up to the surface.

Notice Susan’s comments about the “socks” and notice she says workers could use safety gear like respirators, but does not say it is mandatory.

*Bob Arrington is a retired engineer and the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). He also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens.

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In other more disturbing news –

Are Fracking Wastewater Wells Poisoning the Ground beneath Our Feet?
Leaking injection wells may pose a risk–and the science has not kept pace with the growing glut of wastewater

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

It’s a really long article and the answer is YES.

But watch what happens whenever indisputable evidence shows fracking contaminates groundwater. The EPA bows to industry-lobbied state (and local) governments and backs off.

Pavillion, Wyoming Fracking Pollution Study Dropped By EPA, Investigation Turned Over To State

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