HSE NOW articles are available to SPE members.
Login Now

More Oil and Gas Drillers Turn to Water Recycling

Source: Fuel Fix | 12 November 2013

When the rain stopped falling in Texas, the prairie grass yellowed, the soil cracked, and oil drillers were confronted with a crisis. After years of easy access to cheap, plentiful water, the land they prized for its vast petroleum wealth was starting to dry up.

At first, the drought that took hold a few years ago seemed to threaten the economic boom that arose from hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method that uses huge amounts of high-pressure, chemical-laced water to free oil and natural gas trapped deep in underground rocks. But drillers have found a way to get by with much less water: They recycle it using systems that not long ago they may have eyed with suspicion.

“This was a dramatic change to the practices that the industry used for many, many years,” said Paul Schlosberg, cofounder and chief financial officer of Water Rescue Services, the company that runs recycling services for Fasken Oil and Ranch in West Texas, which is now 90% toward its goal of not using any freshwater for fracturing.

Before the drought, “water was prevalent, it was cheap and it was taken for granted,” he added.

Just a few years ago, many drillers suspected water recyclers were trying to sell an unproven idea designed to drain money from multimillion-dollar businesses. Now the system is helping drillers use less freshwater and dispose of less wastewater. Recycling is rapidly becoming a popular and economic solution for a burgeoning industry.

The change is happening so swiftly that regulators are racing to keep up and in some cases taking steps to make it easier for drillers to recycle.

Energy Ministers Endorse CCS as Key to Combating Climate Change

Source: Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum | 8 November 2013

Energy and environment ministers from the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum’s (CSLF) member nations endorsed carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies as a key component of international plans to combat climate change. Their endorsement is viewed as affirmation that carbon capture and storage must be an integral component of any international plan to combat climate change.

In a communiqué released following day-long discussions, CSLF member country ministers and heads of delegation affirmed that CCS is an indispensable element of any effective response to climate change. The ministers stressed, “we are convinced that the demonstration and global deployment of carbon capture and storage must be accelerated, and we are committed to taking necessary actions individually and collaboratively to make this happen.”

CCS is a group of technologies for capturing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, emitted by power plants or industrial facilities and safely injecting it deep underground into suitable, permanent geologic storage sites. It is increasingly viewed by international experts as an essential part of a portfolio of responses by the world to effective management and reduction of human-based carbon dioxide emissions.

The communique’ points out that CCS is a low-carbon technology option critical to the global quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, and CCS is the only climate change mitigation technology option available to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from both coal and gas-fired power plants and a range of industrial processes including cement and steel manufacturing.

While valuable experience has been gained during the past decades, the next 7 years are critically important for creating the conditions for CCS to be ready for large-scale deployment by the end of the decade, according to the ministers. “It is clear that significant progress has been made on CCS, challenges remain, but these are challenges that we can—and will—overcome.” The ministers stressed that their common goal is to ensure that the conditions are right for completing CCS projects currently under construction or in advanced stages of planning and that the number of new large CCS demonstrations is increased by 2020 to enable future commercial deployment in the early 2020s.

Three Reasons Why We Should, Why We Aren’t, And How We Can Reduce Gas Flaring

Source: Oil and Gas iQ | 8 November 2013

Natural Gas flaring has been a constant since the oil business began, but now the tables are turning on this common practice. Find out why and how we can cut flaring to a bare minimum and exactly why we’re only broaching the subject now.

Who Is Watching Oil Pipeline Safety in the United States?

Source: OilPrice.com | 1 November 2013

North Dakota’s governor said he was frustrated with the way in which federal regulators were monitoring pipeline safety. An oil spill in the west of the state went unnoticed until a farmer discovered it in his field last month. Regulators, the governor said, don’t monitor rural areas the same way they do elsewhere. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, supporters of a controversial pipeline bill say more infrastructure is needed and fast in order to keep up with the oil boom under way in the central United States. That measure, however, does little to allay the safety concerns about the spider web of oil and natural gas pipelines already in place across the country.

“[The federal] Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requires the use of enhanced pipeline monitoring and control technology in locations considered ‘high-consequence areas’ such as cities and near drinking water supplies,” North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “Rural areas don’t necessarily get the same level of oversight from PHMSA and that is concerning.”

Ohio Finds No Water-Well Problems From Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: The Akron Beacon Journal | 25 October 2013

Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Utica shale has not created any major problems with Ohio’s drinking water, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Its Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has investigated 183 water-well complaints that Ohio landowners filed from 2010 through mid-October. Only six water supplies were affected by drilling over the nearly four-year period, state spokesman Mark Bruce said.

All of those problems stemmed from old, vertical-only wells, not today’s big horizontal wells that rely on fracturing to free natural gas, oil, and other liquids from rocks deep underground, he said.

To date, Ohio has approved 927 horizontal wells in the Utica shale formation, of which 577 had been drilled as of 12 October. A total of 164 Utica wells are in production. Thirty drilling rigs are in Ohio.

“None of the impacted water supplies were related to hydraulic fracturing or horizontal shale drilling,” Bruce said in an email.

Red, Boots and Coots: Writing the Book on Fighting Well Fires

Source: Rigzone | 14 October 2013

Well fires have been around almost as long as wells. Whether started by an act of nature, accidentally during drilling, or deliberately (like the well fires in Kuwait that were started by Saddam Hussein’s forces during the Persian Gulf War), well fires have two things in common—they are dangerous, and the wells contain a fuel source to feed them.

Because of the amount of fuel available, a well fire can burn for months and generate temperatures of more than 2,000℉. In the early 1960s, one natural gas well fire called the “Devil’s Cigarette Lighter” burned out of control in the Algerian Sahara Desert, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air. Fed by 550 MMcf of natural gas a day, the Devil’s Cigarette Lighter burned for 6 months before it was eventually extinguished, according to Sean Flynn, author of “The Big Heat.”

Fighting well fires requires the right techniques, as well as the right equipment. But most of all, fighting fires requires the right people.

Custom Designing Fracturing Fluids Enhances Water-Management Strategy

Source: E&P | 10 October 2013

The industry is becoming more creative in how it manages water to maximize efficiency in its operations while reducing environmental footprint.

Water is the base fluid—and most important component—in the process of hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas development in North America. With the growing demand for fracturing, oilfield service providers face significant challenges to find and use water from nonfresh sources that will work effectively with their fracturing fluids while also minimizing the impact of their operations on the environment.

One significant change in fracturing operations is that the industry needs to use more water, which requires more efficiency. As a result, the industry is constantly getting more creative in how it manages its water to maximize efficiency in its operations while reducing environmental footprint.

Colorado Finds No Floodwater Pollution From Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: The Washington Times | 9 October 2013

The environmental disaster forecast by anti-hydraulic fracturing activists after last month’s epic Colorado flooding didn’t quite materialize.

The results of water samplings conducted 26 September by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found “no evidence of pollutants from oil and gas spills in rivers and streams affected by flooding,” according to an update released this week.

“Although much attention was focused on spills from oil and gas operations, it is reassuring the sampling shows no evidence of oil and gas pollutants,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer. “There were elevated E. coli levels, as we expected, in some locations.”

GAO Says Environmental Well Inspections Are Falling Short

Source: Fuel Fix | 27 September 2013

Environmental inspections of oil and gas facilities on public lands have soared since 2007, but federal investigators said on 23 September that the government is doing a poor job of targeting the riskiest sites.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office faulted the Bureau of Land Management for not including information about the environmental inspection history of many wells in its central database for tracking oil and gas facilities on public lands.

As a result, the inspection prioritization process “does not have sufficient information to ensure that wells receiving inspections are those that pose the greatest environmental risk,” said the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm. Other problems include “inconsistent documentation of inspections and enforcement actions and challenges with retaining and hiring environmental staff in some offices.”

Fracturing May Not Be as Bad for the Climate as We Thought

Source: The Washington Post | 27 September 2103

At first glance, the shale-gas boom in the United States looks like good news for efforts to tackle global warming. Cheap natural gas is pushing out dirtier coal in the power sector, which is one reason U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen 12% since 2005.

But there’s always been a massive caveat to this story—methane. If too much methane is leaking out of our natural-gas infrastructure, then the shale boom might be worsening climate change. And we don’t quite know how much methane is seeping out, exactly.

That’s why a new study on methane leaks by The University of Texas is such a big deal. By taking detailed measurements from select wells around the country, the study found that leaks from shale-gas hydraulic fracturing appear to be quite low—which implies that swapping out coal for shale gas is indeed beneficial from a climate perspective.

Gas Flaring Increases Despite Environmental and Health Concerns

Source: The Globe and Mail | 10 September 2013

Canada’s oil and gas industry is burning off an increasing amount of natural gas into the atmosphere, a controversial practice known as flaring, driven by a drop in natural gas prices and an increase in unconventional and remote drilling.

After years of making progress to reduce flaring, the oil and gas industry acknowledges it has been backsliding and needs to capture more of the gas for both economic and environmental reasons.

The recognition comes as environmental groups and people living near flaring sites are calling on the industry, government, and regulators to take more action, given the potential health and environmental affects of releasing chemicals, greenhouse gases and particles during open-flame burning.

“We’ve seen some migration back to additional flaring,” said David Pryce, vice-president of operations at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“We know we have a performance expectation we have to meet. … Industry is trying to strike the balance of enabling the site to be produced and addressing the concerns that might be there, as well.”

Study Claims Fish Kill Resulted From Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Spill

Source: US Fish & Wildlife Service | 29 August 2013

Hydraulic fracturing fluids are believed to be the cause of the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork, after spilling from nearby natural gas well sites. These findings are the result of a joint study by the US Geological Survey and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Blackside dace are a colorful minnow found in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and western Virginia. (Conservation Fisheries via US Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Acorn Fork, a small Appalachian creek, is habitat for the federally threatened Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow. The Acorn Fork is designated by Kentucky as an Outstanding State Resource Waters.

“Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills,” said USGS scientist Diana Papoulias, the study’s lead author. “This is especially the case if the species is threatened or is only found in limited areas, like the Blackside dace is in the Cumberland.”

The Blackside dace typically lives in small, semi-isolated groups, so harmful events run the risk of completely eliminating a local population. The species is primarily threatened with loss of habitat.

After the spill of hydraulic fracturing fluid, state and federal scientists observed a significant die-off of aquatic life in Acorn Fork including the Blackside dace as well as several more common species like the Creek chub and Green sunfish. They had been alerted by a local resident who witnessed the fish die-off. The Service and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are currently working toward restoration of the natural resources that were injured by the release.