Energy policy — oil and gas: Industry reps defend hydraulic fracturing at BLM public forum in Golden

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The forum, which included speakers from the Bureau of Land Management, state regulators and the oil and gas industry, drew about 300 to the Denver West Marriott in Golden. It was the third in a series of BLM-hosted hearings nationwide about fracturing, or fracking, and energy production on public lands. The BLM is contemplating new federal regulations, though the Environmental Protection Agency has found no evidence of water-quality degradation from fracking, said Dave Cesark of Mesa Energy. The EPA is conducting another study into fracking to be completed next year…

Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry on private lands, said Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for gas production and 10th in oil. He said most of Colorado’s 44,000 active wells rely on fracking to create permeability in the rock and open pathways for oil and gas to reach the surface. “This technology is absolutely vital to unlocking Colorado’s rich oil and gas reserves,” he said…

Rich Ward, a geologist with the Aspen Science Center, said there are seven layers of steel piping and cement that isolate the well from contact with subsurfaces, including water tables. “Well integrity is the absolute key in this whole process,” he said. That said, he noted it’s possible for a casing to be flawed but that if proper pressure checks are done, any such flaws can be quickly repaired…

Neslin said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s regulations are similar to the BLM’s. He said the COGCC has investigated hundreds of complaints about contamination related to fracking “and to date we’ve not found any instances of groundwater contamination.” He said the agency is going beyond regulations with participation in a new website – http://www.fracfocus.org – where oil and gas producers voluntarily report the chemicals used in fracking. Thirty-five operators have so far registered to participate, including large operators such as Halliburton. Cesark said, in general, 99.5 percent of fracking materials are sand and water. The other 0.5 percent of materials used, he said, are chemicals commonly found in households, such as acids, antibacterial agents, corrosion inhibitors, lubricants and gels. He said there is typically a mile to two miles of separation between an aquifer and shale formations where fracking takes place. Between those layers is impermeable rock. “The risk of fracking fluid coming in contact with an aquifer is extremely remote and there really are a great many precautions that take place to prevent it,” Cesark said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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