Exploring the myth and lore around hydraulic fracturing — ‘…tests are showing that the fractures usually go only 200 or 300 feet’


From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Hydraulic fracturing — sometimes called “fracking” — is a process of pumping a water, sand and chemical mixture into shale formations under high pressure to break up rock and get oil and natural gas flowing more readily, said Dale Larsen, a sales representative for CALFRAC, who spent most of his career since 1978 as a petroleum engineer in fracking…

Some people believe hydraulic fracturing is a new and untested process, but it goes back to 1948, when it was first used in southwest Kansas, Larsen said. People used to think that fracking produced fractures that went for thousands of feet, but tests are showing that the fractures usually go only 200 or 300 feet, he said, and the process does not create earthquakes…

Wells have pipes put in them, and those have a cement casing around them to keep oil or gas from escaping. When the pipes have reached the desired areas, they are perforated with charges and then water, sand and chemicals are pushed into the sandstone to force oil and gas out. However, the part of the pipe which passes through water table is not perforated, and the area where the fractures occur are thousands of feet lower than the water table, Larsen said. Groundwater rarely gets as far down as 1,000 feet…

There is federal regulation of at least one aspect of hydraulic fracturing. When water comes back up the pipe, it must be contained and either purified or disposed of safely, Larsen said. Sometimes that water is filtered and reused, depending on what kinds of minerals may have mixed with it, he said. Other times, it is disposed of in deep wells below the water table, Larsen said.

Meanwhile, Longmont gave folk a look at their proposed oil and gas regulations on Friday. Here’s a report from Scott Rochat writing for the Longmont Times-Call. From the article:

If approved, the rules would be the first update of Longmont’s drilling regulations since 2000. Pressure to upgrade the rules began last fall when TOP Operating announced plans for a multi-well site near Union Reservoir.

The updated rules will be reviewed by the city’s planning commission Wednesday. The commission then will decide whether to send them to the City Council for approval.

Longmont has a moratorium on new oil and gas permits through April 17 to allow time for new rules to be adopted.

Drafting the rules has meant walking a fine line for the city. On the one hand, many residents have told city officials they want the toughest regulations possible. On the other hand, state rules and court decisions put certain areas off-limits. Longmont can’t completely ban drilling within city limits, for example, nor can it mandate tougher setback distances — such as the space between a well and an occupied building — than the state allows.

That left the “carrot” approach, according to city planner Brien Schumacher: Put in a recommended set of guidelines that are tougher than the state’s, to be voluntarily agreed to. If a company agrees to all of them, they can have their permit approved by city staff; if they don’t, it has to go through a full planning commission review and possibly an appeal to the City Council.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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