Midland - Fracing has been around for 100 years. Hydraulic fracturing has been around for over 50. But the technology has become more advanced, allowing operators to drill for oil and gas in parts of the country that were not economic before. As the oil companies come in, some people are looking for ways to get them out. Hydraulic fracturing has become one of their main areas of attack.
Producing oil and gas takes a lot more than drilling the well. In order for the hydrocarbons to flow to the surface, the well has to be fraced. "Otherwise, it's just a hole in the ground," says frac specialist George Miles, Henry Resources.
But some say the fracing process comes with a high price. Not just for the operator, but for anyone living near a well.
The Emmy Award-winning documentary Gasland explores numerous accusations, some surrounding the chemicals used to frac the well.
In the documentary, film director Josh Fox states, "In order to frac, you need fracing fluids. A mix of over 596 chemicals. From the unpronouncable, to the unknown, to the too well known." This statement is followed by a scrolling list of the various chemicals that are used in fracing.
So is it really dangerous, or does the film just make it sound that way?
Miles says, "The chemical volume is like less than half a percent of the whole volume."
90 percent of the fluid is made up of water, and the remaining 9.5 percent is sand. So if the chemicals only account for a .5 percent, is there reason to be alarmed? Perhaps there would be if the chemicals could get into the water table. But Miles suggests that's highly unlikey.
"We're at 10,000 feet," says Miles. The water table lies at 300 feet or less. That's 8,000 feet of isolation.
According to Miles, the water table is protected by more than distance. "The Texas Railroad Commission requires that it's protected, and they test it. We have two sets of casing to isolate us from the table. It's steal casing surrounded by cement. "
Should the Texas Railroad Commission find that it doesn't pass the required pressure test, the casing is condemned until the leak is corrected or the well is plugged. That's an expense that an operator never wants to face.
The Texas Railroad Commission will soon require something else. The Texas Hydraulic Fracturing Disclosure law passed in July, making Texas the first state to mandate the public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The law could take effect as early as January.
We'll wrap up this series next week by addressing one more timely concern. Fracing a well takes a substantial amount of water, which is not a good thing given our bone dry conditions. But one company says they've found a major water-saving solution. Details on Big 2 News next Thursday at 10pm.