Vortex Tools explores the recent changes to oil and gas fracking regulations going into 2012.
Ah, the second week of the New Year. The gyms are still packed, diets are still obeyed, but some things are already changing.
Fracking (using highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals to fracture a rock layer for improved oil and gas productivity) may not resemble anything close to a green issue, but the controversial practice is set to face some potentially major changes. Given the outcry from environmentalists, it’s an issue that touches every company in the oil and gas industry, whether they’re involved with the practice or not. (Despite providing green benefits in the oil and gas industry by eliminating vapors, reducing volatile flowback startup times, and improving natural gas liquid recovery, Vortex Tools has no tie to fracking.)
Admittedly, when hydraulic fracturing started getting popular in oil and gas, I figured the Environmental Protection Agency wouldn’t let it last in its current form (my bet was less than five years). Sure enough, the EPA and the oil and gas industry are duking it out now over the practice, and it is likely that regulation changes loom in the near future. Other parts of the world are already shifting, as France already banned fracking in July 2011 and the Nova Scotia government will make recommendations on changes to fracking in March 2012.
The basic stances are as follows:
1) The oil and gas industry believes that the science behind fracking is sound, and when enacted properly, no groundwater contamination occurs, as the fracking veins don’t spread anywhere near water. They also contend that many of the pollutants blamed on fracking chemicals are actually naturally occurring.
2) Environmentalists contend that fracking chemicals are responsible for groundwater contamination, and that given the way water naturally flows to the path of least resistance, the veins created by the force of fracking not only provide routes for contamination, but fundamentally damage the rock structure, causing even more problems.
One of the main points of contention is the contents of fracking chemicals. Environmentalists believe the contents need to be disclosed to fully assess their potential damage, whereas fracking chemical suppliers don’t want their patented secrets revealed to their competitors. Regardless, these cases of disclosure are still fought on a state-by-state basis. Wyoming was one of the first states to disclose fracking chemical contents and Colorado has ruled to make public all fracking chemical contents, even those considered trade secrets.
In December 2011, the EPA announced for the first time that fracking chemicals may be to blame for a groundwater pollution. Even with that theoretical accusation, several oil and gas companies, including Chesapeake and EnCana (who owns the Wyoming field in question), disputed the claim, citing the need for more definitive (and independent) data before assigning fault. Both companies again asserted, internally and publicly, that what the EPA is blaming on fracking chemicals is caused by nature.
Okay, let’s have a moment of honesty here: With the EPA and Chesapeake on opposite sides of the fracking issue, is anyone surprised at these findings and subsequent rebuttals? If so, I’ve got other news for you: The sky is still blue and some celebrity got divorced.
Whatever your view on fracking and its pros and cons, this is a heated issue that’s likely to evolve and unlikely be resolved any time soon. How much change fracking regulations will go through in 2012 has yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: Neither side will be appeased.
Oh, and I don’t think fracking detractors are going to ditch the trend of using “frack” as a derogatory and implied, substitute cuss word either. I’ll bet money on that one.
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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:
-SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with a 3.5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).
-Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).
-Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.)