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Archive for January, 2012

Yeah, I said it in the title, but I’ll say it again: The updated Vortex Tools site is live!

Vortex Tools has redone its site to give oil and gas engineers easier access to Technical Reports (White Papers, case studies, and installation instructions) and Media (promotional materials and published articles).

In addition to featuring key surface and downhole applications, the Vortex site now features an updated list of the available Vortex tools, including:

The surface flowback (SX-FB) tool:  A large, East Texas independent (in conjunction with a leading flowback and well testing company) placed a Vortex SX-FB tool between the high-pressure separator and heater-treater and was able to reduce the production lost to the pit by one day, generating an additional $500,000 in previously “lost” production and significantly reduced their emissions impact.

The wireline retrievable (DX-WR) tool for increased gas storage recovery: With the DX-WR tool, underground gas storage companies are able to recover more of the gas stored in caverns, thereby profiting more in winter from the gas (usually) stored during the summer. Prior to the Vortex DX-WR tools, in the test region, 6% of the gas stored could never be recovered (the maximum recovery rate in this set of caverns was only 92%). After the DX-WRs were installed, in some cases, over 100% of the prior year injected gas was recovered.

For all this and more, please visit the new VortexTools.com

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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 up to a 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.) 

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Vortex Tools explores why the oil and gas industry believes fracking does not contaminate groundwater, and why, even when they are to blame (in this case of contamination or otherwise), they won’t take responsibility until they’re forced to do so.

With the potential changes coming to hydraulic fracturing in 2012, we’ve spent a number of blogs recently focusing on the controversial practice.

To recap here are the two opposing stances:

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 (some say earthquakes).

While the environmentalist stance is (mostly) easy to understand, it seems as though the pro-fracking stance needs more of an explanation to not just seem like some cover story to avert blame (especially as oil and gas companies are already branded as eco-villains).

When I checked in with an operator on the fracking controversy, he wrote the following:

Everywhere I know of where true science has been applied, it has been found to be of no effect. We had a water well on the ranch in Southeastern Colorado that made enough methane to run an industrial engine, and no well had been drilled for 15 miles in any direction.  You don’t have to be in the O & G business very long until a farmer or rancher will tell you, “You need to lease my land.  I know there is oil and gas here because I get it from my water well.”  But you drill a well and they say, “you contaminated my water well, pay up.”

Oil and gas migrate thru a thousand feet of “impermeable sediments” over hundreds of thousands of years, not decades. It can happen thru faulty cementing of the casing or casing failures, but, if it occurs during fracking, you know instantly.  You can run a temperature survey after a frac or put a small radioactive tag in the proppant and see exactly where it went.  

Fracture generation generally is out and down, with some up, due to the forces of gravity.  The “up’ stops when a clay or shale bed of relatively small thickness is reached.  To have 100′ of total fracture height takes a tremendous amount of horsepower and an extremely brittle, homogeneous formation.

Oil and gas entities are in the business of trying to generate profits for their shareholders, not paying out huge sums for contaminated water wells, whether the damage is insured or not.  Therefore, fracture height, surrounding sediment beds and cement and casing integrity are always taken into account in the frac design. 

This operator would admit, along with most oil and gas workers, that when mistakes are made, they are costly (environmentally, financially, time wise). So even though the oil and gas industry can argue the validity of the science and the natural occurrence of deemed pollutants, mistakes aren’t about good science or what’s naturally occurring. Mistakes are when things went wrong and the companies at fault should be held responsible.

That said, with the debate about what would have happened naturally (without oil and gas companies’ intervention) and the accepted large cost of faulty business practice, no company is going to take the burden when the proof of fault is — despite what either side would say — undetermined. By the end of 2012, however, that debate may be over.

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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 up to a 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.) 

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Vortex Tools goes in search of a neutral definition of the controversial fracking process, yet comes back with hands smeared with bias from both sides of the issue.

Oh, there he is. He's much easier to find as a giant head in the middle of the page.

Waldo. Carmen Sandiego. That leprechaun with my pot of gold. A neutral definition of fracking.

What do these things have in common? That’s right, they’re hard to find, and the people who’ve found them aren’t sharing on the internet. Instead, you get a lot of opinion staplegunned to the facts (especially with that leprechaun — why is he so greedy?).

A couple of weeks back, we talked about the potential changes coming to fracking in 2012, and while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to finish their official report by the end of January — as opposed to quipping what people figured they’d find anyway: that hydraulic fracturing is responsible for groundwater contamination (followed by a predictable rebuttal from the oil and gas industry) —  it’s hard to find a neutral definition of what the process is.

Let’s look at what we get instead:

Save the intense battle music, this video doesn’t start half bad. Early on, there are couple of key phrases that indicate the narrator’s bias — “toxic products” (0:22), “highly damaging” (0:34) — but by the second half of the video, I can’t be bothered to keep track, so from 1:13 on, hello, blunt anti-fracking opinion.

(Not that the creators were trying to hide their bias, mind you.)

Meanwhile, some companies in the oil and gas industry  want to pretend as though there’s no controversy at all:

Here we get snazzy graphics and a couple of comments to subtlety defend against the accusations lobbed their way:

  • Fracking merely exploiting “natural zones of weakness” and being contained “well below the ground” (i.e. groundwater): 1:31-1:50.
  • Recycling/disposing of fracking liquids “according to state and federal regulations” at 3:25-3:35.

(Could’ve done with some battle music…)

Inevitably, I’m not labeling these biases as good or bad; I’m just pointing out what’s there. Except you, leprechaun with the pot of gold, hurry up already. I’ve got bills to pay.

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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 up to a 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.) 

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Vortex Tools looks at President Obama’s decision today to reject the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline project and what this means for environmentalists and the oil and gas industry. The short answer: Everything went as expected and nothing has changed.

With President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline project, let’s take a look at how we got here:

For years, TransCanada Corp. has tried to get the Keystone XL pipeline built. Since the proposed 1,980-mile-long pipeline would move heavy Canadian crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands through Nebraska and to the U.S. Gulf Coast, this required a permit from the State Department (to cross the U.S.-Canada border). In November 2011, President Obama delayed his final decision until after the 2012 election, citing the need for more review.

Okay, let’s hit the pause button here: If it isn’t obvious, President Obama’s main reason for delaying making a decision until after his reelection year was (mostly) to avoid alienating voters. This isn’t a tactic specific to any politician or party; it’s standard fare with any hot-button issue where you’re going to lose voters no matter what you do (especially in this case where the unions are for the project and environmentalists are opposed — splitting two key Democratic voting groups). Though I understand the tactic, it’s one more reminder that the skeleton of political integrity has long since been pecked clean by vultures.

Protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Thus proponents of the pipeline (with their supporters in a Republican-led Congress) forced President Obama to make a decision via GOP provisions in December’s payroll tax cut extension deal. That decision was made today, and, as expected, President Obama rejected the pipeline deal based on the “arbitrary” deadline, not the merits of the project itself. It’s that annoying circular logic where the President cites being forced to decide too fast as the reason for the rejection and Congress cites his inability to decide as the reason for forcing his hand. In the end, the average voter just sees the circular nature of politicians having their heads bent around and shoved up you-know-where.

Both sides released statements where they could score points: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, “President Obama is destroying tens of thousands of American jobs and shipping American energy security to the Chinese. (He’s) selling out American jobs for politics.” TransCanada Corp predicted 13,000 jobs from constructing the estimated $13 billion pipeline, 7,000 manufacturing jobs and “the 118,000 spin-off jobs Keystone XL will create through increased business for local goods and service providers.” Since the pipeline would go through Nebraska, naturally a large chunk of those jobs would benefit that state.

(Score one point for job growth in a poor economy.)

President Obama said, “In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security – including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico – even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas. And we will do so in a way that benefits American workers and businesses without risking the health and safety of the American people and the environment.” One of the main concerns with the Keystone XL project is how to avoid the scenic and sensitive Sand Hills area.

(Score one point for environmentalism while maintaining the potential for job growth.)

Unlike Republicans backing the oil and gas industry and Democrats backing environmentalists, there are actually some things that are debatable in this project:

  • Since it’s presently difficult to transport, Canadian crude is, on average $25/barrel less than most oil in U.S. markets. If you increase the ease of its availability and transportation via a pipeline, the value of Canadian crude oil could easily go up by $3/barrel, bringing up the price of gasoline by 7 cents/gallon. Meanwhile, others argue that the overall increased availability will benefit the U.S.
  • Many label the Keystone XL pipeline as an export line (for Europe and Latin America), arguing this Canadian crude oil doesn’t benefit the U.S. (and its dependency on foreign oil) nearly as much as it should.
  • When you’re talking about projected jobs and costs, both of those numbers are highly subject to change (especially those 118,000 spin-off jobs that make up the meat of the job growth).
  • Environmental impact is tough to predict, but another 500,000 barrels/day chugging down the landscape will continue to be sternly opposed by environmentalists.

Alas, these issues are buried beneath all the minutiae of what will affect the  next election.

So what’s changed then? Nothing really. Oil stocks and Canadian crude values will likely take a hit in the coming days, both sides will continue to try to find ways to bring up the issue in the next election cycle, and the decision will inevitably be made based on the party in charge and the voting groups they appease. Sounds like every political issue ever.

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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 up to a 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.) 

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While I think solar power does have its share of issues, the gist of this one is fair:

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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 up to a 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.) 

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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.

Here's an image of a *small* fracking job

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.) 

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