Friday, October 2, 2009

More on Fracking Concerns

Before I delve into this, I have to say that I'm in a minor quandary. There seems to be no consensus as to how one should spell the gerund version of the short name of hydraulic fracturing. Is it fracing? Or fracking? I've even seen fraccing. I've used "fracing" somewhat consistently, but now I think I'm going to switch to "fracking" because it just looks better. Also "fracing" looks like you might pronounce it "frace-ing." I wrote a paper on Muammar Qaddafi in high school and realized that there are more than a dozen spellings of his name. At least this is less complicated. Declaration complete, back to business...

I've been reading a lot about concerns that many people have about fracking. Because a very small percentage of the content of the frac water has scary sounding chemicals, many people, both landowners and environmental-types, have objected to the fact that the process is not regulated. The fear is that the chemicals will leak into groundwater.

If you believe the hyperactive environmentalists, you will think carcinogens are being pumped by the truckload underground. If you believe the industry-types, you will think that the chemical contents are no different than those in household products.

The "Energy in Depth" web site has a good section on fracking. (Note that EID is an industry site, so it has a bias, but it does present the facts well.) It goes into depth on the specific details of fracking, and one of the components is the graphic on the right, which breaks down the contents of most fracking fluid.

There was a good (long) article in yesterday's New York Times on the subject of fracking and the proposed statewide legislation concerning gas drilling in New York. The state of New York has been under the most pressure to regulate anything and everything concerning ground water in anticipation of wells for the Marcellus Shale being drilled there. The Holy Grail is the watershed for New York City, which is a large portion of upstate New York. It will be well protected.

I noted in a post on Tuesday that several producers are calling for greater transparency about the proprietary contents of frac water. I thought about that some more. It's easy for the producers to call for transparency. It's not their products that are proprietary. The producers may not want to admit their own secret sauce, but that's much more involved than the frac water and includes completion design, type and quantity of proppant, etc. They look like heroes calling for their suppliers to be more forthcoming.

As I've said in the past, the risk from fracking comes at the surface. All contamination accidents that I've heard involve surface spills. I think greater transparency on the issue will help the industry, but so will the recognition that the handling of the materials is the real issue.

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