First let’s clear up the minor points that make it clear the environmental groups and media lack any reasonable understanding of the hydro fracturing procedure. These two groups spell the procedure “Fracking”. The term “Fracing” is short for Hydro fracturing. There is no “K” in this industry term spelled “Fracing”.
Also the environmental and media groups publicly present this procedure as a new technology. The oil and gas industry has been fracing wells since the 1940s. Hundreds of thousands of well have been fraced in the U.S. over the last 66 years
If fracing is such a threat to drinking water, why are we just hearing about it 66 years after the practice was initiated?
Prior to the development of hydro fracturing, the oil industry lowered nitroglycerine to the bottom of a drilled well. Then a heavy weight called a “torpedo” was dropped on a wire line. When the torpedo struck the container of nitroglycerin a massive underground explosion served to fracture a huge cavern in the oil/gas bearing formation. This was referred to as “Shooting the Well”. During the time this procedure was used, claims of fresh ground water contamination were not registered. This procedure was used before the technology to cement steel casing in order to isolate the vertical migration of formation fluids. This is another fact that should seat itself in the minds of thinking people.
Through the history of land settlement to present time, rural America depended on hand dug wells to supply the water required to sustain human habitation of the land. On average, these wells were 20 to 30 feet deep. Also throughout this time, the outhouse was a very common part of rural life for most of us, and still is today for many rural Americans. I came across a “house for sale” add in a rural newspaper recently that featured a rural house on acreage with a “Path to Bath”. The outhouse served as a way to isolate the deadly bacteria rich byproducts of the human digestion by digging a hole in the ground approximately 3 feet deep and placing the outhouse over the hole. Though the contents of the outhouse are only 17 to 30 vertical feet above the ground layer that provided the drinking water, this never posed a universal threat that concerned environmental or government agencies. Please keep in mind the near-surface layers of rock, clay, and dirt are soft, unconsolidated material more likely to facilitate vertical migration of fluids.
In more modern times many outhouses have been replaced with single residence sewer systems that consist of a septic tank for solid wastes and a lateral field that allow the liquid components of the sewage to be absorbed underground in the top 3’ to 4 feet of the land. Most counties even require what is called a “Perk Test” to assure the ground will absorb the liquid sewage into the ground. Also in modern times, wells are more often drilled to fresh water formations, rather than digging them by hand. Fresh and usable water is usually encountered 20’ to 120’ below land surface. In this modern age of water testing and monitoring, the 20 to120 feet of rock layers that separate our sewage absorbed in the near surface soils from our drinking water is considered safe. This system is relied upon by millions of Americans living in rural areas of the U.S. today.
Now let’s talk about fracing. To those that do not know what fracing is, or how it presents underground, you can go to www.blackstar231.com, select “multimedia”, and then select “Drilling an Oil Well”. An animated video will explain the process of hydro fracturing.
Let’s talk facts. The oil/gas wells that are the subject of the fracing debate are drilled to a vertical depth of between one and two miles deep into the earth. At that point the drill bit is steered to go in a level, horizontal distance of one to two miles laterally. Please keep in mind that the underground unusable water that is encountered below a few hundred feet of the land’s surface in the vertical part of the well is salt water that contains heavy metal and other toxic substances rendering it totally unusable. Any chemicals injected into these deep underground water bearing formations, may actually improve the water quality of this unusable water in some minor way, but it is still in no way usable.
In the case of the fracing controversy, a typical well has one to two miles of very hard solid rock formations separating the fraced formations from the usable water formations thousands of feet shallower. As a comparison we separate sewer from drinking water by 30 feet of rock without worry or regulation, but separating oil/gas formations by a one mile thick section of hard impermeable rock in a well bore with 3 strings of steel/cemented casing is somehow a threat worthy of this discussion. Historic regulations require the well operators to set separate strings of steel casing that is backed by a layer of special cement that is harder than native rock to isolate all the fresh and usable water from the lower part of the well. This makes vertical migration of deep formation fluids to ground water supplies as likely as solar radiation making you glow in the dark.
30’ of rock separating our sewage from drinking water is acceptable, but 1 ½ miles of hard, solid rock, and 3 layers of steel cemented casing is not acceptable.
This entire issue reminds me that after billions of dollars and volumes of useless regulation, we learned that this planet has been warming ever since the last ice age. According to Forbs, one of those billions ended up in one man’s pocket.
If fracing is not the problem, what is the problem? The problem is well funded environmental groups opposed to American industry threatening government regulators with litigation to achieve a radical agenda, and government cowering to the threat.
In fact, we are all environmentalist in the true definition. Unfortunately as with all causes that merit public support, there will be a few opportunists that radicalize the cause into a political organization that vests power in a few in order to subject the majority to negative effects of an unpopular agenda. The radical environmentalists have as their only goal to wield political power for the purpose of forcing regulation and legislation that average Americans would not accept if the truth of the end agenda were revealed.
At some point government needs to understand that the public opinion has turned against the fad of radical environmental issues. Government has for too long responded to the threat of litigation from environmental groups by burdening industry with unnecessary and unreasonable regulation, just to dodge litigation. This is one of the main reasons industry has moved away from the U.S. costing millions of American jobs.
The time has come for government to answer the threat of litigation from radical groups instead of cowering to them by shifting the tremendous cost of useless regulation to industry. Americans do not want their government to manage their best interest by appeasing radicals that seek to force their agendas on all of America. I urge government at all levels to take responsibility and do what they are hired to do, which is to take a stand on the side of the best interest of America. Public opinion has shifted to maintaining basic freedoms through reasonable common sense regulation.
Americans wants government to use our money to answer the threat of unreasonable job killing litigation instead of taking the easy out by shifting costs to the people that are paying their salaries and creating jobs. Drawing a line in the sand on these frivolous issues is becoming the new political correctness, and the politicians and government employees that are ahead of the curve will be recognized and rewarded for their commitment to put America First. I challenge government to fight in the courtroom as faithfully as our service men and women fight on the battlefield to give us the opportunity to have this conversation. Politicians go do your job and Americans will support your leadership.
Jim (Blacky) Pryor, Wildcatter