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Big Oil, Bad Air
February 19, 2014 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Here's a multi-media webpage (text and photos, plus scroll down for the enlightening and well-made video) that spells out what's going on right now down Texas way: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas.
posted by flapjax at midnite (36 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Removing the teeth of the EPA has left residents unprotected and companies with little to no oversight. A stronger EPA would benefit everyone, the environment would be protected and companies would be better received in the localities in which they work. Norway has a good model, why not borrow from them?
posted by arcticseal at 8:58 PM on February 19


Important PeopleTM don't live near the fracking, so poisonous air and the ill health of a million people doesn't count for shit.

That's the new reality: if you're not a brazillionaire, you can fuck right off and die.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Arcticseal, that is not how the world works. This is the US of America, and other countries are welcome to copy our way of living. But there is no place out there in the world we could learn something from. This is God's country, he gave us the oil, and he will take care of us when the oil is gone and all life is dead. Amen.

Sorry for being such a cynical ass. Reading this article and looking at the satellite pictures brought tears to me eyes. The map is dotted with barren squares of land, a few tanks and a road leading to it. I feel sick to my stomach.
posted by nostrada at 11:41 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Little is known about six of the facilities, because they don't have to file their emissions data with the state.

THE FUCK?

Those three facilities also are allowed to release 142 tons of nitrogen oxides, 95 tons of carbon monoxide, 19 tons of sulfur dioxide, 8 tons of particulate matter and 0.31 tons of hydrogen sulfide per year

Also: THE FUCK?

Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region,

See above.

The Buehrings complained to the TCEQ in 2012, prompting investigators to check out several Marathon Oil facilities near their home. At one point the emissions were so high, the investigators wrote in their report, that they “evacuated the area quickly to prevent exposure.”

Seriously? I'm assuming this is Marathon's Sugarkane field, but it really doesn't matter.

I cannot believe you allow flaring in the US, much less this sort of thing. We had a few trace BTEX readings in some water monitoring bores in Queensland and the State Government at the time (the Bligh Government) SHUT DOWN ALL THE THINGS. THE UCG industry has never recovered, and has largely left Queensland,

You can deal with H2S in the wellbore. It costs, and I am not sure how, but I can't see any need to release it or any toxic chemical into the atmosphere. You deal with your NOx and SOx and what have you in situ or, if you can't, you don't produce the well.

This is only going to get worse. Marathon is now trialling 40 acre spacing in the Eagle Ford, and is talking about moving down to 20-acres eventually (down from 160 acres per well in 2010). And that's just for the Eagle Ford. They're also testing the Austin Chalk and the Pearsall Shale beneath the Eagle Ford (and the play is extending to the East where it is known as the Woodbine or Eaglebine. And into Louisiana where it's known as the Tuscoloosa Marine Shale.

The fact that Texas allows this just astounds me. I'm not surprised given how much money is involved.
posted by Mezentian at 12:57 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


well, in Pennsylvania we're considering coating our roads with fracking waste instead of rock salt, so we're joining Texas in the stupid corner.
posted by angrycat at 2:15 AM on February 20


I am not even sure how there is waste from fraccing, unless you mean produced water, because it tends to be saline and might be good for saltiness. But you might want to know what's in the fraccing chemicals.
posted by Mezentian at 2:49 AM on February 20


Produced water from fracking - or O&G drilling in general - is waste. It can be reused and treated but it eventually becomes waste as liquid or sludge. It more than just salt and fracking chemicals. Brines, flowback fluids and drill cuttings from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania contain heavy metals, some of them radioactive.
posted by tommyD at 3:48 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Most of the world would be better off if they copied everything from Norway.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:24 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Produced water from fracking - or O&G drilling in general - is waste

Yes, but it is toxic.
Why the fuck in fuckendom would you spray that stuff on roads?
I mean, why not just offer it to kids and fairyfloss?

Drill cuttings are minimal. We might be at that point where I am assuming you core a well versus create waste and that's bad (because we're nowhere near that point yet) but I* assime drill cuttings are minimal, and dealt with if they have heavy metals, as would be sensible.
Is the Marcellus Shale different? Do you have handy links?

some of them radioactive.

Everything's radioactive.

Most of the world would be better off if they copied everything from Norway.

StatOil are in the Eagle Ford. Or were.
posted by Mezentian at 4:45 AM on February 20


Norway has a good model, why not borrow from them?

Statoil is involved in shale gas projects in the mountains of Appalachia, in North Dakota and Texas, and in Australia. Statoil’s involvement in oil/tar sands projects in Alberta, Canada also have stirred controversy both at home and abroad.

Statoil predictably defends its shale gas excavation in both the US and Australia. It describes shale as a “key growth area that increases our long-term reserve base” and describes how large resources of shale gas across the globe “promise to supply cleaner fuel to growing global energy markets for decades to come.”

Seems like Norway is on the same page as every other energy producer.
posted by three blind mice at 5:12 AM on February 20


You can reinject cuttings into an older wellbore by grinding it into a slurry. Cuttings generally aren't hazardous once they're washed, it largely depends on the drilling fluids used (OBM Oil Based Mud is generally the one to watch, I still have eczema on one hand from exposure via a soaked glove).
Fraccing fluids are mostly water with detergents, anti bacterial agents etc. and generally are reused where possible. Flaring is just plain wasteful and I'd ban it tomorrow if it were up to me, companies just aren't motivated to do anything though as it's not economic in some cases to store and transport the gas. H2S is awful stuff but it can be controlled.
My comment earlier was more that there are ways to operate safely and there are companies that do their level best, but the regulations need to have teeth and proper enforcement to ensure compliance from everyone. These need to be stringent enough that failure to comply will get your company's licence to operate removed.
posted by arcticseal at 6:20 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Produced water from fracking - or O&G drilling in general - is waste
Yes, but it is toxic


That's what I'm trying to say.

Why the fuck in fuckendom would you spray that stuff on roads?

Because that's a lot cheaper (for drillers) than disposing of it in injection wells or landfills, though infinitely more expensive in terms of human suffering and heath care costs. In PeeYay, the idea is that is melts snow and ice in winter and controls dust (on unpaved roads, though not very well) in summer. Either idea is a bad one.

Drill cuttings are minimal.

Drill cuttings are a significant waste stream, when you are drilling a mile or more down and a mile or more sideways. Core drilling is done as part of exploration, but waste is still produced and must be disposed of. Drill cuttings have degrees of metals and radioactivity, depending on the strata, of course.

Everything's radioactive.

Please be serious. We're talking significantly, measurably radioactive.

But we are talking about air pollution, and deep shale gas wells can be a significant pathway for radon gas, again depending on the geology.
posted by tommyD at 6:28 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I think the point of the article is that whilst everyone is focusing on fraccing, that's ignoring the associated air pollution from other well ops. Both should be paid attention to, all these companies have good neighbour policies, but that doesn't extend far if it impacts margins. Compelling them to live up to what them say they intend to do would be a good first step.
posted by arcticseal at 6:46 AM on February 20


Please be serious. We're talking significantly, measurably radioactive.

Everything is measurably radioactive.I hear a lot of anti-fraccing grar, some of which is worthwhile hearing and some of which is not.

As someone who is 8 years behind where EFS-levels of fraccing are, I am interested in what happens in the US because it will happen here.

The fact that drill cuttings conmtain heavy metals etc is new to me, and I am not unfamiliar with fraccing.
It may be, given our local geology that it isn't an issue, but this is the first I am hearing of it.
posted by Mezentian at 7:12 AM on February 20


that's ignoring the associated air pollution from other well ops.

I have always been told that, the odd bad completion aside, or flaring, there are not any associated air pollution issues.

This is new to me. And suggests I have been mislead.
posted by Mezentian at 7:14 AM on February 20


Water and air issues (like climate change issues) will affect (and probably are affecting) the health of even the very wealthy, eventually, but they are so far up their own asses they refuse to believe it.

Unfortunately, a lot of less-wealthy people don't want to believe it either, until they end up sick or with sick kids.
posted by emjaybee at 7:19 AM on February 20


Everything is measurably radioactive.

Come on, dude, this is a bullshit response.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:24 AM on February 20 [5 favorites]


There has been a concerted effort by state governments and business over the last two decades to demonize the EPA and prevent them from doing things that infringe on various corporate activities. And if they're not fulfilling their mandate, they can be defunded. Various internal shenanigans at the EPA haven't helped. Why are people surprised by the result? This is what Job creation! looks like.
posted by sneebler at 7:32 AM on February 20


Mezentian, sorry, didn't mean to mislead you. It's mostly flaring, heavy machinery exhaust and particles from sand for fraccing. The dust can be virtually eliminated by having covers and vacuums on the conveyor belts from the silos/trucks. That's what my company has done in combination with our service providers, but that's in Canada where I believe the Provincial regulations are tighter than Texas.
posted by arcticseal at 7:37 AM on February 20


Related Note: Natural gas just hit a five year high.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:43 AM on February 20


Seems like Norway is on the same page as every other energy producer

With Norway, though, it's actually a conversation, and its citizens actually have some measure of control over their publicly-owned investments. My country deals with that bit of nastiness by selling our natural resources to other countries, and by silencing government agency scientists, and by branding protesters and activists terrorists.

So, same book, different chapter, hundreds of pages apart.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:52 AM on February 20


Being from East Texas, I hear more about the problems with fracking than those not near here because "they" are trying to minimize any publicity (all of which is bad).

Fracking causes air contamination, water contamination, water shortages (we had long-range water shortage problems BEFORE frackers started pumping it all into the ground), earthquakes in an area of the earth that never had earthquakes before, highway destruction by heavy equipment (many of the state roads simply aren't designed that use).

Even basic common sense will tell you, if you look at maps of fracking wells scattered everywhere, that breaking up the crust of the earth ain't conducive to its health and welfare.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 7:55 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Ah shoot, these poor folks can no longer sit outside on their decks and listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio railing against "enviro-nazis".
posted by telstar at 2:12 PM on February 20


Shaken and Stirred
The point of the January 13 town hall meeting was to organize the locals. And since the locale was a smallish town in Texas—Azle, population roughly 11,000, just far enough from Fort Worth that it doesn’t quite feel like a suburb—that meant the first task, for the handful of fracking critics who led the meeting, was to gently address any reservations attendees may have had about the purpose of the gathering. “We were never activists,” said Sharon Wilson, a North Texas resident and organizer for the state chapter of Earthworks, a nationwide nonprofit. “We were not environmentalists. We were just people living our lives, and then the oil and gas industry moved in around us.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:47 PM on February 20


Hehe. We didn't care about that stuff as long as someone else was suffering...
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:16 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Even basic common sense will tell you, if you look at maps of fracking wells scattered everywhere, that breaking up the crust of the earth ain't conducive to its health and welfare.

They *can* do mirco-seismic surveys to assess how far each well fractures and assess the geotechnical impact in fraccing on the surface. I am not sure if anyone has. It seems like something I would want to do if I were operating an oil and gas field, particuarly since eventually you probably want all the wells in communication so you can waterflood once the field gets near the end of its commercial life.

What I do find obvious is that all the hoopla about there being 60 years of fraccing of more than two million wells is misleading.
They were vertical wells, not 1km+ long horizontal wells like these, and there weren't the concentrations of these sorts of wells. That's got to have some sort of impact.
posted by Mezentian at 5:27 PM on February 20


Ah shoot, these poor folks can no longer sit outside on their decks and listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio railing against "enviro-nazis".

Jesus dude just... Jesus. Show a bit of fucking empathy in your life instead of thinking they deserve it for one reason or another.
posted by Talez at 7:27 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My company does the micro seismic surveys on their leases, there's often nothing recorded but occasionally very low level activity that may or may not be related to fraccing (i.e. 1-2 on the Richter scale). Again, Canada so the rules may differ from the US.
posted by arcticseal at 8:41 PM on February 20


There was a UK study on seismicity after fraccing in the UK too, after everyone got all worked up about the Bowland Basin. If I remember there were a number of tremors near Blackpool and people got worried, but it turned out that an unknown fault had been reactivated.
I can't recall the details, but I don't think they could tie it to the fraccing, and the quakes were usually less than one on the Richter scale, peaking at 2 for more extreme events.

I seem to remember something about Bavaria around the same time, but that was fraccing HDR geothermal sites at 5km depth.

I did find a paper from the US, Fracking Industrialization and Induced Earthquakes: The Mechanisms that Connect the Disposal of Fracking Wastewater into Deep-­Injection Wells to a Significant Increase in Midcontinent Seismic Activity but.... science is too much for me just now..
posted by Mezentian at 10:53 PM on February 20


I think Mezentian's comment that everything is radioactive is because some of the environmental complaints are alarmist.
There are serious, bad things going on in the EFS that should be stopped, but giving emphasis to air pollution from heavy machinery/dust or low level radioactivity or micro-seismic events or the many other side issues just gives opponents ammunition to dismiss the lot.
For example, the heavy machinery/dust pollution is simillar to that on a metro building site. Yes, it is true that it is pollution, but it is pollution the general population lives with.
H2S being released into the atmosphere down the road is orders of magnitude more dangerous, and linking them tends to downplay that seriousness.
posted by bystander at 3:17 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


As bad as things are in parts of Texas, I have to wonder whether debate on the whole issue is essentially moot.

The fact is, the frackers are going to come into these towns and neighborhoods, take what they want, and within a few years, they're going to pack up and leave their mess behind them.

The money, of course, either will go somewhere else, or be spent in a wasteful, shortsighted way that will do nothing to improve the longterm future for the effected residents.
posted by markkraft at 3:23 AM on February 21


The head of PA's DEP is a climate change denier.
I mean, maybe he's spot on in terms of fracking waste being harmless, but given that the DEP tried to implement the application to roads without proper public comment, well, I remain highly dubious about the whole thing.
posted by angrycat at 6:50 AM on February 21


angrycat: "well, in Pennsylvania we're considering coating our roads with fracking waste instead of rock salt, so we're joining Texas in the stupid corner."

And that's not an accident:
In his budget address, Corbett said he wants to turn Pennsylvania into the "Texas of natural gas."
From which one can draw a straight line to shit like this:
Of course, a cynic would argue that a lifetime supply of pizza -- even with those cheesy breadsticks thrown in -- wouldn't be worth the health risks of having a massive fracking rig next door. On the other hand, I see a possible new marketing campaign for Chevron: We guarantee your fracking rig won't explode, or your pizza is free!
posted by tonycpsu at 1:16 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Important PeopleTM don't live near the fracking, so poisonous air and the ill health of a million people doesn't count for shit.

Fracking infrastructure? Not in my backyard, says Exxon CEO
posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


The fact is, the frackers are going to come into these towns and neighborhoods, take what they want, and within a few years, they're going to pack up and leave their mess behind them.

Maybe. The creaming curve on these wells is that the payback period is (say) 18 months or so, and they have to keep drilling more wells to keep the flush production coming in until the point where well densities are such were all the costs have been covered and they're paying minimal amounts for field operations and skimming the profits, which could last 10 or so years of low-cost (but low rate) oil. A lot of the oil companies are so leveraged that it wouldn't take much of a civil disobedience action to hurt them.

Assuming the troops aren't called in. Which,k in Rick Perry's Texas.... they would be.

I've seen some people say the EFS and other shale plays just don't make economic sense, and that might be at the smaller end of the market, and they are treated as real estate plays so they can sell out to the likes of BHP Billiton or Devon, but who knows? BHP hasn't covered themselves in glory spending $20 billion or whatever to buy Petrohawk, but the last few weeks as has seen $8 bn spent on the EFS, so what do I know?

The money, of course, either will go somewhere else, or be spent in a wasteful, shortsighted way that will do nothing to improve the longterm future for the effected residents.

The money can go elsewhere. You can risk drilling in the Arctic, or Somalia, or Russia, but the risks and the costs are so much higher.
It is cheaper, and safer, to drill a resource play in the US.
It is one of your biggest markets, the laws are in your favour, and the geological risks are low.
The locals kick you out of town? Fine. You hold your leases by production, log the wells you have drilled, and you bide your time by drilling the Utica Shale or whatever. But they will be back while the carbon economy holds sway.
posted by Mezentian at 8:33 AM on February 22


Fracking infrastructure? Not in my backyard, says Exxon CEO

MINING? Not on my property, says iron ore mining magnate.
posted by Mezentian at 8:37 AM on February 22


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