Canadian government confirms contamination of groundwater from hydraulic fracturing by Deborah Rogers, January 4, 2013, Energy Policy Forum
Energy In Depth, an industry funded advocacy group, issued an interesting post on the Canadian government’s recent admission that hydraulic fracture stimulation, or fracking, had indeed caused ground water contamination. EID stated in its post: “Numerous reports and independent experts — including federal officials — have stated clearly that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely when proper regulations and operating practices are in place…Companies also have high operating standards to ensure drinking water resources are protected.” This statement begs careful examination.
The Canadian investigation was conducted by the Energy Resources Conservation Board(ERCB). The report states: “On September 22, 2011, Crew Energy Inc. was performing a hydraulic fracturing operation on the Caltex…well and inadvertently perforated above the base of groundwater protection at a depth of 136 metres measured depth.” So it is clear that the company made a significant error in its operations. But what is more disturbing is that the crew was apparently unaware of its mistake. According to ERCB: “Hydraulic fracturing operations were subsequently conducted using gelled propane as a carrier fluid…” Clearly, “high operating standards” were lacking in this incident. In actual fact, the “high operating standards” were apparently almost non-existent. According to the investigation notes, ERCB stated: “The possibility that the perforating gun had fired at this depth while running in was not considered at this point. Consequently, the cause for the premature firing of the perforating gun was also not observed at this point.”
Then: “The…observed pressure was not acknowledged during the operation by the service company or by Crew supervision as being significantly below the set pressure. This should have been recognized as the second indication of the premature firing of the perforating gun.”
Then: “The GasFrac supervisor’s recognition of the low shut-in pressure and the declining stimulation pressure did not apparently trigger a question at the time as to whether or not there was a problem with this particular fracturing stage or that there may have been any out- of-zone communication.”
ERCB’s concluded: “There were multiple opportunities to recognize that a problem existed, which could have prevented or at least minimized the impact of the hydraulic fracturing operation above the base of groundwater protection.” Consequently, ERCB issued Notice of High Risk Noncompliance. This was based on the “failure to use only non-toxic fracture fluids above the base of groundwater protection.” Moreover, and perhaps more troubling, one year later hydraulic fracture fluids are still migrating. ERCB states: “The groundwater composition on September 20, 2012, continued to be impacted by the fracturing fluids.”
Energy in Depth dismissed the points in their post. They did, however, go on to make the pitch: “…does anyone really believe that a single entity in Washington, DC — far removed both in proximity and culturally from the areas of development — is the best equipped to regulate this activity?”
This begs the question as to who or what Energy in Depth considers would be best at regulation. Shall we consider the crew? They are certainly the closest in proximity to the area developed. Further they are trained to carry out such operations and yet a monumental failure ensued which could have and, indeed, should have been caught on numerous separate occasions but wasn’t.
Energy in Depth’s conclusion?:
“…those who believe it “proves” the industry cannot adequately manage risks clearly haven’t been paying attention”. This is an extraordinary statement and with all due respect borders on the delusional particularly given the number and linear progression of mistakes in this incident. No amount of spin can twirl that away. It is also interesting to note, as David Slottje, the Executive Director and Senior Attorney at Community Environmental Defense Council, has pointed out that Energy in Depth is now crafting much more carefully worded statements such as: “There is no instance in Pennsylvania or (sic) elsewhere in the U.S. where groundwater has been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.” Industry used to claim that “no-contamination” map for the entire planet. That map has shrunken quite considerably. [Emphasis added]
Canadian authorities: Fracking operation contaminated groundwater by Amy Mall, December 20, 2012, switchboard.nrdc.org
Today the Canadian Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) released a reporton its investigation into a September, 2011 hydraulic fracturing incident that led to groundwater contamination. The ERCB is an independent quasi-judicial agency that regulates all energy development in the province of Alberta. The 2011 incident involved fracking of a natural gas well, and the ERCB report outlines in detail all of the errors made by the company conducting the fracking operation. The ERCB concluded that the fracking company “improperly perforated and hydraulically fractured at a shallow depth.” A year after the incident, the ERCB found that the groundwater continued to be impacted by fracturing fluids. According to the report, groundwater monitoring in September, 2012 found the following: “The concentrations of chloride has decreased from the February 2012 sample, but remains elevated. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) concentrations remained unchanged between the February and September 2012 sampling events. The petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) fractions F2 through F4 concentrations overall decreased (with the PHC fraction F1 showing an anomalous increase).”
The ERCB concluded: “Collectively, Crew [the well owner] and the onsite service company’s personnel did not adequately manage the risks associated with the coiled tubing perforating and propane hydraulic fracturing operations. There were multiple opportunities to recognize that a problem existed, which could have prevented or at least minimized the impact of the hydraulic fracturing operation above the base of groundwater protection.” I think this is ultimately every community’s concern about fracking–that oil and gas companies cannot adequately manage the risks. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: Hydraulic fracturing with gelled propane by Gasfrac/Crew Energy Inc./Caltex Energy Inc. contaminated groundwater near Grande Prairie: ERCB Investigative Report and groundwater monitoring by Alberta Environment ]