Representatives from industry and government presented rafts of information on hydraulic fracturing for more than 100 people who attended a forum on the topic in Delta last Saturday.
The event was organized by a local chapter of the League of Women Voters.
It was part of a League initiative to develop a position on hydraulic fracturing at the state level.
Presenters were Bruce Bertram, Delta County local government designee for minerals issues; Marc Morton, a local government liaison with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC); Kent Kuster, an official with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) who deals with oil and gas regulatory issues; and Eric Sanford, operations and land manager for SG Interests of Houston, Texas.
Also making presentations at the session were two representatives of the Paonia- based Conservation Center — Sarah Sauter, director, and Lori Molitor, member.
Bertram began the presentations with a detailed, illustrated explanation of the safety precautions industry is required to take to prevent interaction or contact of well bore hydrocarbons with the shallow fresh water aquifers. Multiple layers of concrete and steel are required to ensure that hydrocarbon flow from deep strata reach the well head and don't escape, he explained.
New technology called Bradenhead testing provides an additional assurance that any leak occurring in a well casing assembly will be detected, allowing the well to be immediately shut down.
Bertram said the process for treating a well, known as hydraulic fracturing, is monitored closely. Wells in Delta County are going to the newer "closed system" technology that recaptures drilling fluids for transport off site and recycling. The technology eliminates the pit enclosures formerly used for fluid containment.
Printed handouts listing and explaining components of drilling and completion fluids used in oil and gas exploration and production were made available. Water and sand comprise 99.51 percent of those fluids, presenters explained.
In Delta County, Bertram said, the local regulations require that the local government designee have access to drilling sites at all times. Since 2002, there have been 27 exploration or production gas wells installed here. Bertram has professional experience and extensive knowledge of oil and gas industry operations. He encouraged session attendees to go online and search out the volumes of detailed and authoritative information on oil and gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing.
Marc Morton of the COGCC explained to listeners that over 90 percent of oil and gas wells today are hydraulically fractured. The practice has been used in the industry since the 1940s.
Morton's presentation also detailed work of the COGCC in pursuit of its mandate protecting the public interest as it permits, monitors, and regulates drilling activity in the state. New regulations to protect groundwater have recently been adopted (see related story).
FracFocus.org provides an online registry of ingredients used in the fluids, he said.
Morton reviewed the extensive suite of rules, regulations, and requirements it enforces, and he directed interested people to the COGCC for additional detailed information. That website also includes access to groundwater monitoring data from around the state.
Eric Sanford of SG Interests told the audience that his company operated numerous wells in the San Juan Basin during the 1980s and 1990s. That interest was eventually sold, and the company now operates in the Muddy Creek drainage primarily in Gunnison County. SG Interests has partnered with Gunnison Energy Corporation (GEC) on some projects.
Sanford explained that hydraulic fracturing has expanded the nation's gas and oil reserves from supplies of a few decades to current supplies estimated sufficient to last 100 to 200 years. A new technology called gas fracturing promises to eliminate fluids used in the process, he said.
A widely distributed video titled Gas Land which attacks the oil and gas industry is full of falsehoods, Sanford said. An accurate account of the topic and the industry is available online in the film TruthLand, which was produced to counter Gas Land's falsehoods, Sanford told the audience.
Kent Kuster, an official with the state health department, gave a short presentation on the extensive health regulations his department has in place and enforces on the oil and gas industry.
Lori Molitor, one of two representatives from the Conservation Center, has a background in geology. She disputed the industry's safety record and said more geologic study is needed.
Molitor noted that operators in Delta County (GEC and SG Interests) have been "responsible and compliant." But, in spite of impressive technology, human error is always a concern, she said.
Heavy truck traffic servicing drilling sites is "nasty" and disrupts the environment. She envisaged "all kinds of nasty hydrocarbons" leaking from gas well bores and truckloads of toxic fluids crashing into Surface Creek.
Sauter is director of the Paonia organization which has brought two separate environmental groups together to form the Conservation Center. Sauter's presentation touched on threats to the North Fork Valley's agriculture and its other natural and economic assets. She said those assets are put "at risk" by minerals exploration there.
Sauter outlined her group's work organizing local efforts to oppose, limit, and stop government gas lease sales in the North Fork Valley.blog comments powered by Disqus