Comparing Apples to Oranges
It seems that so many people in this county don’t really understand why the current Marcellus drilling boom in WV is such a big concern to some people. After all, Doddridge County is already peppered with gas wells, isn’t it? The oil and gas industry has played an important part in our local economy here in Doddridge. Quite a few locally owned and operated drillers have been in Doddridge County for decades, providing local jobs and supporting and being part of our local community for many years building relationships with the people of Doddridge County.
But now things have changed. These local boys seem to have stepped aside for the big boys (huge multi-billion dollar companies such as Chesapeake Energy, EQT, Anteros/Exxon, Consol Energy, and other big companies to come in and take over. Some of the locally owned and operated drillers here in Doddridge have merged or been absorbed into these conglomerates. Others become subcontractors for them, and even a few of these local companies have sold off their leases to the giant companies and instead begun to shift their focus onto other aspects of the whole drilling game in order to stay in existence.
One thing for certain is the fact that the amount of capital and equipment needed to drill a Marcellus well is not exactly something that a small local company might readily have on hand. Thus, the drilling of conventional shallow vertical wells seems to be becoming a thing of the past in order to make room for the big boys to come to town with their plans for drilling hundreds of these Marcellus wells in this area of WV. They bring a lot of their own employees also.
So what’s the big deal about fracking now days? After all, fracking a gas well is nothing new. It’s been going on for years, (ever since Halliburton invented the technology back in the 1940’s.)
But in reality, comparing the fracking process used to drill a conventional shallow vertical well with the fracking process needed to drill a deep Marcellus well is like comparing apples to oranges.
There are lots of sites on the internet that provide pretty good explanations as to why Marcellus fracking is so different and so controversial. One such internet site is the Tomkins County (NY) Marcellus Accountability Project. www.tcgasmap.org Found on a link associated with that site is a report titled:
“How will High-Volume (Slick-water) Hydraulic Fracturing of the Marcellus (or Utica) Shale Differ from Traditional Hydraulic Fracturing?”
You can find the exact pdf file at the following link:http://www.tcgasmap.org/media/Hydraulic%20Fracturing%20Differences%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
However, for those who do not have internet access, the following is an excerpt from the actual document…..
Many gas industry representatives are saying that hydraulic fracturing (also called hydrofracking or simply “fracking”) is old, and has been used for years. People concerned about drilling in the Marcellus shale are saying this is a new process. Who is correct? They both are.
Hydraulic Fracturing is Old:
Hydrofracking—injecting fluid (a mixture of water, sand, and highly toxic chemicals) under high
pressure into oil and gas wells—has been used for years. It was developed by Halliburton in the late 1940s. This fact sheet will refer to traditional hydraulic fracturing as “old hydrofracking” and the wells as “traditional wells.” Hydrofracking, without the chemical additives, even has been used locally to stimulate flow from shallow water wells.
High-Volume (Slick-water) Hydraulic Fracturing is New and Different:
The type of hydraulic fracturing gas companies will employ in the Marcellus shale (and other shale layers, such as the Utica) was developed in the late 1990s, not the 1940s. It is called “slick-water hydraulic fracturing” because it uses a different mix of chemicals than the older methods—reducing the amount of gelling agents and adding friction reducers (thus the term “slick”).The hydraulic fracturing technique to be used in the Marcellus shale is also known as “highvolume” hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) because it uses much more fluid than old hydraulic fracturing.In old hydrofracking, typically 20,000 to 80,000 gallons of fluid were used each time a well was hydrofractured, but HVHF uses 2 to 7.8 million gallons of fluid (on average 5.6 million), the exact amount depending on the length of the well bore and the number of fractures created along it.
Thus: High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing uses 70 to 300 times more fluid than old hydrofracking.
Greater Adverse Impacts of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing:
• More Chemicals:Per fracturing, old hydrofracking used 700 to 2,800 lbs. of chemical additives,but HVHF will use 205,000 to 935,000 lbs, many of which are toxic to humans and wildlife. A typical 7-well site could receive 4 million lbs. of chemicals.
• More Toxic Waste Requiring Disposal: Assuming HVHF wells use 150 times more fluid than traditional wells (within the 70 to 300x range noted above), the drilling of 7 HVHF wells (assuming one 7-well pad per 640 acres [square mile]) creates an amount of toxic waste fluid equivalent to that from 1,000 traditional wells per square mile.
• More Truck Traffic:To construct one traditional well requires fewer than 225 to 387 tanker truck trips, but one HVHF well requires 1,760 to 1,905 trips. Thus, a typical
Marcellus well pad with 7 wells adds about 13,000 round-trip truck trips to local roads.
• More Fresh Water Used:With HVHF, more fresh water will be removed from local streams, lakes, and aquifers; because it will be contaminated, it probably will not be returned to the watershed, although how the volumes of waste will be disposed of has yet to be determined. HVHF of just one well would remove 5.6 million gallons (MG) of fresh water, 1.9 times the 2.98 MG the City of Ithaca uses each day to supply 30,000 people.
• More Drill Cuttings Requiring Disposal:A traditional vertical well 3,000’ deep creates about 54 cu. Yards of drill cuttings, but a HVHF well to the same depth will create 94 cubic yards, 74% more. Cuttings may contain radioactive materials (NORM), heavy metals, and various toxic chemicals, depending on the types of drilling muds (fluids) used.
• Larger Disturbed Areas:HVHF well pads will be larger (4 to 5 cleared acres) than
those for traditional wells (2 to 3 acres) because (1) they must store more fluid, chemicals, drill cuttings, drilling fluids, and equipment, and (2) they are expected to contain multiple wells. Thus any given HVHF well pad will create more run-off, siltation, and visual scars, and disturb more forest or agricultural land.
How Else is Drilling in the Marcellus Shale New and Different?
Intense, Industrial-Scale Development:Extraction of gas from shale is intensive, and done on an industrial scale: the gas industry prefers to drill many wells in a region, because of the high investment in gas-drilling infrastructure.
And that appears to be exactly what is coming down the pike for Doddridge County.
How Else is Drilling in the Marcellus Shale New and Different?
Intense, Industrial-Scale Development: Extraction of gas from shales is intensive, and done on an industrial scale:
the gas industry prefers to drill many wells in a region, because of the high investment in gas-drilling infrastructure.