After Human-Caused Earthquakes, Company Injecting Wastewater Cleared Of Wrongdoing — KUNC

Deep injection well
Deep injection well

From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

A company whose oil and gas wastewater injection was linked to earthquakes in Northern Colorado did nothing wrong, according to an investigation by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The first earthquake was felt in the Greeley area in late May 2014. Another followed on June 23, triggering an investigation by the COGCC into whether NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC violated its permit. The company was allowed to resume using the disposal well three weeks after the second earthquake, but at lower volumes and lower pressures.

The investigation cleared NGL of any wrongdoing, and the COGCC also granted their request to boost the amount of wastewater the company can inject into its well to 12,000 barrels per day.

More oil and gas coverage here.

“I am very worried about the United States Congress turning its back on science” — Bernie Sanders #kxl

Here’s an analysis of the proposed legislation by Katie Rose Quandt writing for Moyers & Company. Here’s an excerpt:

As expected, a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline sailed through the House of Representatives for the tenth time on Friday. The bill is predicted to pass the Senate next week, but Republicans may not have enough votes to override the veto Obama has promised.

On Wednesday we got a preview of the Senate debate when the Energy and Natural Resources Committee met to vote on the bill. Before the vote, which passed 13-9, Democrats used the opportunity to express their environmental concerns, question the bill’s job-creation numbers and propose that the steel piping must be American-made. Republicans touted the pipeline as an economy-boosting job creator that will give the US energy independence. The most striking moments came when the microphone went to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who eloquently summed up the arguments against building a tar sands pipeline directly through the United States.

The great environmental battle of our time.

Science Senator. It's called science.
Science Senator. It’s called science.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Good news: more than enough unbought Congresspeople voting “nay” to sustain Obama’s promised #kxl veto — Bill McKibben

FactCheck.org: Ignore the rhetoric, here are the facts about the Keystone Pipeline

State stiffens fines against energy firms: Panel adopts maximum penalty of $15,000 per day per violation — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

derrick

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Energy companies will face fines generally ranging from $200 to $15,000 per day of rules violation under a new penalty structure passed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Monday.

The agency adopted the new fines structure after the state legislature last year raised the daily penalty limit from $1,000 to $15,000 for each violation. It also was responding to an order by Gov. John Hickenlooper to review its enforcement and penalty assessment procedures.

Monday’s action came on a 5-3 vote, with some commissioners worrying that the fines established for less-severe violations are too hefty.

“I think it’s going to create issues,” Commissioner DeAnn Craig said.

She fears the potential for higher fines could lead to some smaller companies deciding to abandon lower-producing wells, leaving the responsibility of plugging them to the state.

Commissioner Mike King, also executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources, said while abandonment of wells is a concern for the state, it’s a separate issue from fines and involves companies showing “no responsibility whatsoever.”

Commissioner Rich Alward of Grand Junction told fellow commissioners the higher fines will transfer the risks of spills from state residents to the companies.

“Operators will find ways to avoid violating our rules if there are real consequences,” he said.

The newly adopted schedule establishes standard penalties that include a $15,000 daily fine in the case of violations that create a high risk of health, safety and environmental impacts, and in which those impacts actually occur. The $200 fine is for violations of paperwork or other rules presenting no direct risk of causing harm, and in which no impacts occur. Commission staff had recommended a $500 standard fine for these violations.

The majority of commissioners stood by the staff–recommended fines for other lesser-level violations, however, despite a call by a few of them for lower fines.

With the exception of the $15,000 worst-offense fine that can go no higher under state law, the newly established fine amounts can be raised or lowered based on aggravating factors such as knowing and willful misconduct and mitigating ones such as self-reporting of a violation.

Craig argued that the high-end standard penalty should be less than $15,000, which should be reserved for egregious cases where the commission would be trying to make a point in imposing the maximum. With the commission’s action, she said, there are likely to be a number of instances where mitigating factors drive fines down from $15,000, and she worries about how that will be perceived.

“Is the public going to feel that we’re cutting too much slack to the industry? It may not be the case, but it may be an optics issue,” she said.

But Alward said he doesn’t think there would be that many instances where violations would meet the criteria for a $15,000 fine to begin with. And he said such a fine is appropriate for such worst-case violations.

“That’s exactly where we want to throw the book at somebody,” he said.

The new rules give the commission director latitude in some instances to waive fines altogether. But attorneys for environmental groups argued that fines should be required in the case of violations creating a high risk of health, safety and environmental impacts even if they don’t occur. Commissioners on Monday agreed, prohibiting the director from waiving fines in such cases.

Until last year’s legislation, the commission also had been limited to a maximum cumulative fine of $10,000 per violation, regardless of the number of days involved, except in circumstances including where a significant impact to health, safety or welfare has occurred. That cap no longer exists under the new rules. In an interview Monday, Alward said that means companies will have motivation to address violations to keep fines from continuing to go up after 10 days.

“I’m really pleased that we’re going to have a pretty rigorous penalty rule now and I really hope that it has the deterrence effect — especially that it encourages operators to address problems immediately and get things back on the right page,” he said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association industry group supported last year’s legislation. But in a hearing last month, some industry representatives worried that with the commission able to determine that a violation continued much longer than 10 days, companies could be hit with much higher fines that in some cases could shut them down.

Association official Doug Flanders said in a statement Monday, “Overall, we’re on the same page with the COGCC and have the same goal, which is to ensure consistency, clarity and certainty as to how the new rules will be enforced, how penalties will be calculated, and how both will (be) applied to all stakeholders.

“Colorado already has the strongest oil and gas rules in the country and continues to hold the industry to the highest standard in the nation,” Flanders continued. “We expect that the COGCC will implement the new rules in a way that protects stakeholders while providing a predictable business environment.”

COGCC director Matt Lepore said in a news release, “This is yet another step forward in our long-running and continuing work to build a regulatory approach that stands as a model across the country.”

The COGCC noted in that release that since 2011 Hickenlooper’s administration also “has crafted rules to increase setbacks, reduce nuisance impacts, protect groundwater, cut emissions, disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals and increase spill reporting.”

Jon Goldin-Dubois, resident of the Western Resource Advocates conservation group, said in a news release, “We applaud the Commission passing these stronger standards with consistent mandatory penalties for significant offenses. This is a step forward in holding the industry accountable. It is critical that Coloradans have certainty that their communities, health, clean air, and water are protected. Residents across Colorado have been looking for more oversight and these new rules are important progress.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Colorado toughens fracking penalties

Summit County Citizens Voice

asdfg Frackers in Colorado will face stiffer penalties for spills and other dangerous incidents. bberwyn photo.

New rules eliminate penalty cap

Staff Report

FRISCO — Daily penalties for fracking leaks and spills, or other environmentally dangerous accidents associated with fossil fuel development will go up to as much as $15,000 per day in Colorado, under new rules adopted this week by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.The beefed-up penalty structure also does away with a $10,000 penalty cap for each violation.

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Oil and gas exploration with liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing to reduce dependence on water

Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com
Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com

Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com
Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com

From The Greeley Tribune (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

Companies in drought areas have begun looking at liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing as a way to reduce dependence on already-scarce water supplies.

Gas gel presents a potentially viable replacement to the millions of gallons of water used in the fracking process at each well site, said John McLennen, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah.

Also referred to as dry fracking, the process does not involve water. Instead, highly pressurized gas is injected directly into a formation to crack the rock.

“Conceptually it’s a great idea. People are definitely looking for water substitutes,” he said.

While the gel reduces the use of water dramatically and can benefit both producers and operators, many companies have not incorporated the gel into their operations due to the explosive and flammable nature of propane, McLennen said.

Under the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, companies have the autonomy to make individual technology related decisions, spokesperson Dan Haley said.

“There are a number of different techniques that Colorado companies use in oil and gas development,” said Doug Flanders, COGA director of policy and external affairs. “The most important factor when deciding which technique works best is the type of formation where you’re trying to extract oil or gas.”

McLennen said that the advantages to gel use have yet to be fully researched or substantiated. However, it has the potential to drastically reduce water use in areas were the resource is expensive because of drought or high transportation costs.

On average, each well requires between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water during fracking operations.

In Colorado, hydraulic fracturing operations account for approximately .08 percent of water consumed statewide, with companies working on ways to re-use and recycle water annually, Haley said.

The gel would help to solve the challenge of recycling flow-back water from wells, said Jason Munro, president of GASFRAC based in Calgary, Alberta.

Oil and gas companies dispose of water that cannot be recycled, using Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission guidelines where approximately 60 percent goes into underground injection wells, 20 percent is managed in evaporation ponds, and the remaining 20 percent goes into surface waters under permits by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The injection of water through an underground injection control well requires certain casing and cementing, monthly reporting on materials and volumes injected and pressure tests to ensure the waste stays in the designated area.

The majority of evaporation pits sit in the Raton Basin in southern Colorado, and some water is used on roads for dust suppression if it does not meet the necessary parameters for disposal in streams or rivers that are drinking sources.

Companies reuse recycled water most if the surrounding area has high demand for it in other operations; otherwise they dispose of the production water.

In the average mixture, water and sand make up roughly 99.5 percent of the mix with the additional 0.5 percent consisting of chemicals that assist the flow of sand into the formation, according to COGA.

In addition to water and sand, COGA reports that hydraulic fracturing mixtures include gelling agents to make fluids thicker cross linkers to continue to thicken fluids, breakers to thin fluids to ensure production after time, surfactants to improve production and recovery, biocides to control bacteria, and additional additives to address other challenges.

Liquefied petroleum’s lower specific gravity decreases the volume necessary in operations by half which can reduce truck traffic by up to 90 percent and eliminates the need for post stimulation transport, Munro said.

GASFRAC’s system is primarily propane due to its presence as a natural, non-damaging hydrocarbon, he said.

The liquefied petroleum gas gel alternative involves injecting petroleum gel combined with sand under high pressure into the shale at similar ratios to hydraulic fracturing, he said.

GASFRAC has worked with liquefied petroleum gas technologies since the company became operational in 2008 and provides consultation to companies in Canada and rural Texas.

The company lauds liquefied petroleum gas gel as a “rare technology breakthrough in the oil and gas industry that can deliver both economic and environmental benefits for its producers.”

GASFRAC utilizes three major components in the use of the gel: storage tanks, a sand blender and specialized high pressure pumping units.

The company’s storage tanks involve a boost pump and nitrogen pressurization which feed the gel into the sand blender. Tanks are coated with a pressurized nitrogen blanket as a safety measure, Munro said.

Proppant, such as sand, is preloaded, purged and pressurized with the nitrogen to create a sand laden mix that stimulates the reservoir.

The process ensures the even distribution of sand in the mixture, which prevents it from settling in formations.

Munro said that the gel offers fewer restrictions than water in that more sand can be added to the mix to increase down-hole pressure and that the mixture can be altered to each well more efficiently.

As a formation friendly substance, the gel reduces the damage to surrounding environment as it occurs naturally down hole and is within a closed pressurized system. On average, more than 75 percent of the propane can be recovered and sold again compared to water operations, were recycling and reusing water can present a challenge, Munro said.

Additionally, he said the presence of hydrocarbons already in production eliminates the presence of biocides found in conventional fracking operations.

“It’s way more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause seismic events such as earthquakes,” he said.

Compared to the price of water recovery, he said the gel has a minimal cost after companies resell or repurpose recovered propane.

Additionally, the lower surface tension of liquefied petroleum gas gel can also produce a higher yield from wells when used properly, Munro said.

Due to the substance acting as an energized gel, petroleum gel helps to push fracking fluid in the well which has the potential to increase the natural gas yield in the wells, McLennen said.

“There is a pretty dramatic curve,” Munro said. “If used properly there can be a dramatic uplift in production.”

Munro said that they have seen the most dramatic increase in production at their Texas sites.

Additionally, McLennen said the higher availability of propane on site allows to easier access for oil and gas companies.

Another benefit of the gel comes through the use of butane which helps performance under high-temperature surface conditions, he said.

However, McLennen said the use of gel petroleum presents safety considerations which would require new expenditures and precautions to avoid injury.

“They are very expensive and because of the explosive properties of the substances used, they can be very dangerous,” said Encana’s Media Relations Manager Doug Hock.

Hock said that due to the gel’s relatively recent appearance in the oil and gas world, very few companies know about its definite benefits and disadvantages or have done research into its applications on individual formations.

“In speaking with our chief of completions, he tells me that completely waterless fracs are seldom done,” Hock said.

Alternatively, Hock said Encana has utilized nitrogen gas in its San Juan Basin operations in New Mexico which reduces, but does not fully eliminate, water use.

“The reason for using a nitrogen (fracture) is low reservoir pressure,” he said. “While it does reduce the amount of freshwater used, that’s not why it’s used.” Nitrogen, which makes up between 30 and 70 percent of the mixture with water, is added at the wellhead in a mixture with the water and pumped down hole. The nitrogen additive appears as foam similar to shaving cream, Hock said.

Both nitrogen and CO2 do not have the same volatile properties and risk of explosion, he said.

“The main problem with propane is that it is explosive, that’s been the big challenge with it,” he said. “Of course, we’re always looking for new ways to be efficient.”

Other options, such as non-flammable hexaflouropropane used in inhalers, stand as viable options to decrease water use in hydraulic fracturing operations. Hexaflouropropane solutions virtually eliminates the flammability risk at the surface and replaces water in the fracking process, McLennen said.

In order to ensure the safety of on-site employees, GASFRAC implemented remote control shut-offs, automatic shutdowns if propane leaks are detected and thermal monitors. In addition to these precautions, no physical workers are present on site, Munro said.

Thermal cameras are used to monitor all high-pressure lines while crews monitor pressure transducers throughout the system remotely from vans offsite, according to the company’s safety statement.

“We’re the safest operations in the world,” he said. “These are the safest operations I’ve ever observed during my time in the industry.”

However, the necessary safety precautions to monitor the highly explosive propane can provide high overhead costs that can deter companies from implementing the use of gel to replace water.

“It’s not something we are exploring here for several operational and effectiveness issues,” Noble Energy Corporate Communications Manager Steve Silvers said.

While many companies, such as Noble Energy and Halliburton, do not currently use liquefied petroleum gel technology, Munro said that the growing popularity of hydrocarbon technology will lead to more widespread use of the substance in the future.

“For us it’s a game-changing technology,” he said. “It allows us to recapture and reuse (the gas) effectively.”

More oil and gas coverage here.