Blog Description

Fraccing With Two C's is a blog focused on the highly controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing stimulation in the oil and gas industry. The title of this blog stems from the slang term for hydraulic fracturing as it is spelled in the oil and gas industry, which differs from that commonly used in the media and by the general public, 'fracking'. Fracture stimulation is also commonly referred to as fracing, but at Colorado School of Mines the Petroleum Engineering Department generally spells the slang term with two c's.

This blog will address some of the concerns, misconceptions, and recent news on this topic. Though personal opinions are present, we will remain factual and provide evidence for all discussions. We welcome comments of all sorts, whether they agree or disagree with our opinions, as long as they are appropriate for a classroom setting, since this is a project for a science communication course.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Solution to Pollution is Dilution

Ever heard the phrase "the solution to pollution is dilution?" Many of us can think back to a time where we may have thought that phrase to be true; however, in reality, dilution is by no means the solution. Think about this: you're in the bathroom while someone sprays perfume, immediately that smell may overwhelm you, but in a few minutes, it is diluted and is no longer a bother. This is fine except for when someone comes in every few minutes and sprays more perfume. Eventually, the entire bathroom will smell of perfume and dilution will no longer be an option. If we consider this example and relate it to the possibility of air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or "fraccing", it would be obvious that we need to do something about it.

However, this is only one side of the story. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did a report titled Northeastern Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Short-Term Ambient Air Sampling Report on the effects of drilling in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and what air pollution has been shown as a result . In this study, the air was sampled using two different techniques around a drilling site during fraccing operations as well at a few compressor stations and other well sites.

The results from this report showed that the natural gas emissions at the drilling site during fraccing operations was less than those found at the compressor stations or other well sites. Because of these results, one can see that fraccing may not be the main cause to natural gas emissions. Rather, this could be blamed on other operations during production of the natural gas.

So instead of worrying so much about the air pollution caused by fraccing, we should be focusing on the pollution from other operations. This poses the question of is it worth the pollution to produce this natural gas, should we choose to shut down this operation or figure out ways to eliminate it? To answer this question, it is important to think about what we use natural gas for and the effects it would cause if we did not have it any longer.

As one of the authors of this blog, I would say the answer should not be to shut down natural gas operations, rather think of ways we can prevent these emissions even more than we already are. We need to start focusing on the industry as a whole rather than only being interested in one aspect of the industry.We need more engineers and other people to help create more efficient ways to capture or prevent this natural gas from escaping so that we can more efficiently and effectively produce natural gas from conventional ways as well as fraccing.

-Aubrey Bagley

Monday, September 24, 2012


So what is the happy medium that is going to make both the Petroleum industry and the environmentalists satisfied?  This might be one of the most difficult questions to ask when looking into this topic.  The environmentalists are always going to think unfavorabley about any type of manipulation to the natural landscapes and the Petroleum industry is always going to want to explore and produce from land that has been undiscovered prior.

An interesting article from the Denver Postabout a city called Longmont in the northern Colorado region goes into detail about new restrictions being placed on drilling companies who are interested in expanding west of the major high way I-25.  On the oposite side of I-25 from Longmont, 1000's of wells have been drilled in the LaSalle/ Greely, with a target of either the Niobrara or Denvers Julesburg formation which are primarily natural gas producing zones. Longmont is a beautiful area that backs up to the Rocky Mountain foothills.  The restrictions are almost arbitrary to what type of scenario is at hand and this makes it difficult for both sides to get what they want. The ruling is going to be on terms of "appropriateness".Are the operation companies going to be able to produce from these areas or no? Who deserves to get their way?  Who should decide this?  

The world cannot simply stop producing oil and natural gas, over 6000 different products are made from hydrocarbon based constituents. This includes things as important as heart valves to save peoples lives. Oil and gas companies should not be able to go drill any land that they chose though, so how does this get resolved?


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Serious is Water Contamination?

Out of all the times you have heard news about fraccing how often have you heard about water contamination, accidents, and overall poor performances?  Now how many times have you heard about successful fraccing jobs with no consequences?  As a civil engineering student I have not had much exposure to fraccing, but when I do hear about it that usually means there has been an accident and my guess is that your experiences are the same unless you are part of the industry. 

Warning: Video may contain content not suitable for children.

Water contamination tends to be one of the most focused topics for consequences coming out of fraccing projects.  There is a possibility that the fraccing could lead to a change of color and odor in the water due to the new contaminants, but a more common risk is leaking methane gas directly into the water supply.  The methane gas does not affect the water’s color, taste, or odor making it hard to detect, but leaves the water susceptible to being able to ignite on fire.  Currently there are no regulations on drinking water concerning the amount of methane because scientists have been unable to predict how much of a health hazard it can be in the drinking water.  Knowing about this risk could make any person who is on the fence about their opinion of fraccing go against it, but before making a decision you should also know about some of the positives and regulations overseeing fraccing jobs.

Natural gas is much cleaner to burn than coal making it better environmentally as an energy resource.  Also the increase in acquiring the natural gas will create jobs and reduce energy prices because the United States would have the chance to become more energy independent.  With rising energy prices across the country along with high unemployment rates this could be a golden opportunity if the right approach is taken.  Many of the studies looking for water contamination from fraccing are inconclusive because there is never any baseline data of the groundwater to compare to which has allowed there to be zero confirmed cases of contamination by fraccing in the groundwater.  The few cases that have been able to prove there is contamination in the water have found that the contamination came from poor wastewater disposal and performance of the well casing.  This is why many of the large companies in the fraccing industry make sure to take every step in the process slowly to make sure the fraccing job is done right.  As far as regulations go, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is assessing each fraccing job on a case by case basis to determine the environmental effects.  In all of the recent cases the EPA has not seen a reason to challenge any of the fraccing jobs that were assessed.  Any fraccing site within 500 meters of an environmentally sensitive area or two kilometers of a town, coastline, or major water storage area will be assessed diligently by the EPA.  The EPA knows fraccing is a possible threat to the environment and they are doing everything they can to make sure the fraccing industry is being careful when fraccing to avoid any contamination in the groundwater as much as possible.

Hopefully this has an impact showing that the industry is making an effort to practice safe fraccing, but if anyone is still on the fence or wants more information I encourage them to do research on their own, look at the links connected to each post on the blog, and continue to follow the blog throughout the semester.

-Adam Bent

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Challenge of Communication

As a senior in Petroleum Engineering, I get confused when people don't understand the importance of hydraulic fracturing in today's energy environment. As a student, this is a topic that is a part of my everyday life, so I occasionally forget that some peoples’ lives don’t involve terms like ‘reservoir stimulation’ and ‘hydraulic fracture proppant’. This seems to be a problem that is prevalent in the industry as well; thankfully, it is slowly being addressed. The industry has also worked together to make information more readily available to the public, through websites such as (created by Chesapeake Energy) and posting informational videos on their websites and YouTube.

This is a commercial created by Chevron to promote the development of the Marcellus Shale and the economic impact of the projects in the area:

Although this video does little to ease the minds of those concerned of the possible downside of hydraulic fracture stimulation, it is a step in the right direction for the industry.

This makes me review how I have performed in communicating the importance of fracturing to those around me. I was very surprised and disappointed in myself when my roommate of three years said that fracturing is “something about putting poison in the earth and killing people through their water.” Luckily, this gave me the opportunity to assure him that “there have been no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing” and that the majority of the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing is water. There are trace amounts of chemicals used and more and more companies are moving towards “green fracturing” already to eliminate any of these concerns (Chesapeake calls their movement the Green Frac Program). 

Not only does the industry need to improve communication to the public about the process and importance of hydraulic fracturing, so do all of those that are a part of the industry, me included. We need to work together and get the message out there that the current energy market is dependent upon fracturing. America’s desire to move towards energy independence and cleaner energy relies on the extraction of natural gas in the United States. This is not an economic process without the assistance of hydraulic fracturing, which stimulates a reservoir and improves the production of natural gas in tight, shale formations. Convincing America that hydraulic fracture stimulation is environmentally safe and economically vital is perhaps the biggest challenge the oil and gas industry will ever face. 

-Kelsi Waite

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Separating Facts From Fiction

According to the American Time Use Survey Summary taken by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that on average, a person 15 years or older spends about 2.8 hrs a day watching the television. Watching television is generally where many people will get all of their information on what is going on in the world that day. One of the major topics in the news regarding the oil & gas industry is about hydraulic fracturing of shale. Much of what you see in the media will be skewed one way or another depending on who is creating the piece. Because of this, the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin conducted a study on the effects hydraulic fracturing has to clear up a few of the statements reporters have made.

They titled this study Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development. A team of interdisciplinary experts studied shale formations from New York and Pennsylvania down to west Texas. Three critical areas were studied including: environmental and health effects, public perceptions, and state and federal regulations. 

First looking at the environmental and health effects, there are concerns about hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water as well as methane gas seeping into aquifers. According to this study, researchers found that the groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing is not unique to hydraulic fracturing and occurs in other conventional oil and gas operations. Along with that, methane that was found in water wells most likely did not occur from hydraulic fracturing, rather, it was there before any drilling had taken place. 

Secondly, after looking at the public perceptions from the media coverage, it showed that in newspapers, online journals, the television and other sources about two thirds of all the media regarding hydraulic fracturing is negative. Not only was most of it negative, but only about one in four containing scientific evidence supporting their claims. 

Lastly, many of the state oil and gas regulations were written much before the discovery of shale gas and do not contain many particular regulations regarding it. There are only a few states that have revised the regulations to regulate certain areas of hydraulic fracturing including but not limited to: disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, proper casing of wells to prevent aquifer contamination, as well as management of waste water. The report also stated that rather than making more regulations on hydraulic fracturing, the regulations should be focused towards spill prevention. There is a greater health and environmental risk that can occur on a surface spill rather than subsurface during the actual hydraulic fracturing. 

This should be able to give another view to what the media will feed the public the majority of the time and help show that it is important to look beyond what is said on the television and to dig deep into the cold hard facts to help eliminate the fiction.

-Aubrey Bagley

Monday, September 10, 2012

Public Perception

Provided is a link from the Marcellus Earth First movement which is based out of the Eastern region of the US.  This group has banned together to fight against the exploration and production industry because they feel that the environment is at great risk with this activity going on.  The mishap that took place this 2012 summer, actually took place at a location that was being drilled on by a company called EQT Corporation.  One of the first key words to take from this segment is that it was a DRILLING site.  Already this movement has some what discredited themselves by not even knowing the correct operation that was taking place at this site.  In the video mention of disrupting a frac job is incorrect because really the Pioneer 70 rig was there to drill, not to do the proceeding action of completing the well by means of fraccing.  The other detail which is fortunate for EQT but less fortunate for the movement is that the rig was actually in a maintenance phase meaning no work, or drilling ahead was not even disrupted.  

This points out an essential issue that brings about a lot of the controversies against the oil and gas industry, and that point is that people are simply ill-informed or just not educated enough on the process.  A lot of out-landish remarks are often made about either the drilling process or the completions phase without even having proper knowledge on what is taking place.  It is very clear that once the land is moved in on by a drilling company that it does not look as it did prior to this operation and that some inhabitants of the land are temporarily removed, but many efforts are made once the well is complete to return the land to original quality if not better.

The even more unfortunate part of this movement is that the individuals were putting their own lives at risk by hanging themselves from poorly supported systems up in the trees and one man even attached himself to a line and bike lock by the neck.  Protesting has gone on since the beginning of time but when violence or dangerous measures are taken to get a point across, the integrity of the movement is greatly compromised. On the topic of integrity though, it is true that not all companies throughout history have operated with the safest or most diligent standards so with that being said, the producers of this blog do not think that these protesters have no right to be upset. Fortunately though, state wide regulations are constantly being improved upon to make sure that the exploration and production industry are being held accountable for their actions.  So lets leave it to the majority voters and government to implement limitations or higher standards to operate by and not try to make a statement by hanging oneself in a tree or doing other things to put lives at risk.

-Bill Mercer