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, November 28, 2012

Communicating Science

Just when we thought the campaign ads were over...

Wait... that isn't actually a political campaign... it is an energy campaign. This advertisement is paid for by the American Petroleum Institute to encourage America to support the growth of the energy industry because it creates jobs for the American people. Though no where in this ad is hydraulic fracturing mentioned, I think this may be a step in the right direction for the oil and gas industry. 

Communicating with the public was the main focus of this blog. Being engineers, we all LOVE to throw jargon around like it is a hot potato, but actually talking to people is quite a challenge to us. By communicating about a scientific subject in a blogging format, we were supposed to gain experience communicating science to the public. As I have tried my hand at it, I've realized the DIRE need for this skill in the petroleum industry. 

In one of the books we read, Don't Be Such a Scientist by Randy Olson, the evolution versus creationism debate was discussed. Olson said that creationists almost always won debates because they were able to tell a story and pull at the heartstrings of the audience/panel. The same goes for hydraulic fracturing! We can spew scientific facts to the public, but that will never win over one person telling the story of how they rely on a water well, and they are afraid fracturing will ruin it. 

We, scientists, engineers, and especially the oil and gas industry need to learn how to stop being such scientists and actually talk to the public, to communities, to individuals. So is this commercial from the American Petroleum Institute doing the job? Does it speak to the public? Would doing informative commercials for hydraulic fracturing be a possible way to improve the image of the industry? I would love to hear what you guys think!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Anti-Fraccing Movement Around the USA

We've posted a lot about the anti-fraccing movement in Longmont, but not much about where else that has been happening. Much to your surprise, or maybe it's not surprising, movements similar to this one have been happening all over. A recent article shows the top five states leading this fight against fraccing. The top five including their highlights are as follows:

  1. Michigan: The Committee to Ban Fracking is collecting signatures to amend Michigan Constitution to ban horizontal fraccing as well as banning it from becoming a fraccing wasteland.
  2. Colorado: Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights was successful in getting a city-wide fraccing ban on the ballot.
  3. New York: Activists helped to delay horizontal fraccing until environmental impact regulations have been revised.
  4. Pennsylvania: Many activists have performed protests against fraccing similar to what is happening in New York.
  5. California: People have gotten together to sue the state for not evaluating risks of fraccing many wells in the past year

This is only a few of the many examples of the fight against fraccing. I thought it was appropriate to point out a few of the places where anti-fraccing is occurring since we have shown so much pro-fraccing examples.

The point of this post is to point out the major places against fraccing and suggest that it is good to debate fraccing. If people didn't care about it, it would not be regulated. Clearly, over the years, more and more regulations have been placed on fraccing. Because of this, fraccing is getting safer by the minute. So I encourage the debate. It's a great way to push engineers and other employees of oil and gas companies to be more diligent and ensure they are being as safe as they can be.

-Aubrey Bagley

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Royal family of the Oil-Rich United Arab Emirates finances anti-fraccing movie?

I wanted to touch again on the movie Kelsie mentioned a few weeks ago that is coming to theatres this December, Promised Land staring Matt Damon, is a movie based in a small Pennsylvania town where bad guys (fracking companies) come to present a way for the citizens to get out of their current bad economic times. From the trailer and reviews I am understanding the town is initially in favor of the new production until a local steps in to say that his entire piece of land has been contaminated killing all crops and poisoning his livestock. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency there has not actually been any evidence of contamination in Dimock PA where the film is based out of. Anyways the opportunity to make the citizens money is being taken away by the individual who is claiming that this is a highly hazardous process.  And o yeah, what's up with a Royal family of the Oil-Rich United Arab Emirates financing the production of this movie?

There are many areas these days that are benefiting from production in their area such as in Tioga North Dakota.  These benefits include 1% unemployment, families paying off debts, not having so file bankruptcy, people coming up to start local businesses such as restaurants, and people graduating high school and sticking around. They are out of housing so construction workers are making a great living building new homes.  With drastic claims being made sometime moratorium are being placed which stops progress while they’re studying the effects and for many this is devastating.  For environmentalist concerned with the industry it is important to come talk to the locals and see how they feel about the new production.

The video included above is another great explanation of the technology and process that is being implemented. Though the casing may be at one point passing through a drinking water aquifer, the drilling fluids used are of water based composition.  Also,  two, sometimes three or four layers of casing may be used to ensure that no content will leak out of the wellbore.  Next, for the stimulation process which is at the deepest vertical depth in the horizontal section,  the perforations are only a couple inches thick and propagate only a couple hundred feet outward from the casing  This means there still remains a 5000 to 9000 foot gap between the fractures and any producing drinkable water aquifers 


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Future of American Energy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released the 2012 version of the World Energy Outlook (WEO), the agency’s main publication.  The 2012 WEO shows that there is a major shift in the global energy map.  With this new shift is the United States of America going to prosper or decline in the economy of exporting energy?

In the upcoming years of the future there is a predicted major rise in the amount of energy demand throughout the world for many sources of energy.  The oil demand around the world is predicted to increase by 4 million barrels per day through the 2020’s.  Natural gas demand will increase by 50% worldwide by 2035.  Nuclear power expectations have decreased for the future years because the IEA is predicting more policies and regulations haltering quick progress.  With all of the demand increase will the United States be able to keep up or will we need to start importing more from places like the Middle East?

According to the IEA, the United States is leading the way for a transformation of oil and gas production affecting regions all around the world.  The IEA has predicted that the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas and will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by the year 2020.  With this dramatic change in energy production the IEA says that most all oil exports from the Middle East will go to Asia by 2035 instead of North America.  The United States is stated to become almost self sufficient in energy by 2035 which will not only help reduce energy prices within the country, but will also create millions of domestic jobs to boost the economy.  Even though energy prices have become a growing concern, the future for the United States looks bright with the advances in technology for oil and gas production making processes safer and more efficient.  


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prosper Colorado

We have done a couple of posts about the hydraulic fracture stimulation controversies that have made the headlines this year in Longmont, Colorado. The small Colorado town made the news again last week, by voting to approve the "fracking ban." The amendment prohibits the process of hydraulically fracturing and the storage of the waste produced during the fracturing process within city limits. Other cities across the state are also reported to be working towards creating similar bans. Though the people of Longmont have made their opinions quite clear, 59.81% of over 41,000 voters, voted to approve the ban, there is still some uncertainty of the outcome of the vote. Movements like this, where the opinions of individuals can conflict with economic interest of the public, have been brought to litigation in the past. "In 1992, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Greeley could not outlaw drilling within its city limits.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the "Frack Free Colorado" event in Denver. Today, a very different event, referred to as "Prosper Colorado" was held in response to Longmont's Ballot Question 300 being passed. About two hundred people showed up in support of the oil and gas industry with the main message that "energy can be developed responsibly and help the Colorado economy." Unfortunately, the majority of the news reports and articles about the event focus on the protestors and their stances on the subject, so the voices of the event are hard to find in the media. Some of the signs held by "Prosper Colorado" attendants read "Working Families for Energy," "Geologists for Responsible Regulation," and one even reads "Information over Ignorance."

Whether this will amendment will be brought to litigation is still not clear, but as an editorial in the Denver Post points out, the most important part of this vote was the message sent to the industry. The message? Things need to change. 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Energy Industry Supporting 3.5 million Jobs by 2035

With the current unemployment rate at a low of 7.9%, who wouldn't be excited to hear that any one industry could potentially support 3.5 million jobs by 2035? In our current economic position, statistics like that sound extremely appealing.

According to API President and CEO Jack Gerard, development of the United States' unconventional oil and gas resources could create 2 million new jobs over the next two decades. The energy industry could potentially be the main component in getting our nation back to where it was economically ten years ago. According to another article on America's Natural Gas Alliance, shale gas alone is expected to add 1 million new jobs not only in the field but also in related industries. This news sounds incredible, and I believe is completely attainable if and only if we continue hydraulic fracturing operations throughout America.

A major part of unconventional oil and gas operations is shale gas drilling. When drilling into shale, very little oil and gas will be produced unless the well is hydraulically fractured, "fracced." To make each of the wells profitable when they begin to produce, they must be fracced.  Knowing this, it is obvious that the industry will only be profitable and create new jobs if these wells are economically profitable once drilled.

What I am trying to get at in this post is that America needs hydraulic fracturing until there is a new technology developed to get the oil and gas out of the shale. If we slow down or discontinue fraccing operations, as a nation, we will not be able to produce nearly as much domestic oil and gas and will continue relying on other countries more and more.

-Aubrey Bagley

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Generalizations can be Over-Generalized.

On this weeks episode of "Why Isn't Everything Perfect?, we will discuss how fraccing will contaminate your drinking water and kill you. Drilling companies are looking to suck all the resources out from under your feet, use it all themselves, and looking to harm you.

Okay sorry, that was a poor effort of humor and a bit sarcastic but please read on...  :)

This post is not geared towards making the Oil and Gas industry innocent of ever doing anything wrong, and it's not intended to relay that environmentalist and reporters are liars and uneducated. If anything I would like to point out how some information that is spread across media can be blown way out of proportion and cast a negative connotation on individuals, industries or even ideas through generalizations.

This first generalization comes from an article in the New York Times, by Ian Urbina where she references Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil where he stated, “There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one,”
This is quite the bold statement and I for one do not want to be caught in the generalization, as a Petroleum Engineer, that I have as strong of beliefs as Mr. Tillerson does.  Whether this is even an exact quote, who knows, but I know that there have been some instances of miscalculations or projects coming across obstacles that may cause problems.  Do you think that the NASA scientists intended on designing a shuttle that would kill the Austronauts in the Challenger disaster?
There have indeed been proven cases such as a property in West Virgina where a well that was drilled had fluids that had migrated into the landowners water well and had been specifically identified and rendered as unusable.  If I were the engineer for this project, I would compensate for the troubles, find a remedy to this land, learn a lesson to improve future projects, and then keep doing what I do, and that is to keep providing our country with energy.

Bill Mercer

Friday, November 2, 2012

Is There More to Worry about in Pavillion?

Over the past couple weeks Aubrey and I have been posting about the controversies that have come up in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming.  The previous posts were concerned with the water contamination and finding the source of the contamination, but is water contamination the only concern that residents have in Pavillion?  Many of the residents of Pavillion have also been making complaints about the possibility of poor air quality.  To investigate these claims EnCana Oil put a mobile monitoring station in the town of Pavillion.

The mobile monitoring station placed in Pavillion measures the levels of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and ozone to figure out a level of air quality.  The station measured the air quality from January 2011 through March 2012.  After analyzing the data, none of the levels exceeded any of the standards for air quality monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The only level of air quality that came close to being a concern was ozone which still remained under the legal limit.

Many of the residents were outraged to find out the results of the tests and said that they did not get a fair sample of air to test.  Residents believed the test was unfair because the mobile monitoring station was placed on a hill that was about 20 feet in elevation above the well field. 

Representatives claimed that they careful chose the location for the mobile monitoring station and took many factors into account including wind direction, access to electricity, and topography in order to choose the best location.  Even though the results of the testing say otherwise, the residents of Pavillion believe something is wrong with their air quality and future testing will likely be done.  No testing is currently going on because all of the mobile monitoring stations owned by EnCana are already in use at other sites.