Sunday, November 14, 2010

"60 Minutes" does fracking on 14 Nov 2010

In a piece titled Energy: The Pros and Cons of Shale Gas Drilling , Lesley Stahl got into the process of "fracking" -->

The other technology is hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," where millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, are pumped down the well at enormous pressure.

"We break the rock. We fracture the rock. And that stimulates the ability of the gas to flow into the well bore, where we can flow it to the surface and sell it," Duginski explained to Stahl.

What is remarkable here is the interrelation between Stahl's news story (broadcast on Nov. 14) and the plot line for the CSI drama (broadcast on Nov. 11). Both talked about fracking, both talked about the uncertainties in the composition of fracking fluid with the likelihood that water contamination by fracking fluid would have adverse consequences, and both alluded to the 2005 exemption as to not having to disclose the ingredients of fracking fluid. Both talked about the burning of water comprising natural gas.

The numerous coincidences suggest some communication between "60 Minutes" and the CSI writers.

For reference, the CSI plotline was discussed in the IPBiz post CSI does Cable Spings, NV and natural gas drilling [Note the CSI episode concluded without any adverse consequences to the fictional ConservoSolutions.] As to emphasis by "60 Minutes," note the following:

Stahl got into a specific "bad event"-->

What happened in Tim and Christine Ruggiero's backyard is happening more and more: they moved to a pastoral ten-acre ranch in Decatur, Texas, in 2004 to raise their horses, and their daughter Reilly.

But last year a company called Aruba Petroleum came and drilled two wells outside their windows, leaving behind a permanent eyesore.

It turns out the Ruggieros had bought the land, but didn't own the rights to the minerals beneath it.

"You see over here on this tank? And you see where it's just been still leaking?" Tim Ruggiero asked Stahl, pointing out a tank on his land. "Why is it doing that?"

That leaking is just the half of it: they videotaped oozings and gushings. When the state environmental agency shot video of hissing toxic air emissions with infrared cameras, the company was hit with a fine.

"I keep hearing that this process, the horizontal drilling and the fracking, is safe," Stahl said to the Ruggieros.

"Well, define safe. Safe for who? Safe in the process, or safe for the people that are 200 feet away from it?" Tim Ruggiero asked.

"They put a concrete casing down in the ground in between your water table and the drilling fluid, but cement doesn't ever crack? You don't ever have well blowouts?" Christine Ruggiero added.

Animals died from drinking fracking fluid in a different event:

Asked if Chesapeake has ever had an accident, McClendon said, "Any kind of an accident? Sure. Probably the most publicized incident was in Louisiana."

The accident McClendon was referring to happened last year when 17 cows grazing near a drilling site died a gruesome death after drinking fracking fluids that ran off into their pasture.

The Safe Drinking Water Act was mentioned:

"The first thing that the industry should do is disclose what chemicals are being used in fracking and then limit the amount of toxic chemicals to a point of zero," Brune said.

The industry doesn't have to disclose what's in the tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals they use when they fracture the shale, because of the so-called "Halliburton loophole."

Halliburton is a leading fracking company and the loophole was created in 2005 under Vice President Dick Cheney, who used to be Halliburton's CEO.

"The 2005 energy bill completely exempted the natural gas industry and fracking technology from any regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It's an outrage," Brune said.

When asked if the vice president put that loophole in the bill, Brune said, "The vice president advocated for it and he pushed Congress to insert it into the language."

"Part of the fracturing process involves you pouring down some pretty nasty chemicals. What happens if they spill all over the place?" Stahl asked Aubrey McClendon.

"Okay, let's define nasty chemicals," he replied. "Nasty chemicals are underneath your sink. The reality is, you don't drink Drano for a reason, but you have Drano in your house. If you want to define them as nasty, go ahead."

"There are nasty chemicals that affect your liver, that cause cancer, that shut down your system," Stahl pointed out.

"You don't want to drink frack fluid. If you take away nothing from this interview…," McClendon replied.

"But isn't there a possibility, a possibility that you go down and something seeps and it gets into the water supply, gets into the aquifer?" Stahl asked.

"Ah, that's the fear isn't it?" McClendon replied.

"Well yes. Of course that's the fear," she remarked.

And, yes, there was "burning water" -->

A company called Cabot Oil and Gas paid many of the folks in Dimock $25 an acre, and they were happy until one day a water well exploded.

"My boy had come over the night before and said, he just said, 'Dad, we got gas in the water over there.' I can actually shake the jug up and light it," Bill Ely told Stahl. "I can take my water, just put it in a gallon jug, shake it up, turn it up and it'll explode."

Ely demonstrated it for Stahl by hooking a hose from his well to a jug and lighting it; there was an audible pop.

State authorities have determined that gas leaked into the water because of a poor cement job; Cabot now supplies bottled water to the residents, but has admitted no guilt. So the company is being sued by some residents.

**Relevant to the patent world:

US published application 20100140186 :

[0002]In oil and gas drilling and well field applications, polyacrylamide polymer and copolymer products have been widely used for decades to enhance or modify the characteristics of the aqueous fluids used in such applications.

[0003]One example of such use is for friction reduction in water or other water-based (aqueous) fluids used for hydraulic fracturing treatments in subterranean well formations. Hydraulic "frac" or "fracking" treatments create fluid-conductive cracks or pathways in the subterranean rock formations in gas- and/or oil-producing zones, improving permeability of the desired gas and/or oil being recovered from the formation via the wellbore.

[0004]"Slick water" fluids are water or other aqueous fluids that typically contain a friction-reducing agent to improve the flow characteristics of the aqueous fluid being pumped via the well into the gas- and/or oil-producing zones, whether for fracturing or other treatments. The friction reduction agents are usually polymers, and polyacrylamide polymers and copolymers are among the most widely used polymers for this purpose.

[0005]Acrylamide-based or acrylamide-derived polymers and copolymers that have utility in oil and gas field applications include polyacrylamide (sometime abbreviated as PAM), acrylamide-acrylate copolymers, including partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide copolymers (PHPA), acrylamide-methyl-propane sulfonate copolymers (AMPS) and the like. Such copolymers include acrylic acid-acrylamide copolymers, acrylic acid-methacrylamide copolymers, partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamides, partially hydrolyzed polymethacrylamides and the like. Acrylamide-based polymers and copolymers have also been described in the patent literature, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 3,254,719 of Root (Dow Chemical) and U.S. Pat. No. 4,152,274 of Phillips et al. (Nalco Chemical), for use as friction reducers in oil field applications such as well fracturing.

[0006]Examples of commercial acrylamide-based polymer products include New-Drill.RTM. products (Baker Hughes, Houston, Tex.), FRW-15 friction reducer (BJ Services, Houston, Tex.), and FR56.TM. friction reducer (Halliburton, Houston, Tex.).

** Claim in 20080139418: The method according to claim 3, wherein the tar sands deposits surrounding the horizontal shafts are subjected to fracking by use of high pressure steam, compressed air or explosives prior to treating with a chemical release agent.

**from 20100272630 , as to "what is fracking":

[0022]The technique of hydraulic fracturing is used to increase or restore the rate at which fluids, such as oil, gas or water, can be produced from the desired formation. The method is informally called fracking or hydro-fracking. By creating fractures, the reservoir surface area exposed to the borehole is increased. The fracture fluid can be any number of fluids, ranging from water to gels, foams, nitrogen, carbon dioxide or even air in some cases. The fracture, which is kept open using a proppant such as sand or ceramic beads, provides a conductive path connecting a larger area of the reservoir to the well, thereby increasing the area from which fluids can be produced from the desired formation. The produced water (called flowback water) is contaminated and must be treated prior to disposal. In many instances flowback water is trucked away to be treated elsewhere. Consequently, the acquisition of fresh water and the disposal of the flowback water are significant cost of production.



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