O&G News: The Poison Beneath Us
Posted in the Doddridge County Forum
#1 Jun 27, 2012
Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.
No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.
There are growing signs they were mistaken.
Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.
In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.
There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection  wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.
Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves — from which most Americans get their drinking water — remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.
But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn't always work.
"In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted," said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA's underground injection program in Washington. "A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die."
The boom in oil and natural gas drilling is deepening the uncertainties, geologists acknowledge. Drilling produces copious amounts of waste, burdening regulators and demanding hundreds of additional disposal wells. Those wells — more holes punched in the ground — are changing the earth's geology, adding man-made fractures that allow water and waste to flow more freely.
"There is no certainty at all in any of this, and whoever tells you the opposite is not telling you the truth," said Stefan Finsterle, a leading hydrogeologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who specializes in understanding the properties of rock layers and modeling how fluid flows through them. "You have changed the system with pressure and temperature and fracturing, so you don't know how it will behave."
A ProPublica review of well records, case histories and government summaries of more than 220,000 well inspections found that structural failures inside injection wells are routine. From late 2007 to late 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined — more than 17,000 violations nationally. More than 7,000 wells showed signs that their walls were leaking. Records also show wells are frequently operated in violation of safety regulations and under conditions that greatly increase the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination.
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#2 Jun 27, 2012
Structurally, a disposal well is the same as an oil or gas well. Tubes of concrete and steel extend anywhere from a few hundred feet to two miles into the earth. At the bottom, the well opens into a natural rock formation. There is no container. Waste simply seeps out, filling tiny spaces left between the grains in the rock like the gaps between stacked marbles.
Many scientists and regulators say the alternatives to the injection process — burning waste, treating wastewater, recycling, or disposing of waste on the surface — are far more expensive or bring additional environmental risks.
Subterranean waste disposal, they point out, is a cornerstone of the nation's economy, relied on by the pharmaceutical, agricultural and chemical industries. It's also critical to a future less dependent on foreign oil: Hydraulic fracturing, "clean coal" technologies, nuclear fuel production and carbon storage (the keystone of the strategy to address climate change) all count on pushing waste into rock formations below the earth's surface.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has primary regulatory authority over the nation's injection wells, would not discuss specific well failures identified by ProPublica or make staffers available for interviews. The agency also declined to answer many questions in writing, though it sent responses to several. Its director for the Drinking Water Protection Division, Ann Codrington, sent a statement to ProPublica defending the injection program's effectiveness.
"Underground injection has been and continues to be a viable technique for subsurface storage and disposal of fluids when properly done," the statement said. "EPA recognizes that more can be done to enhance drinking water safeguards and, along with states and tribes, will work to improve the efficiency of the underground injection control program."
Still, some experts see the well failures and leaks discovered so far as signs of broader problems, raising concerns about how much pollution may be leaking out undetected. By the time the damage is discovered, they say, it could be irreversible.
"Are we heading down a path we might regret in the future?" said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell University engineering professor who has been an outspoken critic of claims that wells don't leak. "Yes."
In September 2003, Ed Cowley got a call to check out a pool of briny water in a bucolic farm field outside Chico, Texas. Nearby, he said, a stand of trees had begun to wither, their leaves turning crispy brown and falling to the ground.
Chico, a town of about 1,000 people 50 miles northwest of Fort Worth, lies in the heart of Texas' Barnett Shale. Gas wells dot the landscape like mailboxes in suburbia. A short distance away from the murky pond, an oil services company had begun pumping millions of gallons of drilling waste into an injection well.
Regulators refer to such waste as salt water or brine, but it often includes less benign contaminants, including fracking chemicals, benzene and other substances known to cause cancer.
The well had been authorized by the Railroad Commission  of Texas, which once regulated railways but now oversees 260,000 oil and gas wells and 52,000 injection wells.(Another agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, regulates injection wells for waste from other industries.)
Before issuing the permit, commission officials studied mathematical models showing that waste could be safely injected into a sandstone layer about one-third of a mile beneath the farm. They specified how much waste could go into the well, under how much pressure, and calculated how far it would dissipate underground. As federal law requires, they also reviewed a quarter-mile radius around the site to make sure waste would not seep back toward the surface through abandoned wells or other holes in the area.
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#3 Jun 27, 2012
Yet the precautions failed. "Salt water" brine migrated from the injection site and shot back to the surface through three old well holes nearby.
"Have you ever seen an artesian well?" recalled Cowley, Chico's director of public works. "It was just water flowing up out of the ground."
Despite residents' fears that the injected waste could be making its way toward their drinking water, commission officials did not sample soil or water near the leak.
If the injection well waste "had threatened harm to the ground water in the area, an in-depth RRC investigation would have been initiated," Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for Texas' Railroad Commission, wrote in an email.
The agency disputes Cowley's description of a pool of brine or of dead trees, saying that the waste barely spilled beyond the overflowing wells, though officials could not identify any documents or staffers who contradicted Cowley's recollections. Accounts similar to Cowley's appeared in an article about the leak in the Wise County Messenger, a local newspaper. The agency has destroyed its records about the incident, saying it is required to keep them for only two years.
After the breach, the commission ordered two of the old wells to be plugged with cement and restricted the rate at which waste could be injected into the well. It did not issue any violations against the disposal company, which had followed Texas' rules, regulators said. The commission allowed the well operator to continue injecting thousands of barrels of brine into the well each day. A few months later, brine began spurting out of three more old wells nearby.
"It's kind of like Whac-a-Mole, where one thing pops up and by the time you go to hit it, another thing comes up," Cowley said. "It was frustrating.... If your water goes, what does that do to the value of your land?"
Deep well injection takes place in 32 states, from Pennsylvania to Michigan to California. Most wells are around the Great Lakes and in areas where oil and gas is produced: along the Appalachian crest and the Gulf Coast, in California and in Texas, which has more wells for hazardous industrial waste and oil and gas waste than any other state.
Federal rules divide wells into six classes based on the material they hold and the industry that produced it. Class 1 wells handle the most hazardous materials, including fertilizers, acids and deadly compounds such as asbestos, PCBs and cyanide. The energy industry has its own category, Class 2, which includes disposal wells and wells in which fluids are injected to force out trapped oil and gas. The most common wells, called Class 5, are a sort of catch-all for everything left over from the other categories, including storm-water runoff from gas stations.
The EPA requires that Class 1 and 2 injection wells be drilled the deepest to assure that the most toxic waste is pushed far below drinking water aquifers. Both types of wells are supposed to be walled with multiple layers of steel tubing and cement and regularly monitored for cracks.
Officials' confidence in this manner of disposal stems not only from safety precautions, but from an understanding of how rock formations trap fluid.
Underground waste, officials say, is contained by layer after layer of impermeable rock. If one layer leaks, the next blocks the waste from spreading before it reaches groundwater. The laws of physics and fluid dynamics should ensure that the waste can't spread far and is diluted as it goes.
The layering "is a very strong phenomenon and it's on our side," said Susan Hovorka, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology.
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#4 Jun 27, 2012
According to risk analyses cited in EPA documents , a significant well leak that leads to water contamination is highly unlikely — on the order of one in a million.
Once waste is underground, though, there are few ways to track how far it goes, how quickly or where it winds up. There is plenty of theory, but little data to prove the system works.
"I do think the risks are low, but it has never been adequately demonstrated," said John Apps, a leading geoscientist who advises the Department of Energy for Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. "Every statement is based on a collection of experts that offer you their opinions. Then you do a scientific analysis of their opinions and get some probability out of it. This is a wonderful way to go when you don't have any evidence one way or another... But it really doesn't mean anything scientifically."
The hard data that does exist comes from well inspections conducted by federal and state regulators, who can issue citations to operators for injecting illegally, for not maintaining wells, or for operating wells at unsafe pressures. This information is the EPA's primary means of tracking the system's health on a national scale.
Yet, in response to questions from ProPublica, the EPA acknowledged it has done very little with the data it collects. The agency could not provide ProPublica with a tally of how frequently wells fail or of how often disposal regulations are violated. It has not counted the number of cases of waste migration or contamination in more than 20 years. The agency often accepts reports from state injection regulators that are partly blank, contain conflicting figures or are missing key details, ProPublica found.
In 2007, the EPA launched a national data system  to centralize reports on injection wells. As of September 2011 — the last time the EPA issued a public update — less than half of the state and local regulatory agencies overseeing injection were contributing to the database. It contained complete information  from only a handful of states, accounting for a small fraction of the deep wells in the country.
The EPA did not respond to questions seeking more detail about how it handles its data, or about how the agency judges whether its oversight is working.
In a 2008 interview with ProPublica, one EPA scientist acknowledged shortcomings in the way the agency oversees the injection program.
"It's assumed that the monitoring rules and requirements are in place and are protective — that's assumed," said Gregory Oberley, an EPA groundwater specialist who studies injection and water issues in the Rocky Mountain region. "You're not going to know what's going on until someone's well is contaminated and they are complaining about it."
ProPublica's analysis of case histories and EPA data from October 2007 to October 2010
showed that when an injection well fails, it is most often because of holes or cracks in the well structure itself.
Operators are required to do so-called "mechanical integrity" tests at regular intervals, yearly for Class 1 wells and at least once every five years for Class 2 wells. In 2010, the tests led to more than 7,500 violations nationally, with more than 2,300 wells failing. In Texas, one violation was issued for every three Class 2 wells examined in 2010.
Such breakdowns can have serious consequences. Damage to the cement or steel casing can allow fluids to seep into the earth, where they could migrate into water supplies.
Regulators say redundant layers of protection usually prevent waste from getting that far, but EPA data shows that in the three years analyzed by ProPublica, more than 7,500 well test failures involved what federal water protection regulations describe as "fluid migration" and "significant leaks."
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#5 Jun 27, 2012
In September 2009, workers for Unit Petroleum Company  discovered oil and gas waste in a roadside ditch in southern Louisiana. After tracing the fluid to a crack in the casing of a nearby injection well, operators tested the rest of the well. Only then did they find another hole — 600 feet down, and just a few hundred feet away from an aquifer that is a source of drinking water for that part of the state.
Most well failures are patched within six months of being discovered, EPA data shows, but with as much as five years passing between integrity tests, it can take a while for leaks to be discovered. And not every well can be repaired. Kansas shut down at least 47 injection wells in 2010, filling them with cement and burying them, because their mechanical integrity could not be restored. Louisiana shut down 82. Wyoming shut down 144.
Another way wells can leak is if waste is injected with such force that it accidentally shatters the rock meant to contain it. A report published by scientists  at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Texas said that high pressure is "the driving force" that can help connect deep geologic layers with shallower ones, allowing fluid to seep through the earth.
Most injection well permits strictly limit the maximum pressure allowed, but well operators — rushing to dispose of more waste in less time — sometimes break the rules, state regulatory inspections show. According to data provided by states to the EPA, deep well operators have been caught exceeding injection pressure limits more than 1,100 times since 2008.
There much more... go read it at :
#6 Jun 27, 2012
Last I knew -- the ONLY injection wells close by are in the Jarvisville area --- Where a long, long time ago Penzoil (I believe) began injecting water to get out the oil -----
SO -- where is the closest INJECTION WELL in WV ---
AND aren't most mineral owners marking out on their leases the right for the O & G companies to inject waste down the wells on their property?
#7 Jun 28, 2012
Good Question: This info seems to be hard to locate. I know there are some over around Athens OH. That according to the locals there are accepting waist from WV drilling. Also I read this report: http://www2.nbc4i.com/news/2012/jun/26/fracki...
The report is about a woman who was arrested protesting at one of the injection sites there.
Other that this, the below info is all I personally could locate on the web...
There is some stuff on the DEP.WV site also, but not much specific to our "where are they at" question. http://www.dep.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Maybe "Report" will post more info. Or perhaps someone else will chime in...
#8 Jun 28, 2012
#9 Jun 28, 2012
Cumberland Times News
Headline: Laws Cover Fracking Water Disposal, Explains O&G Supervisor
by Emily Newman, Cumberland Times News
KEYSER, W.Va.— Much of the controversy surrounding Marcellus shale drilling concerns the disposal of the fracking water that is left over from the natural gas removal.
Dave Belcher, inspector supervisor for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Division of Oil and Gas, said that West Virginia has laws in place to address the leftover water.
“Once (companies) get into the product phase, we expect them to collect all their water,” said Belcher.
He said that from there, the water is trucked to disposal wells to be taken care of and that each company that produces fracked water is required to hold a disposal permit.
Fracked water would fall into Class II disposal, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, and Jamie Peterson, who works for DEP Division of Oil and Gas in permitting, said that the main disposal method is underground injection wells.
“(It’s) bad water going back to bad water,” said Peterson.
He said that once the water is collected into tanks, it’s taken to disposal wells, where it is pumped back into the ground, often to depths of 8,000 feet below the surface. The wells’ integrity is tested every five years to be sure that the fracked water hasn’t risen to the surface, above the confinement layer that is laid on top.
“We’ve never had anything come back to the surface,” said Peterson.”(There is) monthly monitoring, so if there is a problem it can be seen.”
Peterson said that while they monitor the vertical movement of the water, there is no “tracking” method in place for horizontal movement of the water that is held in the disposal well. So far, he hasn’t seen many complaints on the wells themselves.
“(The) biggest complaints we get on injection wells is the truck traffic,” said Peterson.
Kristi Gittins, vice president of public affairs for Chief Oil and Gas LLC, said that the company, which has wells in Preston and Marshall counties, recycles its water.
“We recycle as much of it as we can,” said Gittins.
Once it comes out of the ground, Gittins said that they combine the fracked water with fresh water and put it back to use.
“I guess diluted would be the word to use,” said Gittins of how they reuse their fracked water.
Gittins said that they also use a process to clean the water and bring it up to drinking-level standards.
Chesapeake Energy, owner of Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, the company that drilled into Marcellus shale in 2008 on Irene and Orville Broadwater’s land outside Keyser, also reuses its fracking water.
“We recycle the vast majority of our water, as outlined through our Aqua Renew program,” said Jacque Bland, media relations specialist.
Through Aqua Renew, Chesapeake does a similar process to Chief. Its website says that after they’ve collected all the water, it’s kept in holding tanks, cleaned and then mixed with clean water to be reused for fracking.
“That program is consistent through our operations,” said Bland.
One of the misconceptions associated with Marcellus shale, said Gittins, is that it is new technology, when in reality fracturing has taken place in Maryland since the 1960s and with Chief Oil and Gas since the late 1990s.
“(The Marcellus process) is not new in shale,”said Gittins.“Thousands and thousands of wells have been drilled.”
#10 Jun 28, 2012
I have made inquiries myself, many times about how all these various issues in th O&G industry are being monitored overseen by our own WV Dept. of Oil and Gas at the WV DEP
Bottom line is that the drilling frenzy in WV is far greater than the DEP staff can ever effectively handle.
A second "bottom line" is to assess if they (meaning specifically the Office of Oil and Gas, headed by James Martin at the DEP even want to handle it "effectively."
Or are they set up to give the industry a "free pass" which many of us perceive special "relationship" that some members of that department appear to have with the industry?
Many of us realize that the other branches of DEP (i.e. Water Resources and Air Quality) appear to have more focus on oversight and are more responsive to citizens' concerns via phone calls and letters they receive.
However, the WV DEP dept. of Oil and Gas, doesn't get a very good report card, in my opinion. When you have oil and gas inspectors who come out to respond to a legitimate complaint and then do no follow-up, or even worse, actually have a oil and gas supervisor ask a landowner "are you opposed to drilling?" which one actually did while in the middle of taking ones statement about an incident.... THAT, my friends, is nothing less than outrageous and clearly an ethics violation!
I think it's high time the citizens of Doddridge County form their own volunteer task force, just as was done in Wetzel County with their "Wetzel County Action Group" in order to do our own oversight of the DEP's Office of O&G because they sure don't seem to be looking out for the landowners.... but rather appear to be working hard to coddle an industry that is out of control!
#11 Jun 28, 2012
Part One of Two ...
The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia
April 8, 2012
Underground injection wells operating near Oak Hill
By C.V. Moore
SUMMERLEE — Fracking fluid from gas wells in Nicholas County is being disposed of at two underground injection wells near Oak Hill.
Danny Webb Construction operates the wells, which have also accepted oil and gas industry waste from across the state for the past 12 years, says owner Danny Webb.
Located on Towne Hollow Road, they are Class 2 wells, meaning any fluids brought to the surface in connection with “conventional oil or natural gas production” may be injected.
There are no limits on the specific chemical make-up of the waste, or the volume injected.
“If it’s coming from an oil and gas site, they’re good to go,” says Jamie Peterson of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas.
The injection pressure is regulated by the DEP and calculated to be just under the pressure that would fracture the rock.
Webb reports monthly to the DEP on injection rates, volumes, pressures, and hours of activity. One of the wells absorbed 1.4 million barrels of liquid since 2002.
Chad Touchet, completion and production manager for Bluescape Resource Company (BRC), which owns the Nicholas County wells, says the fracking fluid contains sand, a friction reducer made from guar gum, a biocyde to kill bacteria, and a scale inhibitor that contains 0.1 gallon of isopropyl alcohol per 1,000 gallons of water.
Touchet would not comment on the amount of fluid produced from fracking BRC’s Nicholas County wells near Richwood because he said it would provide sensitive information to competitors. He says four wells have been fracked and are providing data that will enable the company to decide whether to develop more wells in the area.
The fracking fluid or “flowback” is collected by Webb’s company, hauled to Fayette County, and dumped into sediment ponds so that solids can settle. Then it is filtered to remove anything larger than 5 microns and injected underground into the Weir formation, which is 2,703 feet below the earth’s surface.
“The formation just takes it,” says Peterson.“There is a confining layer [of rock] above that layer that is not permeable so the fluid is not expected to come up above that formation.”
continued below ....
#12 Jun 28, 2012
part 2 or 2 ...continued from above ....
He says besides the confining layer, three levels of protection in the well isolate the frack fluid from people and drinking water.
First, a borehole is drilled to a level underneath groundwater and a steel “surface casing” is installed from the surface to the bottom of the borehole to protect the aquifer. Cement seals the space between the casing and the rock.
A smaller borehole is drilled from the bottom of the surface casing to the Weir injection zone. A “long string casing” is installed from the surface to the bottom of the borehole and cement again seals the space to prevent injected fluids from moving along the borehole out of the injection zone.
A tube is installed inside the long string casing with a device called a packer at the bottom that creates an airtight space between the tube and the casing. This space is monitored for changes in pressure, which would indicate a leak.
“We monitor that and if we were ever to get a leak, we shut it down and fix the leak,” says Webb.
He says it’s “basically impossible” for the waste to enter the water table.
“This is the environmental thing to do,” he says.“All you’re doing is putting it back where it came from.”
Four years ago, citizens began complaining that vapor and odors coming off the site’s sediment ponds were making them ill. Peterson says the DEP’s Division of Air Quality did not find anything unusual when they tested on site.
Nevertheless, the DEP issued an order requiring twice yearly monitoring on the pond and nearby stream — one of the main tributaries of Wolf Creek — for pH, chloride, iron, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Peterson says there haven’t been any problems since then.
The DEP requires a mechanical integrity test every five years to make sure the well isn’t leaking and that the waste isn’t coming into contact with underground drinking water.
Danny Webb Construction has been cited four times by the DEP for violations at the two wells. The latest was in 2010 for not following underground injection control requirements. All the violations have been abated, according to the DEP’s records.
end of article
#13 Apr 29, 2013
A lot of people in my community are sick and dying as a result of air and water POISONING!!!
I recently learned about an injection well located in Lochgelly (near Oak Hill WV) that has been operating as an "OPEN DUMP". Danny Webb Construction's injection well permit expired back in October and is up for renewal. You can literally watch the trucks come in from all over the place and dump their frack wastewater into sediment ponds that overflow into Wolfe Creek which leads directly to our drinking water supply. Believe it or not, this has been the norm for at least the past 5 years and the WV DEP Office of Oil and Gas hasn't done a thing about it!!!
I though it was illegal to poison people, but apparently it just fine as long as you are a fracking gas company!!!
#14 Apr 29, 2013
Quit your whining and fear mongering ----
Get a Lawyer and file a class acton suit against the DEP and every official that is a part of this because they are NOT doing the job they were hired to do ---
There are LAWS on the books and we PAY people to enforce them -- If they aren't doing their jobs in enforceing the laws then SUE THEM!
#15 Apr 29, 2013
It is too easy and too much fun to whine and spread rumors based on other rumors than be responsible. Why would anybody want to live a healthy life, give up their drinking, smoking and fast food addiction, when you can blame it all on somebody else.
#16 Apr 29, 2013
Give it up. Everyone knows why you are here.
#17 Apr 29, 2013
Why should he/she have to give it up???? They have a right to speak also -------
#18 Apr 29, 2013
What one person may call fear mongering, another person may call educating the public. Depends on which side of the fence one is on.
#19 Apr 29, 2013
Excuse me? Simply because we have a different point of view, you think I do not have a valid right to read / post to the conversations?
For every point of reference regarding fracing, there is an opposite view. It does not hurt to be exposed to more than one point of view, to have access to various forms of information and make up one's own mind.
Unfortunately, too many people believe everything that is written on the web, without using any logic or reasoning.
For the record, since you seem to know who I am, please inform me... Why am I here?
#20 Jun 9, 2013
That's coming too !!! But meanwhile, check this link out :
First group litigation against the industry for landowner impacts got filed in PA the other day by the Speer Law Firm of Missouri. I am of the impression that this is the 1st of many, many more suits coming rom communities all over several states who are seeing their lands trashed by drillers. What one person (company) does on their land, cannot harm another person or their property, their quality of life, and their right to use and enjoy their own property. When that right is hindered, it is a nuisance. And subject to basic common law nuisance torte that's been applied for centuries. THAT is apparently what this litigation in PA is about. About time !
If DEP and our legislature won't protect us, it's time to do the community litigation in areas where the industry is harming decent people with little or no regard. Time for that to stop!
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