Hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reservoirs dominated the agenda and the discussions at the annual meeting of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission that held its annual meeting in Tucson last week. Fears of frac’ing impacts on ground water are being fanned by sensationalist news stories, particularly on the East Coast. Even in states where frac’ing has been standard practice for decades without controversy, there is rising public fear.
This has become the latest battlefield in a long-standing war over state vs federal primacy for oil and gas regulation.
The IOGCC is comprised of 38 oil and gas producing states and serves as a forum for state regulatory agencies to collaborate and offer a common voice to the federal government.
Congress has ordered the EPA to do a study on the impacts of hydro-frac’ing as a result of public fears rising as shale gas deposits are frac’ed. The scoping of that process is just winding up. Many of the state regulators I listened anticipate a heavy-handed federal intrusion that is based on assuaging political pressures rather than being based on the facts and reality. Cynicism and frustration permeated the IOGCC meeting.
IOGCC is partnering with the Ground Water Protection Council to establish a national registry of chemicals used in hydro-frac’ing that is in beta mode and should go public in the next few months. This is a voluntary effort where companies involved in frac’ing will release the details on the chemicals that go into the hydrocarbon bearing layers.
Opponents of frac’ing claim the chemicals are damaging water wells. But I heard state officials challenge horror stories as not being able to be substantiated. Some of the state regulators described situations of panicked water well owners in their states claiming contamination as soon as plans were announced for shale gas wells, even before they were drilled let alone frac’ed. Gas drillers are being urged to test aquifers and nearby water wells to establish base conditions prior to drilling and frac’ing.
There are reports circulating that groups will be targeting certain oil and gas companies in Rocky Mountain states next year as part of a campaign to build political pressure for national restrictions on frac’ing to coincide with release of the EPA study and the 2012 elections.
Hydro-frac’ing has not been an issue in Arizona. There is no shale gas development like in Pennsylvania or New York. A few carbon dioxide wells were frac’ed in the St Johns area a couple decades ago but the tests were not successful and the current development in that area has not proposed using it again.
However, frac’ing might be considered here for carbon sequestration wells or Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) projects, although there are no proposals for this at present.