While the offshore oil and gas industry is fighting for its survival under an outright shut down of all operations in the Gulf of Mexico, there is growing concern over another major issue that could result in the destruction of the entire domestic oil and gas industry in this country.
In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been pressured by many “green” and anti-fossil fuel organizations to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Very briefly, the hydraulic fracturing process involves pumping water, sand and less than 1 percent of chemicals into the wellbore under high pressure. At nearly two miles below the surface, the mixture is forced out through perforations in the production casing into the targeted rock formation. This pressure inevitably results in the fracturing of the geological formation. The ultimate goal of the process is to create a “fairway” connecting the reservoir to the well and allow the released gas to flow to the wellbore.
Environmentalists argue that the fracturing process can contaminate the water supplies and should be regulated by the Federal Government under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Currently, hydraulic fracturing is closely and effectively regulated by state agencies.
Bob Anthony, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, said in an address to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in July, “In my 20-plus years as a commissioner, I can’t think of anything that can compare to the all-out assault on hydraulic fracturing by groups that are obviously using it to put a stop to the tapping of America’s abundant natural gas supplies.”
Over the more than 60 years of use and nearly one million wells that have been drilled in the US with this process, hydraulic fracturing is a technology that has been proven by experience to be safe and effective.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulators have studied the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on underground drinking water sources and have found no confirmed evidence of any contamination of drinking water wells in connection with hydraulic fracturing operations.
Should the EPA become the regulator for hydraulic fracturing, the EPA/Administration with the stroke of a pen could shut down the entire domestic oil and natural gas industry almost overnight.
This issue will have far reaching affect on all Americans.
For instance, it is certain that consumers will see higher energy costs to heat and cool their homes where natural gas is the fuel for electric generation.
Realizing the significance of this policy, one would think it impossible to implement.
However, who would have believed that a year ago operations in the Gulf of Mexico would be brought to a screeching halt?
Hydraulic fracturing is essential for the production of natural gas from unconventional shale plays such as the Haynesville Shale.
It’s estimated that nearly eighty percent of the wells drilled in the United States utilize hydraulic fracturing to produce oil or natural gas.
These wells have been drilled successfully under the regulations of the states in which they are drilled.
It is the state regulators, not Washington bureaucrats that have the knowledge of the local geology and geography of their respected regions to effectively regulate this process.
Don Briggs is President of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association.