Once More Into the Frack: Council Considers Changes for Disposal Well at DFW Airport

Chesapeake Energy
A diagram from "Ask Chesapeake" shows a disposal well for spent fracking fluid, down into the Ellenburger Formation underneath the Barnett Shale.
If you thought you'd heard the last from the City Council on gas drilling for a while, well, think again.

Originally, the council was going to approve, without much, if any, discussion tomorrow a resolution by the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport board relating to the gas drilling on the property. The way the item was originally brought to the council, it would have approved the DFW board's attempt to "amend airport regulations relating to oil and gas exploration and production, including requirements for the use of explosives on airport property and incorporation of Texas Railroad Commission regulations." There was but a single exception to the change -- "a provision related to brackish water disposal."

If you think that's all very vague, you're not alone.

"It's not clear to me exactly what's being proposed," Angela Hunt tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "And it's not clear to me why we'd be going forward with this just as we're trying to step and back and evaluate the health safety of the fracking process."

Update at 3:34 p.m. Wednesday: The council voted not to open access to Chesapeake's fracking fluid disposal well at D/FW Airport earlier today. A full update from intern Alex Copeland follows after the jump.

Hunt had the item pulled for individual consideration tomorrow morning to hear more about the impact it'd have at DFW. "I have a lot of questions, and I hope to get them answered tomorrow," she says.

Under a 2006 deal, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy has been drilling for natural gas at DFW land, paying out royalties to both Dallas and Fort Worth. Dallas gas drilling activists Raymond Crawford and Marc McCord tell us they're concerned the ordinance is about turning Chesapeake's disposal well at DFW, where the company pumps its spent fracking fluid, into a permanent underground dumping site for other companies -- which would be more convenient, and potentially more dangerous, than the next closest disposal wells.

Update filed by Alex Copeland: Shortly after council began its meeting this morning, Hunt, who'd proposed pulling the resolution for discussion, questioned DFW Vice President of Commercial Development John Terrell about the recommendation.

Terrell told her the thought behind the recommendation was to allow any other Chesapeake well sites around the airport to use the centralized on-airport disposal, rather than other disposal sites throughout the county.

"The airport is fine with removing the language that was previously proposed and leaving the language as is, that only allows disposal of on-airport water by Chesapeake," Terrell said, and that's how the council voted.

Gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford also spoke before the council today, urging the council form a taskforce to address rising concerns over environmental issues like these. He provided a list of recommended experts for the council to consider.

"The problem, in the big picture, is that all of this is gas related considerations being done piecemeal," Crawford told Unfair Park later. "This is why we need a task force to cover the gambit from beginning to end."

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Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Patrick, when you say that "Chesapeake.... has been... paying out royalties to both Dallas and Fort Worth" I think you're repeating a common misperception about the deal. As I understand it, NO money goes to either Dallas or Fort Worth. Rather, the DFW Airport Board chose (amazingly without any opposition from any of its members, who are supposed to represent the constituent owners and other municipal stakeholders) to allow the airport to retain 100% of the money.

The airport, in turn, has been passing most of the money through to the airlines (read: American Airlines) via reduced landing fees (they have a minor portion of the money to fix up the bathrooms and purchase some new seats for the waiting areas, as well).

In other words, the City of Dallas has been getting no direct benefit from this deal (just as it never seems to accrue any real benefits from being a 7/11 owner of the airport-- other than using its board representation to ensure that well-connected political cronies like Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Kings, Dr. Jim Rodriguez and a handful of other folks get "poured into" various money-making deals out there).


I think the biggest problem with the whole natural gas issue is that it uses massive amounts of fresh water which is in short supply and it comes back unusable.

El Rey
El Rey

Angela, Ask what happens if the spent fracking fluid leaches / seeps into the shale above it. Especially if it travels through the Ellenburger to other well sites... (What if seismic activity generates fissures?) Also, who is responsible if the well casing cracks.


Once again, Angela Hunt asks the right questions. Who has the right answers?


Not so much a question of if, but when regarding an injection well and seismic activity occurring. Is it worth the cost of a runway shifting due to stress? It is my understanding that not even a rock cannot be on a runway for a plane to land safely. Is it worth of the cost of a casualty or worse, fatality?

El Rey
El Rey

I am not too worried about tremors affecting the runways. My concern is more about deep tremors that will affect the Viola and Atoka formations.

As for your concern about a rock on the runway, jet engines don't like them, but they rarely do enough damage to modern aircraft. Most planes are tested and certified to withstand strikes of large frozen turkeys, rocks rarely fly up into the engines during takeoffs and landings. As a veteran of many FOD walks on runways, rocks are the least of your problems. It is amazing the amount of junk that falls off of service vehicles and aircraft at airports...

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