City of Dallas Owns Stake in Irving Well That's Already Been Drilled By Trinity East

Categories: City Hall

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Before City Manager Mary Suhm struck a secret side deal with natural gas producer Trinity East to drill on parkland in the Trinity River floodplain, there were two lesser-known gas wells situated in Irving that Dallas stood to collect royalty checks on.

According to Railroad Commission of Texas documents, Irving, the University of Dallas and the city of Dallas are major stakeholders in natural gas wells operated by Trinity East along the other side of the Trinity River, known as the UD-Dallas Gas Units. Seated just off of Tom Braniff Drive, across Highway 114 from the University of Dallas, and about a quarter mile from the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, the wells were drilled in May 2008 and July 2009.

See also:
- Mary Suhm Signed a Secret Side Deal to Push for Drilling on Parkland as She Told Council It Would Be Banned
- Mary Suhm Screwed Dallas, but Now City Hall Has to Let the Gas Drillers Frack Parkland

One of the wells became a lesson in how drilling for gas, especially for small operators like Trinity East, can become a high-stakes nightmare.

Expro Engineering, a subsidiary of Trinity East, notified the railroad commission in February 2010 that the casing on one of its wells had "parted" or ruptured during fracking operations, which involves blasting a concoction of water, sand and hazardous chemicals into gas-bearing rock a mile or more below the surface at incredible pressures. A letter to the commission indicates Expro shut in the well with what's known as a "frac tree," a stack of valves designed to control the flow of gas from the wellhead.

"We spent considerable time and money trying to correct this problem," the company said in a letter to the commission. "We expect to move back on and make another attempt to complete this well at some time in the future."

Some two months later, Expro wrote to the commission again that it had initiated operations but "experienced mechanical difficulties and may require plugging. Due to potential litigation resulting from failure to protect against offset drainage, we are consolidating the two units, creating the one UD-Dallas Gas Unit."

In other words, Dallas, University of Dallas, Irving and the others would be pooled into a single unit, likely because natural gas would be drawn to the only functioning well from beneath mineral rights owners who could sue, to put it crudely, for sucking the gas out from under them.

I haven't found any lawsuits filed by mineral rights owners against Expro for "failure to protect against offset drainage." But the failed well may have put the small company in a financial pinch, judging by complaints filed by contractors and heavy equipment companies in Dallas County district court, claiming Expro stiffed them on the bills. Basic Energy, a well-site service company, sued for $138,000 in unpaid invoices. Holt Caterpillar claimed Expro owed it nearly $37,000 for heavy equipment. Baker Hughes, an oilfield services company, said Expro refused to pay a $5,000 bill. All parties, according to court papers, have since settled.

The troublesome gas well, on the other hand, remains shut in. Ramona Nye, a spokesman for the commission, says that according to its records, the casing that ruptured was the steel pipe called the production casing. This casing is set within another steel pipe surrounded by cement, known as surface casing. It is intended to separate frack fluid and natural gas from usable aquifers. This should, Nye says, "eliminate any threat of pollution from the production interval."

"At this time, the operator is evaluating the well to determine if it can be repaired and completed as a producing well or if it must be permanently plugged," Nye wrote in an email to Unfair Park.

Dallas Cothrum of MASTERPLAN, who was represented Trinity East (and, thereby Expro) before the Dallas City Council, says he believes the city of Dallas is still receiving royalty checks on the one functional well. A city spokesman said he was not aware of the city's interest in the well but would look into it.

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Nothing to see here folks. Just keep moving along!

Today, we saw a typical example of why a criminal or civil court has attorneys representing each side and an objective moderator (a judge) to keep everything moving. Today's whitewashed dog and pony show was entire one-sided. The "defendant" Mary Suhm proclaimed her innocence. The "defense attorney" Tom Perkins maintained his client's innocence. And all but three "jurors" came to the "trial" with their minds already made up before hearing the evidence. It was a sad spectacle that casts even more negative light on a city government that is functioning with little or no regard for its citizens and their rights.

But, some things cannot be whitewashed and covered up by a dog and pony show. For instance, we have audio tape, written transcripts and videotape from several Council meetings wherein Mary Suhm told the City Council that drilling would NOT be allowed on the surface of park lands at the very same time she was telling Trinity East that her office would do everything possible to get them the right to drill on the surface of park lands. That can be denied, but it cannot be refuted by facts.

Also, Mary Suhm falsely claimed that she had always attempted to be completely open and truthful with the public and Council members in all discussions about this matter, yet she has blocked requests for public documents made under the Texas Open Records Act, and the very letter she signed with Trinity East 5 years ago in which she pledged support of herself and her staff was never revealed until about two weeks ago when Councilman Scott Griggs finally managed to pry it free from Mary Suhm's unlawful attempts to prevent it seeing the light of day.

The truth is that an independent, objective review of Mary Suhm's actions may not reveal the same aura of innocence that she and her attorney, Tom Perkins, claim. We need a federal investigation with full subpoena power to determine the truth so that citizens can rest assured that our government is working for us rather than against us and rather than for an out-of-town corporation that seeks to profit at our expense.


If you don't have enough capital to deal with the fallout of your drilling, don't drill the well. I see this a lot in Wise County.

As the plot thickens on Suhm's behind the scenes machinations, this just gets better and better. Can't wait to watch the body language and who asks what kind of questions at City Hall this morning. See ya there.

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