Texas Leads the Nation in Illegally Injecting Diesel into Wells, Which Is Not a Good Thing

Categories: Environment

diesel_fracking.jpg
Regulation of the mysterious chemicals used in fracking fluid used in drilling for oil and gas has been pretty much off limits to the Environmental Protection Agency ever since Congress in 2005 stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate fracking fluid under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a meager win for people who like water, the 2005 loophole at least was supposed to discourage oil companies from fracking with diesel chemicals, which are especially toxic. Because the diesel chemicals weren't included in that special exemption, anyone who wanted to frack with diesel was, in theory, supposed find some other volatile chemical to use instead, or at least ask the EPA for a special permit first. Naturally, that didn't happen, and the EPA missed out on its one exciting chance to regulate fracking fluid, the secret sauce of water and other stuff drillers use in hydraulic fracturing. A 2011 congressional investigation found that companies kept using diesel anyway. The EPA didn't do anything to stop them or clarify its diesel guidelines until recently.

Thanks to all that, a new report now shows that Texas has been collecting quite a lot of diesel in our fracking wells. In fact, we lead the nation in diesel.

Using data that the industry submitted in the fracking chemical disclosure registry, FracFocus, and government records, an environmental group called the Environmental Integrity Project identified 351 wells fracked across the nation with diesel fuels between 2010 and July 2014.

In Texas, 12,808 gallons of diesel chemicals have been injected into the ground in that four-year time period, the report found. We creamed Colorado, the second-most diesel-popular state, by more than 3,000 gallons.

The oil industry argues that the report is unfair because the EPA initially didn't issue a clear rules on which types of chemicals counted as diesel or how they would be regulated. It was just this past February that the EPA finally gave guidance for drillers on how to follow the Clean Water Act. Since then, the industry's figures of reported diesel use have dropped.

"We stopped using diesel in 2011 and kerosene in 2012, and that was years before this [EPA] guidance was out," says Suanna Lundsberg, a spokesman for Exxon's XTO Energy.

Others in the industry similarly say they've agreed to stop using diesel now that it's clearly illegal without a permit, pointing to their FracFocus data submit showing a big drop-off of diesel usage recently. But the Environmental Integrity Project report also accuses the industry of doctoring those records, noting that FracFocus has no way to to detect when companies go back and change what chemicals they decide to disclose. The EIP report also says that Halliburton (the Dallas-based oil corporation credited with influencing former CEO/then-Vice President Dick Cheney to write the 2005 Clean Water loophole), sells "numerous fracking fluids with high diesel content."

In a statement, Halliburton was evasive about whether it plans to phase out those diesel products. "Several of the products listed in the report are not used for hydraulic fracturing operations," spokesman Susie McMichael says via email. And another Halliburton spokesman gave a similarly vague response to ProPublica, saying only that the company plans to work with regulators.

Most of the diesel wells are safely far away from us, in South Texas over the Eagle Ford shale. That's a relief, because the people of South Texas don't seem to like diesel very much. "Help us residents of South Texas before we all die," wrote a resident from Gonzales County in a complaint they filed to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The complaint, obtained by Inside Climate News earlier this year, says that a drilling operator dug a hole in the ground nearby and used it to bury "oily drilling waste ... sometimes with diesel fuel, chemicals and oil floating on it."


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22 comments
TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

The U.S. shale-gas boom is placing 30 million jobs at risk in Europe as companies with greater reliance on energy contend with higher fuel prices than their American counterparts, the International Energy Agency said.

This probably motivates some American anti-fracking activists as much as Arab money does.

pak152
pak152

another one sided article based upon press releases from fracktivist organizations

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Fuck yea!  Now we can drill for diesel and kerosene too!!

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I've lived on property with many wells that were fracked. I've had the water for years. Never had an issue.

One thing conveniently left out of this article is that every barrel of frac fluid is flowed back out of the well. Every barrel.

There is no problem with fracking.

The problem is with salt water disposal wells.

doclawson
doclawson

Oh please. Cry wolf much?


12,000 lousy gallons of diesel in a four year period? In the entire state of Texas? Most of which was injected thousands of feet below any drinking water never to be seen again? 


I bet an order of magnitude (that's 10x for you liberal arts majors) greater than that spills on the ground in gas stations in DFW alone. 


Get some freaking perspective please. Just last week, 5000-8000 gallons of diesel spilled into the Ohio river, and it's no big deal. http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2014/08/19/oil-spill-reported-on-ohio-river/14274199/

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

I have a modest proposal that could lead to a pubic relations coup for the fracking industry:

Fracking executives, office workers and field workers all drink water during the course of their work-day. They brew their morning coffee with water, they carry bottlesd water to meetings, they hydrate while working under that hot Texas sun. 

Why not mandate industry-wide that all water for human consumption be obtained from public water sources in areas of intense fracking activity? No more trucking in botttles of Ozarka or whatever. Just pure, clean well-water from areas that are heavily fracked, preferably those areas where the quality of water has been questioned by those opposed to fracking.

What clearer demonstration could there be that fracking does not harm the water supply? Industry employes and exexutives should even consider using such water in their homes for mixing baby formula, tea-time, tooth-brushing, and so forth.
What could possibly go wrong?   

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I think that you are confused with not only the terminology but with oil and gas well maintenance other than hydraulic fracturing.


12,808 gallons of diesel oil over a 4 year period is not a significant amount.


Typically, diesel oil is used to clean accumulations of asphaltenes from the well bore.


Please investigate your facts prior to publishing a story.


As far as the oily wastes being buried, please report this to the Texas Railroad Commission.  A few photos would be very helpful.  Gonzales County is covered by the San Antonio District Office.  Their phone number is 210-227-1313


For more information, please see: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/

dingo
dingo

"Help us residents of South Texas before we all die,"

That quote certainly provides credibility to the usually suspect Dallas Observer/Inside Climate News EPA/Anti-Fracking story.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Maybe y'all will eventually be able to run your pickups on tap water.

andypandy
andypandy

@cajunscouse9  They use the diesel as a solvent and lubricant along with hydrochloric acid to increase poracity and silica to help hold open the fractures.  While yes they do attempt to recover much of the fracking fluid so as to reuse it, as they do with drilling mud, the very nature of shooting the fluid under high pressure into a porus substrate means that they cannot reclaim all of the fracking fluid.  The problem with the wells is not only the salt water disposal wells which are a greater problem but with improper cementing and casing of the wells which is why in some areas people are having problems with flammable well water.

bifftannen
bifftannen

@cajunscouse9 This is a sample size of one. Ask how many people can drink the water on Jack Grace Hill Road in Bowie.

pak152
pak152

@bmarvel "DENVER -- An energy company executive's sip of fracking fluid at an industry conference this month has been called a demonstration by some and a stunt by others, but it's bringing attention to new recipes for hydraulic fracturing fluids that in the past have contained chemicals commonly used for antifreeze or bleaching hair."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/halliburton-executive-drinks-fracking-fluid_n_933621.html

more later bill, it's late and your favorite oil company shill has just come across this blog post

Chattering_Monkey
Chattering_Monkey

@bmarvel This is a terrible idea, who the hell drinks tap water anymore?  Hell Fracking chemicals probably makes it taste better, if it in fact even pollutes the water system of such cities

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I've flowed back the wells and we had to recover every barrel. As for bad cement jobs...I agree. I cemented wells for years and the amount of down hole cementing equipment used on a string of casing has greatly decreased. When once a cement job used hundreds of pieces of equipment, now less than adequate is used. The gas in water problem has been around long before fracking. The biggest problem tho is still with the disposal wells. Quakes and the like.

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

I can speak for everyone who lived in my area of the Haynesville Shale. Sample of thousands. Do the research. It's not the fracking, it's the salt water injection wells that are a problem.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@pak152 @bmarvel This doesn't begin to tap the p.r. possibilities here, pak. 

I'm thinking TV spots with a happy fracking family -- Jim, Jane and the kids --  sipping iced tea at poolside. Then Jane alone, rinsing baby's bottles for tomorrow, Jim happily drying the kids after their baths, all water courtesy the county water authority. A final shot, Jim and Jane in bed, exchange a chaste goodnight kiss. 

Jane: "Oh,Jim, I'm so grateful we have clean water for our family."

Closeup of Jim's hard-hat on the dresser, the company's logo prominently displayed.

Jim: "You can depend on it, Jane." 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

Those pesky Japanese.

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