How Halliburton Technology is Wrecking the Rockies

How Halliburton Technology is Wrecking the Rockies by Michelle Nijhuis, One Earth, Summer 2006
Most companies keep their particular “recipes” for hydraulic fracturing fluids under wraps, but many fluids are known to contain toxic chemicals intended to increase the efficiency of the process. Some, for example, include the carcinogen benzene and the powerful neurotoxins toluene and xylene…. “We just don’t have enough data. This is a huge experiment.” … The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency that oversees oil and gas development in the state, sent a representative to inspect the damage, and tests showed that the well water was contaminated with methane gas. Though methane is believed to be nontoxic in drinking water, it poses other threats: At the concentration detected in the Amos well, the state warned, gas entering through the faucets could collect inside the house and explode. (The state advised the family to keep closets and crawl spaces ventilated). The Amoses immediately blamed hydraulic fracturing for their troubles, but the oil and gas commission, and Ballard, argued that the fracturing had taken place more than a mile underground, far below the 225-foot-deep well. They also pointed out that instrument readings taken during the fracturing jobs showed no sign of a problem. Yet Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, who has studied the incident as a consultant to Garfield County, concluded that the deep fracturing was at least an indirect cause of the backyard geyser. “Water wells just don’t do that,” he says, “unless you apply pressure to the bottom.” Thyne surmises that the pressurized fracturing fluids shoved gas or liquid through a much shallower leak in the side of one of the gas wells. That gas, he says, could then have found one of the natural underground fissures abundant in the area and moved through it into the Amos well…. Families living on top of gas fields in Alabama, Virginia, New Mexico, and Wyoming, as well as in other parts of Colorado, had reported gas and other contaminants in their drinking water after fracturing operations. In the late 1980s, the McMillian family of central Alabama complained that immediately following fracturing of shallow coal seams near their home, black goo — possibly a gel used in the fracturing process — oozed out of their water taps. In the gas-rich San Juan Basin of southwestern Colorado, some families saw the water in their sinks and bathtubs fizz with methane gas after fracturing operations in the area’s coal deposits…. “To inject something like [2-BE] underground, without knowing what was going to happen — I just can’t believe we would do something so stupid.”

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