Ewart: Taking a regional approach to fracking: AER (previously ERCB, previously EUB, and ERCB before it was the EUB – every time the regulator gets caught breaking bad, Alberta government changes its spots)

Ewart: Taking a regional approach to fracking, AER to launch pilot project of oversight by Stephen Ewart, February 22, 2014, Calgary Herald
The Alberta Energy Regulator has a head start on its oversight of fracking after a century of oil and gas development in the province but that history has also created its own challenges. The current boom in hydraulic fracturing has been slow to arrive in Alberta compared with some basins in North America but the 300,000 existing well bores in the province are providing authorities a lot of valuable lessons on well completions and reservoir stimulation.

Those well bores – some producing, some abandoned – are also susceptible to being penetrated by the underground pathways created by fracking.
That history of oil and gas development – and its intersection with today’s industry as fracking opens undeveloped basins in previously drilled areas – is one reason the AER is about to pilot a new approach to overseeing fracking on a regional basis. Managing water resources across an entire oil or gas play is another reason for a wide-ranging approach. The pilot project will be rolled out in the next few months.

“We have done some initial work on this on the critical pieces of how do we move toward a play-based approach,[This sounds a lot like the blanket approval approach companies targetting CBM in Alberta asked for, and received, dramatically reducing landowner and community control of surface lands] said Cal Hill, executive vice-president of strategy and regulatory division at the regulator that was established last summer. [It’s not a new regulator, the ERCB just got a name change and statutory immunity for negligence and omissions now 100% industry funded instead of 67%, and now chaired by Ex-Encana/Cenovus VP, putting industry as the leader of the regulator.] “The idea is to get a much better picture of what is going to happen in an area.”

A discussion paper by the AER, titled Regulating Unconventional Oil & Gas in Alberta, says that under its new approach, once a play is declared – the Duvernay, for example – all operators must comply with existing regulations but those could be “superseded by play-focused requirements.” It “strongly encouraged” [aka VOLUNTARY] companies to establish a play-oriented operators’ group early in development. The previous [same] regulator had launched a review of fracking in December 2012. The pilot project, which will demand more cooperation from the producers in an area, is one of the changes the AER is steadily rolling out.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has said about 90 per cent of wells, mostly gas, drilled in British Columbia this year will be fracked, compared with 70 per cent in Alberta and 60 in Saskatchewan. The low gas price removed the incentive to drill for it in Alberta basins in recent years. That scenario appears about to change. A surge in gas prices above $5 a gigajoule in Alberta this winter has revived interest in gas plays. Several industry analysts have forecast gas will average $4.75 this year, compared with $2.28 as recently as 2012.

A six-fold increase in licences producers received to use groundwater for fracking in Alberta in 2013 was another indication of looming growth. The motivation is hardly surprising. Fracking previously untapped shale gas reservoirs has redrawn the energy map around the world but, as the International Energy Agency acknowledges, “it is an intensive industrial process.”

Fracking operations typically use a series of long horizontal wells drilled from a single platform to deliver large volumes of pressurized water, sand and chemicals in a series of “staged” fractures of rock to create paths for oil or gas to flow. The process is applied repeatedly over large areas to improve the economics and increase volumes recovered.“If you’re looking at water management you can’t do it on a wellby-well basis, it has to be regional,” said Hill, “the same with the surface infrastructure.”

Fracks in Alberta will typically use less water than in northeast B.C. for example. A gas well in B.C.’s Horn River Basin could use 90,000 cubic metres of water but, according to the AER, a Duvernay well in Alberta would use closer to 30,000 cubic metres.

The oil and gas industry uses about 10 per cent of the water in Alberta [25-100% of the water injected during fracturing is permanently lost from the hydrogeological cycle] but there are concerns over the quantity that could be used in fracking and the impact on water quality.

Haphazard well completions and poor operating practices by a few producers in Canada and the United States have prompted public concern over contamination of water supplies. Several jurisdictions new to oil and gas development have issued moratoriums on fracking. In Alberta, landowner Jessica Ernst has had a long battle with gas producer Encana over problems with her water she blames on fracking.

A regional approach in Alberta means assessing the issues with existing well bores. There have already been examples in the province of accidental “communication” between well bores and blowouts while companies were conducting frack jobs.

The AER’s discussion paper notes one of its priorities is to improve the understanding of the effects of hydraulic fracturing “especially with respect to interformational crossflow and minimizing unintended pathways to offset energy wells penetrating the same formation.”

Or, as Hill said, “the holes in the ground, that’s where the biggest risk comes from.” [Water wells, about 500,000 in Alberta, are “holes in the ground.” Frac’d released methane migrates up leaking wellbores into groundwater, subsequently rising up domestic and municipal water wells.]

Producers will need to inform the regulator as part of plans filed in advance how far out their fracks will impact existing wells. It will become more important as the AER pushes companies for longer horizontal legs on wells to reduce the surface footprint. [The greater the subsurface reach and impact, the greater the surface footprint. Wheatland, Rocky View and Mountain View Counties provide excellent proof of this: one impact example, the longer the legs, the more the toxic, radioactive waste that must be dumped somewhere, usually “footprinted” on foodlands near homes and communities. Another, the longer the legs, the more water required that is hauled on public roads, passing homes and through communities causing significant surface “footprint” damages paid for by the public. And thirdly, the surface lease size increases taking good agricultural lands out of production.]

Fracking technology is advancing so quickly, the AER doesn’t want to limit innovation with rules that are too prescriptive.

It’s also evident fracking isn’t going to disappear from the landscape anytime soon. “It’s the difference in being at the sunset years of the resource in the province or the sunset years are decades out in front of us,” Hill said. “If we’re not doing it, the energy development in this province would have a much, much shorter life.” [Emphasis added]

[A few examples of the serious pollution caused by frac’ing that the AER needs to deregulate to mitigate industry’s (and the government’s) liability:

Another “documented” case! American Arbitration Association, Commercial Arbitration Tribunal, orders Chesapeake to pay Jacqueline Place of Terry Township, Bradford County PA, $60,000 for temporary methane contamination in water well after hydraulic fracturing

Front Page: Politely spurn fracking, mom Diana Dauheimer urges Yukoners

Over 200 Groups Call on President Obama to Re-Open Investigations into Connection Between Fracking and Water Contamination in Parker County, Texas, Duke University Water Tests Show Water Contamination Linked to Drilling and Fracking Persists

New testing finds methane contamination in North Texas drinking water is increasing and spreading; Scientists point to Range Resources, Range and the regulator say nature did it

Groundwater testing remains a concern in Alberta, protects industry more than it does groundwater

Wetland contamination from frac waste water can be predicted in oil boom states, study finds

Four states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virgina and Texas, confirm multiple cases of water pollution from fracking

US EPA unlikely to step up fracking enforcement efforts because of lack of staff, lack of funding for expensive testing and investigating, lack of political will

New Study Shows Fracking Is Bad for Babies, Research builds on and affirms research in Pennsylvania by Elaine L. Hill

Alberta Landowners the Campbells Dispute Energy Regulator over Polluted Well, Couple says ‘glaring’ data on industry-caused water contamination is ignored

Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom, Well water in Pennsylvania homes within a mile of fracking sites is found to be high in methane

Water contamination in Parker County exceeds explosive limits, just like in Wheatland and other frac’d counties in Alberta

EPA Fracking Study Rebukes Agency’s Own Safety Claims, DeSmog Exclusive: Censored EPA PA fracking water contamination In Dimock, opponent neither surprised nor hopeful over EPA leak of information on water contaminated with methane

UTA Study Finds Contaminants In Ground Water Near Gas Wells

Isotopic fingerprints don’t lie; people do; Internal EPA report suggests methane from hydraulic fracturing contaminated wells at Dimock, Pa

New Peer Reviewed Study: Elevated levels of methanol and heavy metals may be from fracking in Texas, Water contamination highest near frack sites

285 homes in Carson, California contaminated by Shell, experts fear dangerously high levels of methane could cause a massive fireball

Fracking’s More Dangerous Bedfellow: Acidizing; Halliburton Introduces Technology to Control Fracture Face Damage and Help Improve Production from Unconventional Reservoirs

Doctors raise alarm over toxic coal seam gas leaks, Gas Industry Attacks Scientists After Research Finds Triple The Normal Levels Of Methane At Australian Gas Fields

GAS LEAK! ABC Four Corners on Coal Seam Gas (Coalbed Methane) in Australia

EnCana co-opts EPA’s Study showing Encana’s fracturing and pits contaminated drinking water at Pavillion, Wyoming

US EPA suddenly delays fracking study on risks to groundwater two years until 2016EESGasMigrationBriefPDFLink

June 2013: Brief review of threats to Canada’s groundwater from the oil and gas industry’s methane migration and hydraulic fracturing

“As somebody who has reported for 20 years on this industry in the province, I can tell you I’ve met hundreds of people in this province who have signed confidentiality agreements once their water was blown, once their livestock was killed, once a member of their family were injured, once they lost most of their grass or their trees as a result of fouling events, contamination events, air pollution, you name it. It is common practice in this province to buy people out, and then buy their silence … so there is no record of how this industry quite often performs badly.” Andrew Nikiforuk, presentation in Cochrane, Alberta 2011, watch at:  FrackingCanada How the West was Lost

Sunday Times review of Pennsylvania DEP drilling records reveals significant well water damages, murky testing methods

Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements

“It is one conflict after another.” Lisa Bracken’s home in Silt, Colorado, sits between two fracing pads. She’s waged about a dozen legal battles with the driller EnCana, but say the biggest was over a 2004 natural gas seep into nearby Divide Creek.  EnCana denies wrong doing. “In 2004, you could light a flame a foot high off that creek.” Bracken says EnCana offered her a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement, but that she turned it down. She called it a “common practice.”“In exchange for a couple of bucks here, we get your silence here. For a lot of landowners…sadly, they welcome that, because it is such a contentious environment.”

Fracking Contamination Will Only Get Worse: BNN Interview with Dr. Karlis Muehlenbachs, Geochemist at the University of Alberta

Environment Canada asks industry to come clean on hydraulic fracking

Fracking contamination and litigation—case law update

Gas drilling company threatens lawsuit against Texas Campaign for the Environment for raising concerns about casing failure possibly causing groundwater contamination

Ed Rendell Intervened For Oil Company to Stop EPA Contamination Case Against Range Resources

How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst, In famous flaming water case, regulator to argue ‘no duty of care’ to landowners or groundwater

Canadian authorities: Fracking operation contaminated groundwater

Craig man killed in explosion attempting to offload frac waste

Hydraulic fracturing with gelled propane by Gasfrac/Crew Energy Inc./Caltex Energy Inc. contaminated groundwater near Grande Prairie: ERCB Investigative Report and groundwater monitoring by Alberta Environment

Province loses bid to force Abitibi to clean up contamination, Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7-2 against government

EnCana shallow fracturing and contaminated water at Pavillion Wyoming, Tests, controversy, more testing

Heavy metals: Study links water contamination to fracking

Water contamination complaints filed due to drilling

Federal clean-up won’t get it all, Need another $40 billion to remove contamination

Dairy Farmer in Bradford County tells her story of Contamination after gas drilling

Lawsuit challenges frackers’ waste disposal practices in Arkansas

EPA fracking investigation in Wyoming revisited after objections, Validity of initial water sampling results confirmed

New Study Supports Water Contamination Due to Fracking, U.S. Geological Survey Verifies EPA Findings in Pavillion, WY

USGS Fracking Study Confirms Methane Contamination of Drinking Water in Pavillion, Wyoming

Busted, Part Deux! Fracking Chemicals Found in Wyoming Water Supply

Cabot, Dimock families near settlement on gas drilling contamination

Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks, Analysts Say

Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

Natural Gas Fracking Industry May Be Paying Off Scientists

David Letterman On Fracking: ‘We’re Screwed’

Analysis Confirms That Hydraulic Fracturing Caused Drinking Water Contamination In Wyoming

Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Orders Alberta Innovates to release baseline testing and water contamination investigation information, including draft reports

Rex Energy Cuts off Families’ Access to Safe Drinking Water after Contamination from Fracking

Potential for environmental impact due to acid gas leakage from wellbores at EOR injection sites near Zama Lake, Alberta

Fracking Contamination ‘Will Get Worse’: Alberta Expert Dr. Karlis Muehlenbachs

Encana slams EPA water contamination report

Alleged gas-drilling contamination of Wyoming well water scraps EnCana sale

Gas Industry Geologists – Not Doctors – Decide If Water Is “Safe” in Alberta Fracking Contamination Cases

The unacceptable price of secret settlement

DEP investigating methane contamination in Susquehanna County

Fingerprinting of gas contaminating groundwater and soil in a petroliferous region, Alberta, Canada

Fracking Pollution: Wells Found Contaminated Near Bradford County, Pennsylvania Natural Gas Blowout

Arkansas Fracking Lawsuits Claim Water Contamination

Chesapeake Energy Issued Record Gas Drilling Fine For Water Contamination In Pennsylvania

Fracking, methane and drinking water

Alberta shuns US shale gas fears; Minister Renner says our rules prevent water contamination

Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing

Rosebud landowner sues over alleged well contamination

9/11 law firm set to announce contamination suit against Colorado gas drilling company

Dimock residents see “dirty tricks” in Cabot document

Texas Fracking Lawsuits Allege Water Contamination in the Barnett Shale

Dallas law firm brings lawsuits against 3 gas companies

EPA Orders Range Resources to Investigate Drinking Water Contamination in Parker County

Contamination from Natural Gas Drilling Sparks Lawsuits, Investigations

River Bubbles, Contamination Claims in Bradford

Methane bubbling in Fish Creek

Private lab finds toxic chemicals in Dimock water

Lawsuit: Gas drilling fluid ruined Pennsylavania water wells. Company and state officials deny any charges of contamination in the wells

US Congress Investigating EnCana’s hydraulic fracturing practices

A Colossal Fracking Mess: The dirty truth behind the new natural gas

Schreiner Oil And Gas Co. Complies With DEP Orders

Dimock families sue natural gas driller

Pennsylvania lawsuit says drilling polluted water

Boom in gas drilling fuels contamination concerns in Colorado, Some scientists and citizens want firms that extract natural gas to reveal what chemicals they’re using

EnCana denies doing any water well contamination

8 Landowners Reject Closure of Groundwater Cases: Demand Proper Study of Industrial Contamination

Encana Passes the Buck on Contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming

Confidentiality Agreements, The Problem: Confidentiality agreements in lawsuit settlements can be harmful, even deadly, to the public

2007: Testimony on water contamination and non-disclosure of chemicals used in shallow hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane wells in Alberta

Water grief brings cowboy to tears

Gas in water

Damning Evidence of Groundwater Contamination

Alberta accused of ignoring water well contamination by oil and gas drilling

Inflaming a Conflict, Alberta Landowners Claim Coal-bed Methane Drilling Contaminates their Water. Or Are They Just Reviving Old Rivalries Between Farmers and Industry?

Encana Operating Canadas Biggest CBM Field

EnCana racks up the fines EnCana Oil & Gas was hit with another fine last week in connection with its operations in Garfield County. It has violated state regulations and laws in connection with 17 wells this year and been fined a total of $454,200. “Seventeen for this one company is quite a few,” said Morris Bell, operations manager for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. But the company promises next year will be different. EnCana spokesman Walt Lowry said this week EnCana’s goal is to be issued no notices of alleged violation by the COGCC in 2005. “It’s a dangerous business. Things do happen, but it’s our commitment and our goal to ensure that they don’t,”

2005: Alleged Violations of the rules and regulations of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) by EnCana

2004: Alleged Violations of the rules and regulations of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) by EnCana

Environmental hazards posed by the Los Angeles Basin urban oilfields

1993: Foul Water Leads to Court Methane Contamination from CBM

1987 EPA Report to Congress EPA report documenting groundwater and water well contamination from hydraulic fracturing.

cycle of fracking denial

etc. Disclaimer: The above list is far from comprehensive. ]

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