Chemicals found in Wyoming water near gas drilling

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Aug. 28 -- Federal environmental officials reported water sampling tests tentatively identified chemical contaminants—possibly from natural gas operations—in drinking water wells near Pavillion, Wyo., and more testing will be done to determine the chemical’s source.

The US Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 11 issued a 44-page report outlining its water sampling results in Fremont County, which is a rural area with gas production. Field testing was done during March and again in May.

“There are numerous gas wells, gas well waste pits, and agricultural chemical storage areas that could be potential sources of contamination,” said the report. Among contaminants found, one was 2-butoyethanol, or 2-BE, which EPA officials say is used by the gas industry.

This chemical is a solvent used in hydraulic fracturing, but EPA has yet to determine the cause of the contamination. The water tests were conducted because some Pavillion-area residents complained about their drinking water’s color, smell, and taste.

EnCana’s Wyoming operations
EnCana Corp. has 248 wells in the area, EnCana spokesman Doug Hock of Denver told OGJ. The wells are in the Fort Union formation in the Wind River basin. EnCana acquired the wells in 2004.

“We have not done any drilling or completions there since 2007,” Hock said, adding that EnCana is cooperating with the EPA investigation. “At this point, we just don’t know,” if the chemical found in the water might have come from fracturing, he said.

Luke Chavez, EPA Region 8 project manager in Denver, said there also are coal mines in the area. EPA has yet to determine the volume of 2-BE in the water. The study was conducted under the EPA’s Superfund program.

Chavez noted that the substances found by EPA are found in some household products and in degreasers. He said it’s possible the contaminants came from a degreaser used around a gas production well rather than from fracturing.

“We cannot pinpoint any specific source at this time,” Chevez said. “Further sampling is needed, and we are meeting with stakeholders to determine the best way to approach the next sampling effort.”

Fracturing traditionally is a state-regulated practice, although several federal lawmakers have expressed concerns about whether it should be regulated under federal law.

In June, some members of Congress introduced legislation that would give EPA the authority to regulate fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Hydraulic fracturing is crucial to the development of shale gas plays (OGJ, July 6, 2009, p. 18).

The American Petroleum Institute has issued recommendations to ensure the chemical mixtures used in fracturing jobs remain isolated from groundwater.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

Related Articles

Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

03/21/2014 A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine...

Industry group welcomes most UK budget moves

03/21/2014 Oil & Gas UK voiced support for all but one of several measures affecting the offshore producing industry announced in the UK government’s annu...

Analyst urges broader look at Amazon oil resources’ local impacts

03/21/2014 Increasingly disruptive protests are likely if oil, gas, and mining companies and national governments don’t pay closer attention to indigenous pop...

BOEM extends proposed higher offshore liability limit comment period

03/20/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management added 30 days to the public comment period for its proposed higher liability limit for offshore oil and ga...

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected