Congressmen query oil service firms about fracing fluid contents

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 18 -- US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters to eight oil field service companies requesting information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids on Feb. 18.

“Hydraulic fracturing could help us unlock vast domestic natural gas reserves once though unattainable, strengthening America’s energy independence and reducing carbon emissions,” Waxman said. “As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems.”

Markey noted, “Gas can play a very important role in our clean energy future, provided that it is produced in a safe and sustainable way. By getting more information from the industry about hydraulic fracturing practices, Congress can help ensure that development of this important resource moves forward in a manner that does not harm the environment.”

An oil and gas lobbyist, meanwhile, told OGJ, “We’re aware of the request. The technology is proven and it’s safe. I’m aware that [US Environmental Protection Agency] officials have even said so recently. States have done a very good job regulating this since its first use. We’ll work and review the request from Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey and respond as best as we can.”

Fracing fluid is more than 98% water and sand, the lobbyist noted. Since 2003, under a voluntary agreement with EPA, companies have not used diesel fuel as a carrier fluid when working with coalbed methane wells in association with underground drinking water sources, he said.

‘Continuing effort’
“It’s difficult to know exactly where they’re going,” said Lee O. Fuller, vice-president of government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “I think it shows a continuing effort to respond to antidevelopment groups who want to make chemicals an issue, whether used in fracing or other aspects of production.”

States have regulated casing and well bores for decades to protect drinking water supplies before fracing became practical, Fuller pointed out. “Raising a chemicals issue in connection with fracing is an effort to create anxiety among people around production areas that is not founded in fact,” Fuller told OGJ.

Waxman noted that when he chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the 110th Congress, he requested and received information from BJ Services Co., Halliburton Co., and Schlumberger Ltd.—the three largest well-stimulation companies—on chemicals they used in their fluids.

He said data provided by the companies showed that two of them used diesel in their fluids during 2005-07, potentially violating the voluntary agreement with EPA. Halliburton reported using more than 870,000 gal of seven diesel-based fluids, while BJ Services said that it used 2,500 gal of diesel-based fluids in several frac jobs, he said. The two companies also indicated that they used chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which Waxman said could pose environmental risks in their fracing fluids.

“The information provided to the Oversight Committee did not specify whether these fluids were injected in or near underground sources of drinking water,” Waxman and Markey said in a Feb. 18 memorandum to Energy and Environment Subcommittee members. “This is an important issue because injecting the chemicals in or near sources of drinking water could create contamination risks.”

Other questions
The congressmen added that the Safe Drinking Water Act could have been violated if the fluids contained diesel. The responses also did not address how the companies dispose of fracing fluids and whether it was done in an environmentally safe manner, they said.

“Another set of questions involves the practices of smaller companies,” the memorandum continued. “When Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger signed the diesel [memorandum of agreement] in 2003, the three companies performed 95% of the hydraulic fracturing jobs in the United States each year. Since that time, smaller companies have increased their market share…. Little is known about [their] practices.”

To answer these questions, Waxman and Markey said they sent letters on Feb. 18 not only to Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger, but also to Frac Tech Services in Cisco, Tex.; Superior Well Services in Indiana, Pa., Universal Well Services in Meadville, Pa.; and Sanjel Corp. and Calfrac Well Services in Calgary. The eight companies have until Mar. 5 to supply the information.

Concerns also have been raised about how producers and service companies dispose of fracing fluid and produced water extracted from wells, the memorandum continued. The Oversight Committee did not request this information at the time. Waxman and Markey said more information is needed to assess the wastes’ chemical contents and determine how it can be disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

Congress passed funding for EPA to study fracing, and the agency apparently is looking hard at how water will be handled in New York and Pennsylvania where geologic formations favorable for underground disposal are not readily available. “We as an industry are stepping up and trying to deal with this, looking at ways to handle surface impoundment and storage,” the oil and gas lobbyist said. “I’m sure we can deal with it.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

BOEM proposes lease sale for western Gulf of Mexico

03/03/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development, i...

Shell Canada withdraws application for Pierre River heavy oil project

03/03/2015

Shell Canada Ltd. has withdrawn its regulatory application for the proposed Pierre River heavy oil mine north of Fort McMurray.

Anadarko cuts spending, stalls well completions

03/03/2015 Anadarko Petroleum Corp. on Mar. 3 said it will cut spending 33% during 2015 compared with 2014 and will reduce drilling and defer 125 onshore well...

Petrobras to divest $13.7 billion in 2015-16

03/03/2015 Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) plans to divest $13.7 billion in 2015-16, up from the previously reported $5-11 billion in the company’s busines...

Report notes strong Saudi fiscal ‘buffers’

03/03/2015 Saudi Arabia has fiscal buffers enabling it to cover projected deficits while oil prices are low for at least 4 years and perhaps more than 8 years...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil prices holding under $50/bbl

03/03/2015 The contract for US light, sweet crude oil for April delivery declined modestly on the New York market Mar. 2 holding under $50/bbl while Brent cru...

Update of earlier NAM study still finds EPA ozone proposal costly

03/02/2015 The US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 65 ppb ozone standard could reduce US gross domestic product by $140 billion/year and create $1.1...

GOM REVENUE SHARING-1 Lease sales drive gulf OCS revenues

03/02/2015 The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA) provides for sharing offshore lease revenues in the GOM Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Kosmos well establishes gas, condensate potential of Laayoune basin off Morocco

03/02/2015 A noncommercial gas and condensate discovery offshore Morocco establishes exploratory potential of the frontier Laayoune basin, reports operator Ko...
White Papers

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

When Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Predictive Analytics in your digital oilfield - Optimize Production Yield and Reduce Operational Costs

When Tue, Jul 7, 2015

Putting predictive analytics to work in your oilfield can help you anticipate failures, plan and schedule work in advance, eliminate emergency work and catastrophic failures, and at the same time you can optimize working capital and improve resource utilization.  When you apply analytic capabilities to critical production assets it is possible to reduce non-productive time and increase your yield.

Learn how IBM's analytics capabilities can be applied to critical production assets with the goal of reducing non-productive time, increasing yield and reducing operations costs.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

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