Encana: EPA made mistakes in Wyoming water well testing

[This story was updated, adding Gov. Mead's letter to EPA]

Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. representatives question the source of some chemicals found by the US Environmental Protection Agency in water well test samples near Pavillion, Wyo., where residents in early 2008 complained to EPA about questionable taste and odor in drinking water.

The water wells in question are in the vicinity of Pavillion gas field, which has 169 vertical production wells.  EPA launched an investigation, collecting samples from various water wells in a four-phase program during March 2009-April 2011.

EPA said analysis of samples taken from deep monitoring wells drilled outside Pavillion detected synthetic chemicals like glycols and alcohols consistent with ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluid (OGJ Online, Dec. 9, 2011).

In a Dec. 8 news release about its draft report, EPA said the compounds found were “likely associated with gas production,” including fracing.

David Stewart, environment, health, and safety lead for Encana’s North Rockies business unit, discussed the draft report with reporters during a Dec. 20 briefing teleconference from Encana’s Denver office.

“EPA made mistakes and misjudgments at almost every step of the process,” Stewart said, adding that he believes the preliminary findings “are conjecture, not fact, and only serve to trigger undue alarm.”

Encana plans to provide EPA with detailed documents about the chemicals that were used in the gas wells in question, which date back to the 1960s. Encana later acquired the assets and continued development using fracing. The Calgary company publicly discloses the chemicals used in its fracing fluids.

Stewart said EPA did not examine whether some of the materials it found occurred naturally in the region. Water wells typically extend no lower than 300 ft because methane is known to be present at shallow depths in the area, he said.

Comment-review process

The EPA has launched a 45-day comment period that ends Jan. 27. EPA also plans a peer review by independent scientists that is expected to take 30 days.

Stewart called for an independent third-party review. He said that Encana should not have representatives  on the panel and that EPA should be limited to one or two experts on the panel. The panel should primarily involve people not having a stake in the outcome, Stewart said.

Some within industry and Wyoming state officials have questioned whether EPA could have introduced contaminants in the drilling of the monitoring wells. State officials have noted the EPA's monitoring wells are deeper than typical private drinking water wells.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead wrote a Dec. 21 letter to EPA Administror Lisa Jackson asking for "a cooperative approach between the state and the EPA to best serve a scientific, credible inquiry." He requested that EPA obtain more samples from test wells and schedule any peer review panel public hearings in Wyoming.

Mead also asked EPA what specific charge will be given to the peer review group and if the selection process for panel members will give deference to "the unique geology and hydrology of the Wind River and Fort Union formations."

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute has said numerous questions exist about the EPA’s sampling process

Erik Milito, API’s group director for upstream and industry operations, said,“The opportunity that shale energy production provides for American job creation and economic support is too important to delay.”

API noted in an October 2011 letter to the EPA that the protocols followed by the agency should ensure credible and scientifically defensible results.

Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to EPA on the draft, particularly whether if had been “leaked” before its public release.

“The onus is now on EPA to legitimize this report after more than 6 decades of safely hydraulic fracturing over a million wells,” Russell said. “As we have seen time and again, the current EPA has made our industry a primary target.”

Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, issued a Dec. 8 release saying, “There is no connection between oil and natural gas operations and impacts to domestic water wells.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

MARKET WATCH: Oil prices decline as US crude inventories post first gain in 9 weeks

07/01/2015 Oil prices on July 1 surrendered much of their gains from the day before after the release of a government report showing the first rise in US crud...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...
White Papers

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

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
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

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


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