Fracking wastewater spill in north dakota

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has revealed that a spill of fracking wastewater, otherwise known as brine, has been released been notified of a
produced water (brine) release in Renville County approximately 5 miles southeast of Tolley.

Renville County, North Dakota
Renville County, North Dakota

The fracking company responsible, Enduro Operating, has reported that 25 barrels of oil and 820 barrels of brine were released –  70 barrels of which left the oil well location, whilst the remaining released 750 barrels contained on site.

The view the North Dakota press release in full, click here.

Fracking wastewater dumped in manchester canal

MP Kate Green has demanded to know why fracking waste water was dumped in Manchester Canal.
Her press release states:

“Kate has demanded answers on how waste water from fracking was dumped into the Manchester Ship Canal.
A BBC Inside Out programme, shown on Monday 27th January, reported that that radioactive water from Cuadrilla’s fracking operations was handled at United Utilities treatment works in Davyhulme and, after treatment, released into the Manchester Ship Canal.
A Freedom of Information request has found that, before October 2011, waste water from fracking was treated at Davyhulme.
This was before the Environment Agency told Cuadrilla that, because of changes to rules on the levels of radioactivity in the waste water that would be permitted, they required a permit to continue to take the excess water produced from fracking to a waste water treatment works.
Last autumn United Utilities told Kate that none of their treatment sites were named in any permit applications to the Environment Agency to transport and treat fracking flowback waste water.

Kate has now written to the Chief Executive at United Utilities to ask how much radioactive waste water from fracking was treated at Davyhulme before the regulations changed, and how much waste was released into the Manchester Ship Canal or elsewhere.
Kate said, “I am extremely concerned that radioactive waste water has been released into our local waterways.Local residents are rightly worried, which is why I have written to the Chief Executive of United Utilities to ask for a full explanation of their involvement with waste water from fracking. Full and open disclosure from Cuadrilla and United Utilities is essential so that we can get to the bottom of why this has happened.
The technology around fracking remains unproved, and it shouldn’t be going ahead when serious question marks exist around its safety and environmental impact.”

New research into fracking wastewater

A recent academic report from the United States suggests that, despite soothing statements by politicians and industry, toxic and dangerous substances in fracking wastewater are not being effectively removed by treatment and are entering surface waters (rivers, streams etc.) with potentially serious effects on the health of local people.

This report by the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) at the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), University Of Pittsburgh,focuses on the treatment of UNGD (Unconventional Gas Development) wastewaters by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and the subsequent discharges to surface waters.

In an effort to stop the discharge of Marcellus Shale unconventional natural gas development wastewaters into surface waters, on May 19, 2011 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) requested drilling companies stop disposing their wastewater through wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). This research includes a chemical analysis of effluents discharged from three WWTPs before and after the request. The WWTPs sampled included two municipal, publically owned treatment works and a commercially operated industrial wastewater treatment plant.

Analyte concentrations were quanitified and then compared to water quality criteria, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency MCLs and “human health criteria.” Certain analytes including barium, strontium, bromides, chlorides, total dissolved solids, and benzene were measured in the effluent at concentrations above criteria. Analyte concentrations measured in effluent samples before and after the PADEP’s request were compared for each facility. Analyte concentrations in the effluents decreased in the majority of samples after the PADEP’s request. This research provides preliminary evidence that these and similar WWTPs may not be able to provide sufficient treatment for this wastewater stream, and more thorough monitoring is recommended.

The analysis of effluent samples collected prior to the PADEP’s request indicated that concentrations of analytes in effluent were above water quality criteria. Ba, Sr, and bromides are of particular public health concern. The metals strontium and barium both surpassed the federal MCL for drinking water and benzene in WWTP-3 effluent was detected at concentrations above the MCL [maximum concentration level] and EPA human health criteria.

This is a disturbing report which adds to the increasing evidence that the by-products of high volume hydraulic fracturing are not being dealt with safely and effectively. If this is the case in the United States, a country with a comparatively low-density population, it is even more disturbing for the UK and Ireland, where we have little or no margin for error.

Read the full report here.

Photograph from report.

 

 

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems — Irish Medical Times. (click on link to read the article in full)

“[F]ive issues can be identified that raise concerns about the impact of fracking on health.   Firstly, the process of fracking uses a wide variety of chemicals,  including friction reducers, surfactants, gelling agents, scale inhibitors, acids, corrosion inhibitors, antibacterial agents and clay stabilisers. Additional naturally occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials may also be mobilised from the rock during its fracture, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, thorium and uranium and these may also interact with the chemicals in the fluid.

In addition, the possibility of accidental release of chemicals and gases through fire, vandalism, or spills and leaks from poor practices is an ongoing risk.

Toxic mud and fluid by-products from the drilling and fracking, as well as spills of oil and gas wastes, are not uncommon. The health impact of such chemicals depends on factors such as the toxicity, dose, route and duration of exposure, and the vulnerability of the people being affected…

Secondly, air may also be contaminated by volatile chemicals released during drilling (combustion from machinery and transport) and from other operations, during methane separation or by evaporation from holding ponds. Methane gas is also explosive….

Thirdly, fracking requires substantial amounts of water, 1.5 million gallons per well …  A shortage of water would pose considerable threats to health and well-being of people living in the area. The company proposes using some of the waste water for fracking. However, this will very possibly involve the burning off some of the toxic residues leading to additional air pollution, as well as storage difficulties.

Fourthly, the soil may be contaminated by drilling sludge, which may contain drilling mud, hydrocarbons, radioactive material and heavy metals. This would have serious consequences for grasslands used for leisure or agriculture purposes. The consumption of meat and or milk from animals grazing on such land would also give rise for concern.

Finally, the British Geological Survey states that it is well established that fluid injections can cause small earthquakes and fracking has been associated with two small quakes near Blackpool.

It is widely recognised that we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses. The adoption of fracking is a step away from a solution to the problem of climate change. We must leave any remnants of fossil fuel in the ground, instead of seeking ever more expensive and environmentally destructive methods of extracting them. … In the interests of public health, we must not allow fracking in Ireland.

Any tragedy is upsetting; an avoidable tragedy is all the more so.”

(Dr. Elizabeth Cullen)

 

How many roads …

… will be recognisable in West Fermanagh, if hydraulic fracturing gets underway?

The fracking would take place through wells drilled on ‘wellpads’, industrial sites constructed throughout what are now rural woods and fields. Let’s look at a single wellpad, the smallest type which could be used,  containing just eight wells. (The licensee, Tamboran Resources, say that they anticipate using a design which could accommodate sixteen or more.) We are assuming a twenty ton lorry as this is about the biggest that will fit on our rural Fermanagh roads.

1. Construction of pad base.
According to Tamboran (see above) an eight well pad occupies approximately six acres = 0.024 square kilometres. This will require a base of aggregate and concrete.
Using a half metre depth of aggregate: 20000 msq x .5 = 10,000 cubic metres of aggregate will be required.
A ton of dry gravel is approx 0.6 cubic metres so each pad base would require 16600 tons or 830 one-way lorry journeys.
Using a 15cm (6 inch) depth of concrete: 0.02 square km x .15m = 3000 cubic metres of concrete will be required.
One cubic metre of concrete weighs around 2.3 tons so each pad base would require 6900 tons or 345 one-way lorry journeys.

2. Sand (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Each well will require around 2500 tons of sand so eight wells will need 20,000 tons or 1000 one-way lorry journeys.

3. Water (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Tamboran say the large 50 x 50 metre water pond on the wellpad will provide eighty percent of the water needed for one well frack*. They anticipate that the pond will be 6metres deep, but kept at around five metres full to avoid any overflow.
This accounts for 50x50x5m = 12500 cubic metres of water.
If this is 80% of the amount required to frack a single well then the total needed must be around 15625 cubic metres or 4.13 million US gallons .
So 8(wells) x 4.13(million gallons/well) x.2 (20 percent not obtained from pond) = 6.6 million gallons of water which will have to be brought to the wellpad.
A tanker lorry weighing 20 tons holds 4800 US gallons.
6.6million gallons divided by 4800(each tanker’s load) = 1376 one-way lorry trips of water (and considerably more, if less water is available via the pond).

*The idea that so much water can practically or safely be diverted from the natural water cycle into these ponds is widely disputed.

4. Waste water (brought back up from the well, contaminated with salt and other substances)
Let’s use 25% as the amount that is likely to flow back to the surface  (this is a conservative estimate). This waste has to be transported somewhere. Given the shallowness of the shale, it is unlikely to be injected back underground, and to treat it on site would be extremely difficult (and require the use of considerable quantities of chemicals).
8 wells x 4.13million(gallons of water per well) x25% = 8.25million US gallons of waste water per pad.
Divided by 4800 (capacity of tanker) this gives 1718 one-way lorry loads of waste water.

5. Other.
Ancillary construction traffic (e.g. to make roads, move equipment etc.) will require at least 100 lorry journeys (and more if, as seems likely, forestry land will be used, so needing tree clearance and excavation / flattening of site). There will also be other smaller vehicular traffic.

Summary
Aggregate : 830
Concrete : 345
Sand : 1000
Water : 1376
Waste : 1718
Ancillary: 100

Total : 5339 x 20 ton one-way lorry journeys per pad.

Tamboran state that “as many as 10 wellpads could be being constructed each year about seven years from now” (on website, as above).
That means 5339 x 10 = 53,390 one-way journeys per year, or well over a thousand every week. Of course, these are one-way journeys and the lorries will have to go back again, so the number can probably be doubled.

Two thousand twenty-ton lorries driving along our narrow rural roads and through our villages and townlands every week. Just take a moment to imagine that.

According to Tamboran’s website, they hope to build around a hundred wellpads, and to add eight or sixteen more wells to each. That means at least this level of heavy goods traffic, and very likely much more, for many, many years. And each wellpad, Tamboran proudly say, “could be required for the full 65 years”.

If you’re old enough, or uncool enough, you probably remember John Denver’s Country Roads:

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowin’ like a breeze.

They’ve had fracking in West Virginia for a while now, recently implicated in the major East coast earthquake and a toxic algae bloom that wiped out thousands of fish along 35 miles of the Dunkard creek.

And one thing is certain, the roads aren’t much like heaven any more.

(Thanks to Tom White for all statistics and calculations)