Proposed federal legislation would duplicate existing Pennsylvania regulation on gas well fracture stimulation
CANONSBURG, Pa. – Representatives of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry expressed their opposition today to the proposed FRAC Act in Congress that would create duplicative regulation of the hydraulic fracture stimulation process used to drill natural gas wells.
“Hydraulic fracture stimulation has been used in Pennsylvania since 1949,” said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association. “Unnecessary regulation of this practice would hurt our nation’s energy security and threaten our economy, and it would destroy Pennsylvania’s shallow gas industry.
In 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued 7,883 well permits that regulate how wells are drilled, cased and cemented to protect groundwater supplies from down-hole operations like hydraulic fracturing. This legislation would require operators to get new federal Underground Injection Control permits from EPA Region 3 in Philadelphia for the exact procedure regulated by every well permit issued by DEP.
“Pennsylvania’s operators can’t afford the expense and delays created by two layers of permitting for the same activities,” Rhoads notes. “The marginal economics of Pennsylvania’s shallow gas wells could not sustain the excessive regulatory costs that the new federal permit would impose, and operators would simply be forced to stop drilling.”
If Congress were to place additional federal regulations on top of the state and local regulations that govern the oil and gas industry practice of hydraulic fracturing, the number of new gas wells drilled in the U.S. would plummet 20.5 percent over a five-year period, according to an IHS Global Insight’s study, “Measuring the Economics and Energy Impacts of Proposals to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing,”
The study found eliminating the use of hydraulic fracturing would be catastrophic to the development of American natural gas and oil, with a 79 percent drop in total well completions. This would reduce natural gas production by 45 and reduce oil production by 17 percent by 2014. With the country’s increasing reliance on unconventional resources, where more than 95 percent of wells are routinely treated using fracturing, the impact of eliminating hydraulic fracturing on production would be “permanent and severe,” the report noted.
“Pennsylvania’s current oil and gas regulations place great emphasis on protecting water resources,” said Lou D’Amico, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania. “State regulatory agencies have been very effective in protecting drinking water aquifers from potential concerns due to hydraulic fracturing.”
Current gas well construction requirements consist of installing multiple layers of protective steel casing, surrounded by cement, specifically designed and installed to protect freshwater aquifers. According to information obtained from state oil and gas agencies, there is no documented case of drinking water contamination related to the hydraulic fracturing of a deep shale gas well. Furthermore, the Ground water Protection Council issued a report in April 2009 stating that the potential for hydraulic fracturing in deep shale gas wells to impact groundwater is extremely remote: as low as 1 in 200,000,000.
“The natural gas industry has provided a report of all the chemicals used in hydraulic fracture stimulation to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and these chemicals are not secret,” said D’Amico. “In fact, the chemicals are used in incredibly diluted forms, making up approximately less than 0.05% of the sand/water mix injected into the well.”
These same chemicals can be found in grocery stores and pharmacies and have been safely used for generations, mostly in products that are applied directly to the skin or consumed. A complete list of all of the chemicals used in drilling and their concentrations are on the DEP’s website. In the Marcellus region, most companies use only four to five chemicals that are among the simplest of additives:
- Friction Reducer – (polyacrylamide) reduces friction between fluid and pipe, commonly used in contact lenses, children’s toys, paper making, and water management operations
- Biocide – (glutaraldehyde) eliminates bacteria in water that create corrosive byproducts, a disinfectant commonly used in swimming pools, farming, and in soaps and hand sanitation
- Scale Inhibitor – (ethylene glycol) prevents scale deposit in the pipe that could inhibit gas flow, commonly used in water well and municipal water system maintenance, automotive antifreeze, household cleaners, and other de-icing agents
- Oxygen Scavenger – (ammonium bisulfite) removes oxygen from water to prevent pipe corrosion, commonly used in cosmetics, food and beverage processing, food packaging, and pharmaceutical products
- Diluted Acids – (hydrochloric acid) cleans pipe and helps dissolve cement and minerals to create initiation point for fractures to develop, commonly used in swimming pools and dozens of other household applications
The fraturing process is supported in a comprehensive, unbiased report completed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Groundwater Protection Council in 2009, entitled “Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer.” According to the publication, fracing is a proven, safe and environmentally responsible way to extract clean-burning natural gas to meet our nation’s growing energy needs.
The Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association
The Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association is the non-profit trade association of the Commonwealth’s independent oil and gas producers. The association promotes the general welfare of Pennsylvania’s crude oil and natural gas exploration and production industry.
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of PA
The Independent Oil and Gas Association of PA is a non-profit trade association that promotes professionalism in exploration, development and production of natural gas and crude oil. It provides a forum for its members to exchange views and expand their knowledge to achieve higher degrees of success.
Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Committee
Formed in 2008, the Marcellus Shale Committee represents the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania on matters pertaining to the acquisition, exploration, drilling, and development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas resource and provides a unified voice before all state, county, and local government or regulatory bodies. The committee, sponsored jointly by the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania, includes independent producers with historical expertise in the Pennsylvania oil and gas fields and national companies dedicated to bringing their industry experience and resources to achieve common goals.