Gas companies that use the hydraulic fracturing process – a drilling technique that uses millions of gallons of water, combined with a fair amount of chemicals, to crack shale formations and extract natural gas – are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, unless they use diesel as part of the frack fluid. And, guess what? Some of them did. And they did it here in Arkansas, along with 18 other states. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency today following an investigation into the use of diesel in fracturing fluids. The investigation found that a number of companies injected millions of gallons of diesel into the ground.
Between 2005 and 2009, oil and gas service companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states. Halliburton injected more than 7 million gallons of diesel fuel or fluids containing diesel; BJ Services injected even more, 11.5 million gallons.
According to EPA, any company that performs hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel must receive a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. We learned that no oil and gas service companies have sought—and no state and federal regulators have issued—permits for diesel fuel use in hydraulic fracturing. This appears to be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also means that the companies injecting diesel fuel have not performed the environmental reviews required by the law…
In 2008, BJ Services informed the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that it had used 1,700 gallons of diesel-based polymer slurries in Arkansas and Oklahoma between 2005 and 2007 “in violation of the [memorandum of agreement].” BJ Services now maintains that these injections did not violate the MOA, stating that the “inadvertent use” of diesel-based polymer slurries in Arkansas and Oklahoma occurred “hundreds or thousands of feet” beneath any freshwater-bearing zone. BJ Services confirmed that it “has not used diesel fuel in coalbed methane formations in USDWs since the 2003 MOA was put in place.”
The three largest offenders – Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger – say they no longer use diesel in frack fluids. But that doesn’t get the diesel back up out of the ground, now does it?