Fracking Best Practices: Top 10 Recommendations

Fracking Best Practices: Top 10 Recommendations

According to many sources, fracking might just save the U.S. economy. In its Energy 2020 report, Citi GPS concluded that the "shale gas revolution" could result in the re-industrialization of America. Fracking has not only generated drilling related jobs and lowered the cost of natural gas for millions of businesses and consumers across the country, it has also spurred investment in large multi-billion dollar "cracking" facilities that convert natural gas into ethylene. Since ethylene is a base feedstock for polyethylene and other commodity plastics that are used by countless U.S. businesses, shale gas is expected to play a significant role in making U.S. businesses more competitive worldwide.

While there is optimism by many that fracking will pave the way for a "golden age of gas," there is also concern that fracking brings with it potential environmental and community health risks that must be properly addressed. The potential problems most frequently associated with fracking are (1) contamination of underground drinking water by the fracking fluids that are injected into the well; (2) contamination of surface waters (rivers and streams) from the flowback; and (3) contamination of air near the drilling pad during the fracking and well completion process. Additionally, concerns have also been expressed about the stressing of aquifers given the amount of water that is needed for fracking, especially in the Southwest.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has cautioned that these concerns, if not properly addressed, "threaten to hold back, and perhaps halt, the unconventional gas revolution." Given what is at stake, it should come as no surprise that many groups that have a vested interest in fracking have published recommended "Best Management Practices" (BMPs) for the industry. The groups include investors (e.g. the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN)), insurers (e.g. Willis Group Holdings), environmentalists (e.g. Earthworks), international cooperatives (e.g. the IEA), industry trade associations (e.g. the Appalacian Shale Recommended Practices Group and the American Petroleum Institute (API)) and energy companies (e.g. Chesapeake Energy and Halliburton). It also should come as no surprise that many of the federal and state regulations that have been enacted over the past year regarding fracking have incorporated these BMPs.

Although each set of BMPs is slightly different and evolving, the following 10 recommendations have been made repeatedly over the past year and reflect guidelines that energy companies will want to consider to minimize or eliminate the environmental risks mentioned above. Indeed, many within the industry have already implemented these guidelines without the need of state or federal regulations. In the process, they have reduced the risk of future litigation and portrayed themselves in more favorable light to investors, insurers, regulators and nearby communities.

Leonard Kurfirst is a partner in the Litigation Department of Edwards Wildman Palmer LLC. As lead trial counsel for high-stakes class action, mass tort, toxic tort, product liability and health care litigation, he has more than 25 years of experience litigating complex cases in jurisdictions well known as difficult venues for defendants. Colin O'Donovan is an associate in the Litigation Department of Edwards Wildman Palmer LLC. He represents clients in a variety of commercial matters, including healthcare, insurance, and product liability actions. Both attorneys are based in Chicago.


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Donald Campbell | Aug. 1, 2012
In the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. Western PA. was drilling hard and fast. There are so many shallow wells 3000 and some change,and as a roughneck and driller I can so that we know when we were below the water table. The water table is at most 2000 and above, all fracking is in the bottom string of our caseing,and below the water table. We ran 2 strings of caseing, after the conductor, 8 5/8" below the water table and cemented it to seal off the water, and 4 1/2" caseing to bottom of well.. If there was a coal mine we ran 11 as a string of caseing to seal off the mine water, or any under ground rivers we drilled through to make 3 strings of caseing. All caseings are cemented off individually, and I cant see how any of the ground water can be hurt from facking of a well. Back in those days we did drill top hole with a drilling soap and did make some water wells soapy for a couple days, and appoligize for it. Fracking of the marcellus wells is well below any ground water in any part of these 4 states by 2000-3000.

Edward Young | Jul. 26, 2012
I think it is imperative that BMP be set up for every phase of the gas and oil industry. Start with land groups and land men to site locations, pad construction,road use agreements, drilling, water and materials acquisition and transport, safety, noise and light, be good community partners, and anything I have forgotten. If these BMPs are put in place, utilized and enforced you would decrease opposition rapidly. A have suggestion I would guess no one wants to hear. As an industry develop the BMPs, take them to the individual states and ask them to imliment them as part of their regs, make the fines stiff enough to get attention and enforce them.You would see an well accepted indusrty vs the old bull dozers it has been for years.

Bruce Allen | Jul. 26, 2012
As an advocate of hydraulic-fracturing want the process to be given stamp of approval by industry. This includes containment of all fracking equipment above ground. I would like to see a mechanical integrity program that includes all fixed equipment, and process piping used in fracking procedure. Thanks, Bruce Allen


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