Louisiana Fracking Program

Concerns over the impact of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on local water supplies and the environment has prompted a number of states, including Texas and Louisiana, to pass or consider passing rules requiring oil and gas operators to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

A draft rule is being written that would require disclosure and reporting of components and chemicals in hydraulic fracturing in Louisiana, according to Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh.

The rule would allow the use of the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) Fracturing Fluid Registry to fulfill the reporting requirements. The national registry was launched earlier this year by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and GWPC to protect ground water by implementing a web-based system to obtain, store and publish information on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Once adopted, the rule would be an amendment to state regulations, a spokesperson for the state commissioner said.

Louisiana Program Gets Good Review

To date, there has been no contamination of ground water due to fracking reported in Louisiana. Well fracking activity has been in practice in Louisiana for many decades now, DNR said in a statement. "Our state's reporting and tracking procedure for water usage provides a very effective way to manage both the surface and ground water and to determine any sustainability problems early on."

In a review conducted last year, the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) found that the Louisiana hydraulic fracturing regulatory program was well-managed and meeting program objectives.

In September 2010, DNR's Office of Conservation volunteered to have its hydraulic fracturing program reviewed by STRONGER. As a result of the review, conducted between November 2010 and February 2011, STRONGER recommended that the DNR utilize the Red River Alluvial for hydraulic fracturing purposes in the Haynesville shale, as the alluvial is a source of groundwater of lower quality. These water resources could be used for hydraulic fracturing in the Tuscaloosa shale play as well.

DNR also was advised to review casing and cementing standards, including surface casing requirements. To protect groundwater, the Office of Conservation should consider the depth of the underground sources of drinking water and the depths of any saline or productive zones, in addition to total well depth, in setting surface casing requirements.

STRONGER also recommended that a well history and work resume report should be submitted after completion of a well; more structured training for field inspectors be implemented; and that the state of Louisiana develop contingency planning and spill risk management procedures.

When operators began drilling the Haynesville shale play in 2008, they initially used underground fresh water from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, which turned out to not be the best choice as fracking water. Research concluded that the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer was not capable of quickly providing such large volumes of water needed for fracking.

DNR staff research concluded that another aquifer, the Red River Alluvial, located near the Red River, was a suitable high yield aquifer for withdrawing water for fracking. The water is highly mineralized and not potable, and was determined to be ideal for hydraulic fracturing. DNR also identified two large surface water bodies in northwest Louisiana, the Toledo Bend Reservoir and Red River, also were ideal for meeting the tremendous water volume requirements for Haynesville shale development.

Texas Disclosure Law

Texas Railroad Commissioner (TRC) David Porter said would push the Railroad Commission (RRC) to complete the entire rule-making process requiring disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing a year ahead of the deadline set in recent legislation.

The Texas Legislature on May 31 adopted HB 3328, which requires oil and gas companies to publicly disclose the specific chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. The bill calls for the RRC to write disclosure rules for hazardous chemicals by July 1, 2012 and requires the RRC to complete rule-making for all other chemicals used in the process by July 1, 2013.

The RRC will begin the rule-making process at its next open conference this month and will hold open meetings throughout the state in coming months to garner public comment.

Porter also said the agency may increase the number of members on TRC's newly formed Eagle Ford shale task force from the original plan for between 15 to 18 members due to the quality of applications. TRC is reviewing applications now and hopes to have selected all members of the voluntary task force, which will include a mix of energy industry members, local environmental groups, elected officials and landowners in the Eagle Ford shale area of South Texas, by the end of June.

TRC decided to form the Eagle Ford shale task force to head off the perception and communication problems encountered with the Barnett shale gas drilling boom hit Texas. "We're trying to be proactive, not reactive," Porter said.


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