Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tracer In The Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid: Accountability for Marcellus Shale Drillers

by John Laumer, Philadelphia
Business & Politics

Halliburton frac fluid on a tractor trailer near Buffalo, PA, The Haliburton Loophole.

Groundwater, invisible, and ordinarily slower than a snail, rushes movement of the spillings and drillings of man when bedrock cracks are opened wider, and held that way through hydraulic fracturing or "fracing". Extraction of natural gas held tightly in Marcellus Shale rock, thousands of feet below the earth's surface, has until now been a hydraulic smash-and-grab operation. Gas wells are punched deep into the earth; layers of rock are then "cracked" by injecting sand- and chemical-filled water under great pressure - the so-called "fracing" process - allowing natural gas to escape to the surface via well head, and so it is feared, allowing contaminants ifrom fracing fluids to move into nearby water wells. Ironically, like putting a micrometer on a fog bank, measurement of contamination potential comes too late: when the measurer is fully enveloped. Now, a novel protection has been proposed - that tracer dye be injected into exploratory wells drilled into the shale formations - as a best management practice (BMP).
Ideally, the tracer would be red. A gas developer then either passes the 'red face' test or does not.



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