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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oil Fracking In Michigan Does Not Pose Environmental Concerns: Oil Official

LANSING - Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been linked to a variety of environmental problems around the country, but industry officials said a combination of the state's geography and its regulations would prevent those incidents in Michigan.

Though the issue has become a hot button for environmentalists in recent months, Michigan has had wells that use fracking to extract particularly natural gas since the 1950s, said Frank Mortl, president and CEO of the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, at a media roundtable on the issue Friday. The state currently has some 12,000 wells that use the process.

With the design requirements on those wells, and the impermeable rock the go through before reaching the oil and gas deposits, contamination is unlikely, Mortl and other officials said.

Environmental groups acknowledged the industry has been relatively safe to this point in Michigan, but said there should be some additional safeguards before new wells using fracking are installed.

Of particular interest are the newest wells in the northern Lower Peninsula, reaching the Utica/Collingwood formation.

The size of the new wells requires some additional checks, said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council.

In particular, he said, the drillers should be required to disclose what they are using in the fracking solution and should have to obtain a permit for the water they use in the process.

"As soon as they start injecting things into a public resource, we think at that point they should have to relinquish some of those proprietary things," Clift said.

Mike Haines, legal and legislative chair for MOGA, said regulators do know what is in the fracking solutions, as would first responders if there was any kind of an accident. But he said the companies keep that information otherwise confidential as a trade secret to keep business.

And he said requiring disclosure of the chemicals could discourage some producers from coming to the state.

Clift argued disclosing the chemicals, not necessarily how much of each is used, could help their public relations in the state and around the wells. And it would help track down the source if drinking water is found contaminated, he said.

The drilling companies also disputed the need for water use permits for their operations. Brian Dorr, who oversees operations in Michigan for BreitBurn Energy, said a typical fracking operation uses up to 50,000 gallons of water, but he said one injection could leave the well producing for 20 years.

He compared that to some farm operations that, during the growing season, use 1 million gallons of water.

And he said the new wells that have raised the issue in Michigan, in the Utica/Collingwood formation, are still experimental. There have only been six wells drilled into the formation and, while there are indications the company that owns them is running gas lines to at least one, there is no confirmation yet whether the wells will be economically viable, he said.

As to earthquakes that have been blamed on fracking, the industry is investigating those claims. "That energy we don't think is enough to create an earthquake," said Bill Myler Jr., president of Muskegon Development Company, which operates wells around the state. "We have injection wells, more than Ohio does, and we haven't had a problem."

This story was provided by Gongwer News Service. To subscribe, click on Gongwer.Com


Author: Staff Writer
Source: Gongwer News Service

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