First Fracking Leak in Michigan


News surfaced yesterday that Michigan this week experienced its first documented leak from a hydraulic fracturing operation.  The leak forced the shutdown of a more than 1,000-foot-deep natural gas well being drilled near Traverse City with the technique commonly known as fracking, and will likely lead to a review of some drilling regulations.

Environmentalists nationwide are lobbying for drilling companies to disclose the proprietary mix of chemicals used in the fracking process, developed by Halliburton.  In some communities, fracking is believed to have led to such severe degradation of drinking water that tap water can literally catch fire.

The leak at the well in Benzie County’s Joyfield Township was detected late Monday or early Tuesday, and the leak was stopped and contained Tuesday, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment said. The department said there was no imminent danger and an initial review found the spill was limited to a small area right around the well.

The department said it was the first time such a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation has experienced a leak in Michigan. About 12,000 wells in Michigan have been drilled using the technique since the 1960s, the state said.

The leak may lead to a review of some regulations related to permits and monitoring for such wells, the state said. Current regulations require companies to disclose details of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing only if there’s a spill, for example, and Wurfel said the state previously was looking at whether companies should be required to routinely reveal that information.

Hugh McDiarmid Jr., spokesman for the Michigan Environmental Council, said that although hydraulic fracturing has long been used in Michigan there needs to be fresh discussion about regulations, especially with the possibility of deeper such wells being discussed nationwide. He said the leak could intensify the call for a public review.

“This incident illustrates for us the need for a public dialogue over whether we need to look at or change any the fracking regulations,” he said.

Hydraulic fracturing has come under increasing scrutiny recently as drilling crews flock to the Marcellus Shale, a rock bed beneath New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. The oil and gas industry says hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for decades. Environmentalists, however, fear that fluids or wastewater from the process could pollute drinking water supplies.

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4 thoughts on “First Fracking Leak in Michigan

  1. I just read a concedely 1-sided regional news summary @ nofracking.com. which nonetheless appears to make alot of sense in view of the points related on this blog:

    Texas oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens is a major financier and evangelist of natural gas exploration across the United States, from the Haynesville Shale to the Marcellus. He claims that natural gas paves the road to energy independence in his “Pickens Plan4.” He says that it’s “green,” and it seems he came to this realization right around the time his oil wells stopped being productive. Interestingly, according to BusinessWeek, “Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more5.” So, if all goes according to his Plan, groundwater across the country will end up contaminated by the energy we buy from him, but he will be able to sell us all the clean water we need. Pickens Plan? We say slim pickings, man!

    ENERGY PRODUCERS CAN SWITCH LANES

    You can either drill, frack, and extract for a decade or two while neglecting the need for renewable energy development and deployment, or just skip the wasteful and dangerous extraction process altogether by funding and enabling renewable energy research, development, and production now. Why wait? Switching lanes could actually make up the loss of the big annual payday associated with these natural gas plays over time, not to mention provide a huge reduction in external costs and the associated legal and regulatory risks. Did you know that you could now harvest methane from landfills and sewage sludge? It would be a PR dream for your companies if the biggest domestic side-effect of your production process in our neck of the woods was getting rid of that odor in Jersey. What’s more, couldn’t you repurpose much of your existing equipment to, say, install geothermal heat pumps, or use old drilling rigs as towers for industrial wind turbines, or even apply horizontal drilling techniques to create minimally-obtrusive paths for cable runs to get all this renewable energy from point of capture to point of use? That would yield revenue in perpetuity, paying off less up front but more valuable in the long-term. The NPV analysis is up to you, but that perpetuity formula is pretty attractive.

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