A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Greyfracke, Part 3

Wyoming became the posterchild of things that can go wrong with hydrofracking at Pavillion, Wyoming. Growing up in Wyoming, I always heard the water wasn't very good in the Pavillion area to begin with, so "adding" to the problem with potential contaminants made an already not-so-good problem worse. Some folks in Pavillion became so upset with the oil and gas companies in the area that they sued; the lawsuit was settled in January 2018. 

Now comes more bad news. WyoFile continues to report news that other media outlets fear to report, especially when it comes to rural water wells. In this article, a research team from the University of Missouri report that "...polluted groundwater near a fracked Wyoming oil and gas field is more disruptive to human cells than tainted groundwater sampled near conventional oil and gas operations." 

“Potential endocrine disrupting contaminants were found in the 22 groundwater samples taken near both conventional and unconventional oil and gas development in Wyoming,” said Susan C. Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health in the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Of course, the oil and gas industry, and local politicians, are not very happy with the reported results.

“I’m not trying to belittle the University of Missouri,” he said. “I just don’t know if it was done in the manner we’d expect. We wouldn’t see that from the University of Wyoming.” 

"He" is Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) who owns a construction company that works in the oil and gas industry.
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The increase in endocrine disrupting chemicals may be from our societies use of birth control pills which end up in septic tanks and then get in the water and not from hydraulic fracking. 
~Commenter to article, Damon Jensen, Afton, WY 
and apparent University of Missouri alum
We have been very blessed for many, many years to have 
the energy industry here in Wyoming. 
~Governor Matt Mead

Friday, March 23, 2018

Greyfracke, Part 2

The "fracked" up wells in the Carlile, WY area have been evaluated, and continue to be evaluated, by a blue ribbon committee of state agencies. WyoFile continues to bird dog this issue where other media outlets remain silent.
The attached map depicts the areal extent of the low pH wells (red pins) in proximity to the "fracked" City of Gillette wells (blue flags with "M" designations.

The area is more than likely a pin cushion of boreholes with historic uranium mining in the area, along with the  "Oil Butte Anticline" as described and mapped by the US Geological Survey. Does the linear alignment of the low pH wells coincide with a buried fault? Abandoned boreholes? A combination of the above with well design and construction associated with the Gillette wells? The blue ribbon committee and their many consultants will figure it out! In the meantime, the State of Wyoming passed a law to permit the locals to tap into a nearby pipeline, at their cost.  Anything to keep folks from leaving the state.
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Wyoming - God bless you in Wyoming - 
it's very boring, and it's the most isolated place on Earth. 
~ RuPaul

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Greywacke is a strange rock. Hard, poorly sorted, some sand-sized grains composed of a complex mineralogic composition within a clay matrix that remained mysterious in sorting out the depositional environment until "turbidites" were discovered. "Greywackes are mostly grey, brown, yellow or black, dull-colored sandy rocks which may occur in thick or thin beds along with shales and limestones." Greywackes can be oil and gas reservoirs or host gold deposits. There is so much greywacke in New Zealand that a wine is named for it.

Fracking fluids are used to hydraulically fracture rocks for the primarily for the purposes of recovering oil and gas, but also in some instances to recover geothermal heat, and drinking water. Greyfracke is the chaotic by-product fluid associated with  hydrofracking which looks like the hydrologic equivalent to greywacke - a complex, mysterious, melange. I coined the term greyfracke because conceptually this diagram depicts the additives to hydraulic fracturing fluids with the chaotic display of the geochemical makeup that constitutes only "1/2 to 2 percent of the fluid" with the rest of the "brew" composed of water.  A little bit goes a long way - sometimes too far away from the point of injection.

Yes, sometimes it takes water to make water, and the ultimate goal of using blasting or hydrofracking on water wells is to "turn dry holes into wet ones".  The State of Wyoming Water Development Commission undertook experiments here and here on fracking water wells using oil field technology in the early 1990s with great success - so much so, that the process becomes the second chance on many of their groundwater development projects, and eventually became SOP on some new wells tapping limestone aquifers. Sometimes a good thing can become too good of a good thing resulting in quite a mess. And that is what appears to may have happened to some private wells located near the City of Gillette, Wyoming wellfield.

According to this article in WyoFile, "At least four of the five new Gillette wells have been enhanced with acid fracking..." and "A week after both Cranston’s well and his less-productive backup went dry, the family drilled another pair. All four family wells were about 100 to 200 feet deep, much shallower than the new Gillette-Madison wells. But the new water didn’t seem right. The family called a testing company and discovered a very low pH of 3.9 — on the acidic side of the logarithmic scale and well below normal potable levels that range from 6 to 8.5.

Sounds like Greyfracke.

Conflicts over the impacts to groundwater as a by-product of hydrofracking oil and gas wells is the subject of "docudramas" such as the Gasland series, and FrackNation. I prepared the Circle of Conflict to depict how complex conflicts over hydrofracking can become, but the conflict has morphed into a "conflict over using water to make water" with the recent Wyoming situation.

As one reviews the WyoFile article, it is easy to see "hydrohysteria" emerging with the trifecta of conflict triggers - identity-based conflict focusing on the construction of the wells, investment-based conflict based on the WWDC and WDEQ investigating who was to blame, and the private wellowners interests on non-traditional urban-rural setbacks (urban water infrastructure impinging on the rural way of life), concerns over well surface seals, and pre-and post-frac sampling of nearby private wells.

Who says oil field technology and water don't mix?

Update: Check out the *new* solution to hydrofracking without all of the fuss of *greyfracke* - supercritical CO2!
* * * 
Drillers had been working atop Pine Ridge above the Cranston ranch, according to the News-Record. The original Madison project was drilled into the floor of the neighboring valley, but planners chose the higher site for the new phase to reduce the number of pumping stations and save almost $10 million. As a consequence, drillers were probing through several hundred feet for which they didn’t have the geologic information acquired for the original well field. In a sense, they were drilling blind.
~WyoFile article

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unique Greywater Thesis

The University of Alaska Anchorage Civil Engineering program is completing some very important research on greywater reuse where the goal is not to fear greywater, but embrace it!
Development of a Physicochemical Greywater Reuse Treatment System for Intentional Human Contact

by Gregory Michaelson


Some rural Alaskan communities rely on self-haul systems to get water and dispose of waste, a time and labor intensive practice. Water quantity is limited and conserved in households on self-haul systems. As a result, water wash disease rates are high in communities that lack running water and sewer. Building centralized water systems in rural communities is expensive and more difficult in cold climate regions located off the road system. The Alaska Water and Sewer challenge project investigates alternatives to centralized systems to provide sufficient water service to homes in unserved communities in rural Alaska. A prototype was built, adapted and tested for about 1 year to evaluate viability of an in-home greywater reuse system. Water quality goals were met during testing as meeting Direct Potable Reuse standards. Critical Control Points (CCPs) have been identified for this treatment system through the design development process, pathogen testing and micropollutant/water quality sampling. All testing was completed at full scale for a 4-person household using a daily water volume of 58 gallons. Recommendations have been made to integrate CCPs into system automation based on parameters used to describe treatment process efficiency. Alarms and shutoff functions need to be integrated into the system to ensure functionality and health protection by CCPs. Implementing these controls and alarms into the system will add to system robustness and protect public health for eventual installation of systems into homes. Through these efforts, we hope to help contribute to the long-term solution of improving public health by increasing water quantity and availability in rural Alaskan households.

Unfortunately, the University of Alaska Anchorage has the thesis buried behind the ProQuest Dissertations Publishing firewall. But if you have access to a university library, check it out!
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One of Alaska's strengths is our pioneer role in 
environmentally sensitive development. 
~Former US Senator and Governor of Alaska Frank Murkowski