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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Fracked Wells Project Turns Local Relationships Acidic

The Rainbow Water Coalition is always on the lookout for new types of water conflicts, and the Carlile water wells situation described in the past couple of postings is the gift that keeps on giving. The conflict started with the City of Gillette, Wyoming mega-water project that included many new deep water wells tapping the Madison Limestone. Recalling the State of Wyoming Water Development Office's love affair with stimulating these types of wells using an "acid-frac", the City of Gillette's new wells are located near many domestic wells in the Carlile area. This area was once mined for uranium, but now is a sleepy suburb of the nearby energy hub of Gillette.  As reported in previous posts, some of the landowners in the area are complaining of dried up wells or wells pumping acidic water. Clearly the perception is that the deep-pocketed culprit is the City of Gillette and their multi-million dollar water project.

Wyo-File was the only media outlet tracking the dispute, but now the situation has turned ugly and expensive, so the local and regional news media are tracking the fracking situation. The Casper Star-Tribune posted this article describing the efforts of Senator Ogden Driskill's push to get the City of Gillette to permit temporary taps to the folks with the problem wells until something is figured out. Senator Driskill "....tacked an amendment on the omnibus water bill that would have forced Gillette to allow up to 200 new taps"...but Gillette turned down the funding. "The state forgave $40 million of the loan for the first wellfield, Driskill says, and an additional $70 million of forgiveness was included in the latest bill."  No wonder water is cheap in Gillette.

"Gillette isn’t playing hardball because of the potential cost, Driskill says – in fact, he is adamant that the entire amendment can be enacted at no cost at all." 

A letter to the editor of the local paper - Sundance Times - by the landowners provides a fairly detailed summary of the situation through the lens of the affected well owners.  "We remain less than whole and with a bad taste in our mouths for the City of Gillette and their refusal to be good neighbors and honest stewards of the state of Wyoming’s resources. It is our hope that the City of Gillette will choose to share the state of Wyoming’s resources with us in order that we may have potable water for our families and our businesses (emphasis added)."

A good example of a water quality conflict as opposed to the traditional conflict over water quantity

Not much scientific information has been released since the state meetings in February, 2018.

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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.
* * * 
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!
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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