NOBULL: RE: Thousands of well fracked without problems — not the whole story — playing Russian roulette with the land.


Some months back, December actually, a response to an article warning about fracking was posted saying that thousands of wells have been fracked in Texas without problems. But that’s not the whole story. I drafted a hasty response at the time but set the draft aside to rewrite later and submit.

It is true that thousands of wells were fracked in Texas and elsewhere including on my family’s Oklahoma ranch without problems. What is missing? The wells that were fracked that had problems. No mention of the failures in that response touting the thousands of successes.

I have family roots in a large ranch in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. I own a portion of the minerals under that land. Other family members own the surface through estate successions, etc. Not only do I own mineral interests; hence, royalty interests in the producing wells, I also own a small working interest in some of those wells. Pause for an explanation: a royalty interest is the cost-free interest in production from a well retained by a mineral owner when leasing to an oil and gas company while a working interest is that owned by an oil and gas company or an investor who pays the costs to drill and produce, sharing in the net income after paying the royalty owner. There have been several hundred wells, most of them minimal producers, drilled on that ranch that I have benefited from. So far none of them horizontal well bores. All with few exceptions have been fracked. They are vertical wellbores limited to the vertical wellbore column and a limited surface area which is disturbed during drilling, and, if productive, retains that surface area for its operations. Some of them have had problems with operations that includes fracking. Horizontal wellbore by their nature and scope have increased potential for problems that we experienced with vertical wellbores.

A horizontal wellbore requires a larger surface area for drilling and operations and impacts the vertical wellbore column plus the column surrounding the portion of the wellbore that extends horizontally in the productive formation from the vertical column some distance underlying the surface. The length of that horizontal wellbore is limited only by the extent of the leasehold rights which could cover a quarter, a half or a whole section of land. Thus, a fracking operation impacts not just the more limited area of the column around a vertical wellbore but also along the horizontal column that extends beneath the surface over the full-length of the horizontal wellbore. There is the potential to rupture into other formations anywhere along the length of that horizontal wellbore. It is true that many frack jobs are successful and do not cause problems but those that do can severely damage the land and the aquifer underlying that surface. Subsurface damage is at best difficult to remedy.

There have been instances of problems with the drilling and completion operations that include fracking. Damage may even migrate through a formation some distance, a mile or more from the wellbore. On a ranch in a neighboring county geysers of gas and mud began erupting from a farm pond. There were no wellbores close by. The problem was traced to a wellbore over a mile away that had a messed up cement job necessary before fracking – the cement poured under pressure around the well casing to seal off the formation being fracked failed. Fracking fluids and gas escaped and traveled subsurface over a mile through a more porous formation to erupt in the farm pond located in the bottom of a gully cutting through that porous formation. Through the years we lost cattle on the Ranch, in one instance a prized registered bull, from ingestion of the fluid spills. Some spills have permanently contaminated the surrounding surface from an acre to tens of acres so that nothing will grow on those areas. Those are hazards with oil and gas development and production. I question whether the increased potential for damage from a horizontal wellbore can be justified. Of course money damages are paid but what about the damaged land and aquifer that is left behind? The statistics of that happening may be small but damage from fracking does happen and it should not be ignored.

We have to look further than the end of our noses if we truly love our land and our ranch heritage. I love the ranch I grew up on. I treasurer that land. I feel morally compelled to protect it for future generations, whether family members or otherwise. The temptation of big $’s for the short term are hard to resist. The petroleum industry uses statistics to support its motives without regard to the long term impact on our land, offering plausible explanations and $’s to “drill, baby, drill.” I know. I worked for years with the industry and our legislature to get reasonable laws passed to protect not just our land but our mineral assets also. Working with the industry and other mineral owners, we passed a very good Oklahoma bill in 1993 plus other pieces of legislation to protect surface owners as well as mineral owners. What’s happened since? Well, those laws have been nibbled away at with subsequent legislation that has made those laws more palatable to the petroleum industry, not big bites, just a little at a time. And now we have horizontal wellbores without adequate oversight. Yes, thousand have been and will be drilled without problems — for the present, that is. But what about those not showing up in the statistics being publicized by the petroleum industry? I know about some of those. It is playing Russian roulette with the land.

We must find sensible solutions to our energy needs without destroying the heritage of our land. It gets sick, too, when exposed to pollutants in our rush to capture $’s. There are some red flags mention in that article posted back in December. An insurance company refuses to insure a farmer with oil and gas leases. A mortgage company is reluctant to loan to a farmer vulnerable to damage from oil and gas activities. Why?

Paul Barby

Mike ~~ I am here on the Marcellus. The ranchers are making so much money from oil leases and royalties the only thing they need banks for is to pile their money. People with oil under them are friends of fracking. People who don’t have leases are not friends of fracking. The reasons people are leaving Marcellus areas is that land may be worth 12,000 to 20,000 per acre with minerals and they can sell and go where land is $500 per acre, okay? Thousands of wells have been fracked in Texas with no problem. The government hates fracking because it creates great profits for land owners and oil people. Obama doesn’t like this. Darol Dickinson