Overview of our hydraulic fracturing activities
Oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids may be recovered from our properties through the use of sophisticated drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of water, sand, gel and chemicals under pressure into formations to fracture the surrounding rock and stimulate production. Our hydraulic fracturing activities are primarily focused in our shale plays in East Texas, North Louisiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Our drilling, completion and hydraulic fracturing techniques are unique in each of these areas due to a variety of factors including geological and geophysical characteristics, access to necessary infrastructure and regulatory requirements.
Our typical hydraulic fracturing process in the Haynesville shale in North Louisiana is depicted below.
We diligently review best practices and industry standards and strive to comply with all regulatory requirements in the protection of potable water sources when drilling and completing our wells. Protective practices include, but are not limited to, setting multiple strings of protection pipe across potable water sources and cementing these pipe strings to surface, continuously monitoring the hydraulic fracturing process in real time, recycling flowback fluids when economically feasible and disposing of non-recycled produced fluids in authorized disposal wells at depths below the potable water sources. In addition, we actively seek methods to minimize the environmental impact of our hydraulic fracturing operations in all of our operating areas.
Hydraulic fracturing typically takes place at least a mile below groundwater sources. For instance, in the Haynesville shale in North Louisiana, the shale formation lies in depths of approximately 12,000 feet while the water table in that area is about 500 feet below the surface as depicted below. Many layers of impermeable rock separate the water table from the area where hydraulic fracturing takes place.
Hydraulic fracturing is typically regulated by state oil and gas commissions. However, the EPA recently asserted federal regulatory authority over certain hydraulic fracturing practices. At the same time, the EPA has commenced a study of the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities, with initial results of the study anticipated to be available in 2012 and final results in 2014. Some states have adopted, and other states are considering adopting, regulations requiring the disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracturing process and other regulations that could impact hydraulic fracturing in certain circumstances. For example, in 2011, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas each adopted laws that require disclosure to the state regulator and the public of the additives and other chemicals contained in hydraulic fracturing fluids used in the state, subject to certain trade secret protections. We began making public disclosure of the components of the fracturing fluids we used on a well by well basis in Pennsylvania in February 2011 and in Louisiana and Texas in June 2011 through the Ground Water Protection Council/Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s disclosure website www.fracfocus.org. This website can be accessed by anyone, does not require a login or password and allows users to search by operator, location or well name.