Drilling Companies Pump Diesel Underground

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When oil and gas companies want to get at deposits deep underground, they often do “hydraulic fracturing.” The process, called "fracking," pumps a special fluid down a well shaft to free up oil and gas. What’s in fracking fluid is largely a secret. Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette isn’t happy about that. The Denver Democrat recently revealed in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency that the fluid sometimes contains diesel fuel. That concerns her, because diesel has benzene in it.

Diana DeGette: According to the EPA, even small amounts of benzene in drinking water can be harmful to health. Leading to nervous system disorders and other kinds of health risks, and that’s why EPA’s goal is to keep benzene at zero in drinking water.

We talk later in the show with Tisha Schuller, the president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, about why diesel is used and whether it’s safe. First, Congresswoman DeGette talks with Ryan War

ner. She’s investigating fracking along with the EPA.

Statement from Halliburton:

U.S House Representatives Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey and Diana DeGette sent a letter to Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regarding a recent Congressional investigation in connection with the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing operations. Halliburton believes it is important to address several of the points raised in this letter.

Halliburton entered into a Memorandum of Agreement in 2003 with the EPA regarding the use of diesel fuels in coalbed methane gas development and the Company has continued to operate in compliance under that agreement.

With respect to last week’s Congressional correspondence, Halliburton does not believe that the Company’s hydraulic fracturing activities have resulted in a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act or any other federal environmental law.

It is important to note that in mid-summer of 2010, the EPA modified its website to address hydraulic fracturing operations using diesel. This action did not follow the standard administrative processes required in adopting new federal regulatory requirements and the companies involved had no knowledge this change was being made by the EPA.

Recently, the issue of the EPA change has been challenged in court by two national energy trade associations. Within the last two weeks, the federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. denied EPA’s motion to dismiss this case, and the specific merits of this important procedural issue will now be fully heard by the court.

Last week’s congressional correspondence goes on to say that there have been violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act committed between 2005 and 2009. However, as noted above, EPA made these changes to their website language for the first time only in mid-summer 2010, and we do not believe that change constitutes proper rulemaking.

Finally, the letter suggests that Halliburton may have used 7.2 million gallons of diesel fuel in violation of federal requirements. This is not accurate because there are currently no requirements in the federal environmental regulations that require a company to obtain a federal permit prior to undertaking a hydraulic fracturing project using diesel.

The current Memorandum of Agreement which Halliburton entered into together with the other oil service companies only covers coalbed methane (CBM) gas development projects. The use of most of this diesel was as part of product additives for other hydraulic fracturing operations.

Halliburton is firmly committed to meeting all of the regulatory requirements applicable to hydraulic fracturing. Halliburton has in fact taken the initiative to develop and implement several new technologies for hydraulic fracturing that provide an extra margin of safety for public health and the environment. These include, for example, the introduction of the CleanStim™ hydraulic fracturing fluid system. This fluid system uses ingredients sourced exclusively from the food industry and represents a major advance in fracturing fluid technology.