High-volume 'fracking' already underway in Ill.

2013-05-29T16:00:00Z 2013-05-30T08:21:41Z High-volume 'fracking' already underway in Ill.The Associated Press The Associated Press
May 29, 2013 4:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO — State records indicate that high-volume oil drilling already has begun in Illinois, where lawmakers and others are scrambling to pass a bill to establish regulations for a practice that has generated intense national debate as energy companies push into new territory.

Carmi, Ill.-based Campbell Energy LLC submitted a well completion report last June to the Department of Natural Resources, voluntarily disclosing that it used 640,000 gallons of water during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,’’ of a well in White County.

A regulatory bill awaiting an end-of-session vote by state lawmakers, which wasn’t yet written at the time the well was drilled, defines “high-volume’’ as using 300,000 gallons or more of fluid during all stages of fracking.

The report was obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which shared it with The Associated Press. Phone calls to Campbell Energy on Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment were not immediately returned.

DNR Director Marc Miller acknowledged that the well in southeastern Illinois would qualify as high-volume under the proposed legislation, but said that his agency would not have checked the report when it was filed because there was nothing on the books to define high-volume fracking.

Companies currently are not required to tell the DNR what method they use to extract oil and gas when they apply for a permit or when the well is finished, but Campbell Energy included that information anyway.

Although the DNR does not know of any other wells that would meet the proposed definition of high-volume, there’s no way to know for sure if there are more.

“This (illustrates) the crux of why we need to have regulations as proposed for hydraulic fracturing,’’ Miller told the AP. “We need to have the regulatory tools before they start drilling to understand what’’ they are doing.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations deep underground and release oil and natural gas. Proponents say it’s safe and could bring tens of thousands of jobs to southern Illinois. Others fear it could pollute and deplete water resources, and favor a proposed two-year moratorium that has gotten little traction in the Legislature.

Illinois’ proposed regulations, written with the help of industry and environmental groups, have been described as the strictest in the country and include requirements that companies disclose chemicals used and test groundwater before and after fracking. It also would hold industry liable for contamination.

Brad Richards, vice president of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, stressed that Campbell Energy did nothing wrong. And although the volume of fluid was large compared with what has traditionally been used in Illinois — about 100,000 gallons or less per “frack’’ — it pales in comparison to states like North Dakota and Pennsylvania, where it’s not unusual for drillers to use 2 million to 8 million gallons of fluid, he said.

In southern Illinois, companies are eyeing the New Albany shale formation roughly 5,000 feet below the surface in many counties, including White, on the Indiana border. Campbell Energy was fracking in a layer above the New Albany, and did not use nearly as much fluid as drillers likely will to reach New Albany deposits, Richards said.

Industry has said drillers are holding off on high-volume fracking in Illinois until they know what the regulations will be, but technically, there is nothing to stop them.

And it’s unclear how long they would be willing to wait, said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with the NRDC’s Midwest program who helped negotiate Illinois’ proposed regulations.

If lawmakers fail to pass a bill this spring, Alexander said, “I would venture a bet that (industry’s) concern would go from regulatory uncertainty to increasing certainty that Illinois is not getting its act together.’’

But Richards said he doubts companies would be willing to spend a lot of money in Illinois without regulations.

“We should all be able to agree: Go ahead and let’s get the bill passed,’’ he said.

The bill — which represented an unusual level of cooperation over a practice that has drawn emotional protests nationally — passed a key House committee last week but has not yet been called for a vote in the full House. It also would need passage in the Senate and the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn, who has been a strong supporter.

The current legislative session is scheduled to end at midnight Friday.

But Annette McMichael, a Johnson County property owner who belongs to a coalition that opposes fracking, said the White County well represents “exactly why we need a moratorium. We need to stop fracking before it goes any further so we can conduct scientific studies and keep the people of Illinois safe.’’

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. juliano66
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    juliano66 - May 31, 2013 5:20 pm
    Sorry for the typo, I meant tooth fairy. Smart phones can be a pain. Fracking is proven to be environmentally disastrous and PA, ND and WY have the evidence to show.The media is covering this up in a massive way. Our good old government has hurt us many times in the past and continues to hurt us now. Mr Burns from The Simpsons is not much of an exaggeration of the mentality of our corporate overlords. They really are evil.
  2. juliano66
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    juliano66 - May 31, 2013 5:12 pm
    The first comment by rocman is riddled with many key falsehoods and ridiculously naive Gg assumptions. First of all, 60% or more of the fracking water remains underground and cannot be reused for fracking. Secondly, the notion that "they wouldn't do it if it wasn't safe" is tantamount to belief in the existence of the Easter bunny or the toot fairy.
  3. rocman797
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    rocman797 - May 30, 2013 2:52 pm
    Hydraulic fracturing of a "high volume" nature should be allowed to happen in the state of Illinois. The process is safe as atested to by the 1000's upon thousands of wells that are brought on stream every year due to the process, from both horizontally and vertically drilled wells, and as atested to by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and countless studies by independent research groups and academia. The areas that will be focused upon in downstate Illinois are some of the most economically depressed areas of the state, and should benefit greatly from the jobs created and the enhanced tax base.
    It is not a given that the New Albany shale will yield the "riches" that oil and gas companies think that it may hold, so why should individual land and mineral owners not be be allowed to exercise their private property rights and allow someone who is willing to take the chance(spending Millions of $$$'s) in the process to test for the potential? Why should someone from Johnson County or Jackson or Macon or Cook have the ability to limit what a farmer in southeastern Illinois should be able to do with his or her land. It seems totally un-American to me! If the process were unsafe I would not think that it would have taken tens of thousands of wells to find that out. It just goes to show, that properly regulated, it can be very safe. Is that to say that screwups don't occur, No absoulely not!
    AS far as the water useage is concerned there have been several studies done that show the relative amounts of water useage by oil and gas companies for hydraulic fracturing is relatively minor as compared to other commercial and public utilization of the same resource base. In addition it constitutes a one-time useage of the water, which can then be recycled and used in a subsequent horizontal well.
    The completion that this story attests to is an example of something that has been going on in countless wells just across the river in Indiana for the last couple of years. Perhaps a little research by this intrepid author would have/could have brought some enlightenment to the implication that perhaps too much water was already being used. How about checking with Indiana?
  4. ct
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    ct - May 30, 2013 11:06 am
    Sorry you are WRONG.

    The clean water act was amended to EXCLUDE fracking (at the end):

    " The term "pollutant" means dredged spoil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water. This TERM DOES NOT MEAN (A) "sewage from vessels" within the meaning of section 312 of this Act; or (B) water, gas, or other material which is injected into a well to facilitate production of oil or gas, or water derived in association with oil or gas production and disposed of in a well, if the well used either to facilitate production or for disposal purposes"
  5. CLG4
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    CLG4 - May 30, 2013 7:46 am
    It appears that a lot of half witted goose stepping is going on on this blog right now. Agenda, agenda, agenda. State of Illinois and/or EPA have authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate discharge of produced waters from hydraulic fracturing operations. That's from the U.S. clean water act, Now I guess that the folks that are agenda driven don't worry about what the government can and does regulate. Full speed ahead the sky is falling.
  6. BC
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    BC - May 30, 2013 6:46 am
    Fracking mainly is used to explore for natural gas. We have plenty of natural gas for generations to come without this type of procedure. The companies using this process intend to extract gas and export it for profit which does not benefit this country or our people. It robs Americans of a resource they may sorely need in the future. In addition Fracking has contaminated water resources in other areas. Water is a resource that is not unlimited and once the damage is done it can't be repaired. All this is presented to a gullible uninformed public as creating jobs. They know the average half bright will jump on that promise and goose step in formation to the voting booth.
  7. devils_advocate
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    devils_advocate - May 29, 2013 10:00 pm
    It's not even so much the amount of water they use, it's more about the thousands of chemicals they blast in too that makes it's way into the water aquifers. Further more even if the companies are required to disclose the ingredients in the chemicals they use, there are provisions that don't require them to disclose specifics of "proprietary blends" of the chemicals. This whole thing just sucks all the way around.
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