Thursday, February 3, 2011

Industry Still Fracking With Diesel

Nobles Hill, Van Etten, Frank Patterson

clarification added Feb 4
On Monday Representatives Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, and Diana DeGette informed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that drilling companies are still using diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing. An investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that oil and gas companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel to frack wells in 19 states – despite an industry pledge to discontinue the use of diesel in fracking.

In 2003 EPA signed an memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the three largest providers of hydro-fracking services to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in their drilling. Two years later, in 2005, Congress exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act – except when fracking fluids contain diesel. At that point, many people assumed that the industry had stopped using diesel altogether.

However, when Congressional investigators sent letters to 14 companies requesting details on the type and volume of fracking chemicals they used, they learned that some companies were still using diesel.  A number of gasfield service companies said they had eliminated or were cutting back on use of diesel - but 12 companies reported that between 2005 and 2009 they used a total of 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, or fluids containing diesel fuel, in their fracking processes. They are:

Company                                  gallons of diesel injected

Basic Energy Services             204,013
BJ Services                             11,555,538
Complete                                 4,625
Frac Tech                                 159,371
Halliburton                               7,207,216
Key Energy Services               1,641,213
RPC                                          4,314,110
Sanjel                                        3,641,270
Schlumberger                            443,689
Superior                                    833,431
Trican                                        92,537
Weatherford                               2,105,062

The diesel-laced fracking fluids were used in a total of 19 states. Nearly half was injected into wells in Texas, and 589 gallons found their way into eastern frack jobs, ending up in Pennsylvania gas* wells.

The industry isn’t denying the accusation, but they are arguing that the EPA never fully regulated the diesel-based fracking. Although they signed the MOA’s they told ProPublica that there was no clear law prohibiting the use of diesel in fracking fluids.

Congressman Waxman and his colleagues disagree. The Safe Drinking Water Act, they say, made it clear that diesel-based fracking was regulated under EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. And the UIC regulations require permits, which the companies have not obtained.

Diesel Fracking in States from 2005 – 2009

State                                    Volume (gallons)                        
AK                                    39,375                                               
AL                                    2,464                                               
AR                                    414,492                                   
CA                                    26,466                                               
CO                                    1,331,54                                    
FL                                    377                                               
KS                                    50,304                                               
KY                                    212                                               
LA                                    2,971,255                                   
MI                                    8,007
MS                                    221,044
MT                                    662,946
ND                                    3,138,950
NM                                    605,480
OK                                    3,337,325
PA                                    589
TX                                    16,031,927
UT                                    404,572
WY                                    2,954,747

Total                                    32,202,075

You can read the full text of the Congressional letter to EPA here.

* clarification: the diesel fuel was used to frack gas or oil wells. The Congressional investigation was unable to draw conclusions about environmental and health impacts of diesel used in fracking, as the drilling companies did not obtain permits nor provide data on how near their wells were to drinking water wells.


  1. So how do teh drillers benefit from using Diesel instead of something else? There has to be another way

  2. LPG fracking (gelled propane) seems like a better alternative to diesel and water based fracking, no potable water use, no waste water, and better well productivity.