Drillers buzz: Fracking, geothermal issues

Farmington conference offers meet, greet for energy industry

FARMINGTON – New and pending requirements for the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are among the top regulatory issues at a regional natural-gas and oil industry two-day conference that will wrap up today.

More than 2,200 people from government and industry attended the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference in Farmington. The conference, in its 11th year, aims to educate the local industry about new technologies, current regulations, and environmental and safety-compliance issues.

In a Wednesday session about regulatory updates, officials from New Mexico, Colorado and the Bureau of Land Management outlined regulations pending or recently passed in each of their agencies.

All of them require drilling companies to publish the ingredients in chemically laced water and sand mixtures injected into wells during fracking operations.

Colorado passed such legislation this year, and the law applies to all wells drilled after April 1. The state also is pursuing several strategies to facilitate cooperation between industry, government and the public, including a state-wide stakeholder task force and an intergovernmental agreement between Gunnison County and the state regarding natural-gas and oil inspectors.

The BLM is proposing disclosure requirements for all wells drilled on federal and tribal lands.

That proposal, which mandates companies list chemicals used in the fracking process, the source of water for the drilling and their plan of disposing of recovered fluids, is currently in a comment period, said Dave Mankiewicz, minerals manager for theBLM’s Farmington field office.

Horizontal-drilling technologies, primarily hydraulic fracturing, have played a big role in opening up new natural-gas plays across the country, including the Mancos Shale play that stretches across the northern portion of New Mexico and skims southern Colorado.

Low natural-gas prices haven’t stopped companies from continuing to explore the shale play, though most remain tight-lipped about what they’re finding because they are still jockeying for leaseholder interests in the area, said John Roe, an engineer manager with Dugan Production.

“There is a big effort to try to understand the formation,” said Roe, who like many others, had signed a confidentiality agreement about his company’s work on the Mancos Shale.

Geothermal energy was another topic of discussion at the conference. Oil and gas companies have the technology and the know-how to access geothermal sources, making it a topic of interest among those looking to diversify their energy portfolio, Roe said.

There is geothermal potential around the edges of the San Juan Basin, and it is already being developed near Los Alamos, N.M., said Tyson Foutz, a petroleum engineer for Merrion Oil and Gas.

Among renewable-power sources, geothermal is one of the most economically viable, Foutz said.

“It has been a topic of interest (among drillers) for some time,” he said.


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