You’d think this was an old problem that was solved years ago with construction of Marion Reservoir.
I have talked to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers people in the past who said water supplies for communities like Marion and Hillsboro are minor compared to the total volume of water that passes through Marion Reservoir.
But there is a new potential high-water-use demand, already begun, that could greatly draw down county reserves in the future.
It’s horizontal oil drilling, or “fracking,” which could use huge quantities of water. One such well being drilled already draws water from a creek flowing into the reservoir, its neighbors said.
According to analysis by Stephen Ellis with Morningstar Inc., a licensed index provider for various industry and investment groups, it’s very expensive for companies to truck in water. He said figures from one company drilling in West Texas showed that trucked water accounted for $1.5 million of the $6 million average cost per horizontal oil drilling well.
Ellis said, “Drilling an average 6,000-foot well requires several hundred thousand gallons of water.
“The oil and gas company fractures the well anywhere from 10 to 50 times, typically requiring 500,000 gallons of water per stage. Within two to three weeks of completing a well, 15 to 70 percent of the water used will flow back to the surface.
“The resulting water can be partially treated on-site for reinjection as part of the next fracturing effort, but usually some untreatable (too dirty) water has to be transported to a disposal well.”
The water can also be transported to a treatment plant, where another company can make money from this service, he said.
Ellis said the average total water needed has ranged from 2 to 4 million gallons per well in the Barnett Shale to more than 13 million gallons in the Eagle Ford, both in Texas. As this water flows back to the surface, it continuously has to be stored, hauled, treated, disposed of and tracked, he said.
Before you think this can be handled through municipal treatment plants here, consider that Ellis said the chemicals used in an oil fracturing process typically kills the microbes required for a water treatment plant’s operation. These plants also aren’t capable of removing the high quantity of solids.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to be making a study of all of this.
Before you begin saying all of this “really stinks,” consider that, as always, I hope for the odor of money to dredge Marion Reservoir.
The rumors are already rife that the Corps of Engineers is agreeing to allow horizontal drilling under the Reservoir.
I would suggest the Corps also consider ways to collect funds from the drilling companies for dredging silt from the reservoir to allow more capacity of water to supply the same drilling companies.
The states have become involved with varying regulations. Perhaps it’s time for the state of Kansas to become even more involved to help counties with water capacity.
Ellis said with increased drilling going in relatively rapidly across the nation, the variability in states is showing.
Kansas apparently is concentrated on developing reuse of fracking water in the geologic area known as the Mississippian Lime Oil Play of southern and western Kansas. Companies are required to file “intent to drill notices” with the Kansas Corporation Commission.
There are also Kansas regulations for minimum disposal well depths and minimum surface casing.
But like most of the states, Kansas oversights seem to be in a stage of development.
Ellis said Ohio have no rules while Colorado requires specified water storage liners, North Dakota requires only a permit, and Oklahoma requires a permit with records for three years. Pennsylvania is taking samples, and developing regulations.
Giants like the Halliburton company are stepping in to provide water cleanup. Many other companies are becoming involved in the increasingly obvious way to garner money from environmental soundness.
A rural county like ours is a very small player in all of this. But if horizontal drilling will result in more oil and gas production here, we need to see that this county benefits in all of its resources with water perhaps rating as No. 1.
Where is the state of Kansas when we need its assistance in these affairs? Well, hopefully it’s doing more than granting income tax curtailment in wealthier eastern counties while allowing our senior citizens to languish under the property tax burden.
The time for help here from state sources is now—whether we get it for the sake of our reservoir or just to protect our residents.