Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Environmental Group Says Illegal Diesel Fracking Used in Texas

A hydraulic fracking operation in the Barnett Shale.

StateImpact Texas

A hydraulic fracking operation in the Barnett Shale.

An environmental group says it’s found over a hundred oil or gas wells being drilled in Texas using techniques that the group says are illegal. At issue is “fracking” which injects huge quantities of water and chemicals deep underground.

Fracking is what’s revolutionized drilling in Texas. The technique uses all sorts of chemicals including acids that are injected by the thousands of gallons down into wells to break up rock so gas and oil can escape.

There’ve always been concerns that the chemicals could risk contaminating groundwater, but state and federal regulators have allowed drillers to use dozens of different substances.

Except one: diesel fuel.

Earlier this year, prompted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Texas state regulators said to inject diesel fuel would require a special permit.

A national group, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), was concerned the new rules wouldn’t be followed. They began reviewing databases drillers use to report what they inject.

“We identified 122 wells in Texas in total,” said Mary Greene, EIP’s author of the report.

Greene said the wells were one drillers had continued using diesel in but that in some cases, had gone back and changed their reports to make it look like they had not.

“Our primary pur pose is to make the states and the EPA aware of this so they can do their own compliance evaluations and take appropriate enforcement where indicated,” Greene said in a conference call with journalists.

A drilling industry group says the environmental group got its data largely wrong.

“These guys are literally saying diesel is being used in hydraulic fracturing when it wasn’t. Period,” said  Steve Everley with Energy In Depth. “The industry has largely stopped using this substance.“

The industry says fracking has yet to lead to any major groundwater contamination. And the environmental group, EIP, said it knows of no cases where diesel fuel used in drilling has actually contaminated groundwater in Texas.


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