Tag: Encana

Kalkaska County: The centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin

Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member Emma Lui is the Water Campaign Director for the Council of Canadians. She shared her recent blog post with us about her recent trip to Kalkaska, MI. Read the original post on canadians.org

Driving into Kalkaska County, the welcome sign displays a picture of an oil well which is indicative of the history of oil and gas drilling in the county.

Welcome sign to Kalkaska, MIFLOW’s Communications Director Eric Olson and I drove 30 minutes outside of Traverse City Monday afternoon to the neighbouring county of Kalkaska. Kalkaska is an economically depressed community and many closed stores on Kalkaska’s downtown are a stark indication of that.

We met with Paul Brady, a ‘fracking watchdog’ according to media reports, who took us to see some of Encana’s well sites. The first well site we visited was the Excelsior 1-13 well in Excelsior Township, one of Kalkaska’s twelve townships. The site stores equipment and produces gas but minimal compared to some of Encana’s other well sites. But Encana has plans to expand the number of horizontal wells at this site. The development of the original site destroyed wetlands and some residents are concerned that Encana’s expansion will further destroy wetlands in the area.

Excelsior Well operated by EncanaKalkaska has become the centre of fracking in Michigan with more fracking permits and active applications than any other county in the state. What’s more, not only is Canadian company Encana planning to frack 500 new deep shale wells in the area but they are also breaking records with the amount of water they are using to frack Kalkaska’s wells. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s report Hydraulic Fracturing in the Great Lakes Basin: The State of Play in Michigan in Ohio, most fracked wells in the Utica shale use between 7.5 and 22.7 million litres of water but Encana has reported that it used 45 million litres of groundwater per well to frack the Excelsior 2-25and Garfield 1-25 wells and 80 million litres of groundwater to frack its Excelsior 3-25 well. Recent news reports revealed that Ecana wants to withdraw 15 billion litres of water for the 500 new wells they plan to frack.

Michigan may soon be the state with the most fracking within the Great Lakes Basin, making Kalkaska County the centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin. Ohio and Pennsylvania are Great Lakes states with a significant amount of fracking but most of the fracking within these states occurs outside of the Basin.

Encana brine tanks fracking Kalkaska

 

Next we drove down a dirt road called Sunset Trail and arrived at what Paul calls “Michigan’s first superpad,” known as the Oliver pad. The pad currently has three wells, which were completed in November of 2011 and are now producing wells. There are five more to come, for a total of eight wells. Standing on a small hill just outside the Oliver pad, we saw Encana’s holding tanks of condensate and brine. The site is clean, neat and almost sparse, with no traces of the toxic mixture that Encana used to frack the three wells on site – a very different picture from when the wells were being fracked. But the real threat is what can’t be seen above ground. Encana will draw groundwater in Kalkaska resulting in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch of the Manistee River. The North Branch of the Manistee River, a coldwater trout stream, is roughly 1400 feet from where we stood looking at the fracked wells of the Oliver pad.

Emma Lui fracking kalkaskaAs we walked on Sunset Trail which is in the Pere Marquette State Forest, Paul tells us the story of how back in May 2012, Team Services, a company contracted out by Encana, sprayed over 150,000 litres of fracking flowback on the very road we were walking on.

We drove down a few roads and arrived at the North Branch of the Manistee River. It looks small and unassuming but is a tributary to the Manistee River, which itself is a winding river of over 300 kilometres that eventually snakes its way to Lake Michigan. As mentioned, Encana’s fracking projects will result in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch.

Kalkaska wastewater

Encana has other well sites in the county including the Garfield well in Garfield Township which used 45 million litres of water in December 2012 as well as the Westerman well site in Rapid River Township where residents have raised concerns about water well failures after fracking began.

Encana’s proposed fracking plans are a threat to the county’s water sources, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. The shorelines of Lake Michigan are already under stress, with Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Erie having the highest levels of cumulative stress. Several municipalities in Michigan have already placed a moratorium on fracking.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has begun a statewide ballot initiative to “prohibit the new type of horizontal fracking and frack wastes in Michigan.” 258, 088 signatures are required in order for Michigan to hold a referendum on the issue in 2014. Click here to endorse this initiative.

As Maude Barlow points out in her report Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, while there are many political jurisdictions governing the Great Lakes Basin, it is, in fact, one integrated watershed and needs to be seen and governed as such. We need to work towards banning fracking around the lakes in order to protect the entire Great Lakes Basin.

To read background information about fracking in Michigan, click here.
To view more pictures from this trip, click here.

Emma Lui’s blog

Fracking suspected cause of residential water well failure in Kalkaska County

Click here to view the press release as a PDF

Fracking suspected cause of residential water well failure in Kalkaska County

As Encana’s fracking operation continued in Rapid River Township, local residents losing water pressure. Water coming out of the tap looks like milk.

For Immediate Release
June 11, 2013
Kalkaska, Michigan

Last week, fracking operations at the Westerman 1-29 HD1 continued, despite ongoing issues with the water supply on the pad. The additional water wells installed on and off the well pad failed to yield sufficient volumes to complete the well and Encana continued to obtain water from the Kalkaska Village municipal system until Saturday, June 8, 2013, when the gas well was finally completed.

At some point mid-week, Bernard and Phyllis Senske, who live adjacent to the well site, started experiencing a drop in water pressure and discolored water. “It looks like milk coming out of the faucet”, said Mrs. Senske.

In response to her distress, the Anglers of the AuSable, a group dedicated to protection of Au Sable and other Michigan trout streams, engaged Dr. Chris Grobbel, of Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates to inspect the well and sample the water.

His initial report found that “The static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet. Homeowners Senske’s reported that this problem is coincident with the nearby fracking operation which is also reportedly experiencing difficulties pumping groundwater to supply on-site fracking operation.” The full report is at the end of this news release.

This is not the first fracking operation to experience issues with insufficient water. Attempts to complete the Yonkman 1-29HD1 well in Missaukee County between December of 2012 and February of this year were unsuccessful, despite construction of 8 water wells in an effort to do so. Devon Energy approached nearby municipalities for water, and the City of McBain acquiesced-for $34,000.00. However, MEQ records illustrate that the Yonkman well was never completed.

Similar issues were also experienced at the State Richfield 1-27 well in Roscommon County, where four water wells failed to provide the quantity of water required to frack the well (4.8 million gallons), and two additional wells were required.

Dr. Grobbel recommends a pump aquifer yield test be performed to determine whether an aquifer can safely supply the volume of water required for any large quantity water withdrawal, so that adverse impact to groundwater can be properly assessed and avoided.

This is an ongoing story and updates will be forthcoming as developments occur.

Report of Dr.Chris Grobbel, of Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates:

Please find this summary of my 6/7/13 site visit to the home of Bernard and Phyllis Senske 632 Wood Rd, Rapid River Township, Kalkaska County. The Senske property is along the north side of Wood Rd, in close proximity to and northeast of Chevron’s Westerman 1-32 HD-1 deep horizontal, hydraulically fractured natural gas well – currently being fracked by Halliburton.

The Senskes’ reported and I observed the diminishment of flow, once turned on, from a hydrant at their
residential well north of their home. Using an electronic static water level meter, I determined the depth of the well at 175 feet below ground surface (bgs), static water level at 129 feet bgs, giving them a total of 46 feet of water within their well. According to records from submersible well pump replacement in August 10, 2010 indicated the well had a static water level at 118 feet bgs (i.e. 57 feet of water within the well), and that the pump was set at 133 feet bgs (i.e. 15 feet into the aquifer). Under the conditions I observed on 6/7/13, the submersible pump would be a mere 4 feet into the aquifer and is running periodically dry through drawdown when run. Turning the well off, the water table seems to recover relatively quickly to 129 feet bgs.

Consequently, the water well system is drawing air and water and slugs of air were observed by myself at the
hydrant and at a tap within the Senske home. The cloudy water observed from the tap is likely air saturation within drinking water, and the clearing of drawn water was observed after a few seconds as very fine air bubbles volatilized. It was also noted that a small amount of white scale was present in drinking water within the Senske home, likely calcium deposits/scale being loosened and flushed through the home’s plumbing from the air “shocking” of the system from drawing air. Neither condition are judged to represent health concern for the home owners.

However, to ensure the Senske’s water was not tainted, I developed the well by running it for 15 minutes and analyzed the head space of water sample collected within a sterile lab jar with a photo-ionization unit (PID). PID readings were non-detect, and I did not detect odors of any sort. Samples were collected within 40 ml VOAs per MDEQ protocols for drinking water, and were submitted to a MDEQ licensed lab in Traverse City for analysis for BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene isomers US EPA Method 8020) – a common indicator of petroleum constituents. I expect results during the week of June 17th.

In short it appears that the static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet. Homeowners Senske’s reported that this problem is coincident with the nearby fracking operation which is also reportedly experiencing difficulties pumping groundwater to supply on-site fracking operations. The Senske’s are longterm occupants of this home, Mrs. Senske having been born there about 80 years ago and moved back decades ago. Both Mr. and Mrs. Senske reported that no problems have existed within water quality or quantity in this water well, which installed approximately in the early 1990s and used of potable water and irrigation on their farmstead. The only obvious change in the vicinity is the nearby horizontal fracking operation.

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Submitted by FARWatershed.com and respectmyplanet.org.

Contact: Jacque Rose, FARWatershed@gmail.com517-410-8959

Fracking creating major water consumption issues near Kalkaska

Click here to view the press release as a PDF

Fracking creating major water consumption issues near Kalkaska

Unable to get 8.4 million gallons of water at site, Encana forced to buy water from Kalkaska, Mancelona city systems

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2013
Kalkaska, Michigan

Concerns about the impact to local groundwater by massive water use- on a scale never before seen in Michigan fracking operations- are coming to a head, as Encana Oil and Gas’s plan to use 8.4 million gallons of water to fracture a single well has been stymied by a lack of water on site.

Instead, the company is trucking water – nearly 1 million gallons of it in just one week – from the City of Kalkaska’s water system to meet its needs. This one fracking operation today is using more water than the Village of Kalkaska is using for all its needs over the same time period.

The Westerman 1-29 HD1 gas/oil well, located on Wood Road in Rapid River Township, Kalkaska County, originally permitted to Chevron Michigan, LLC is now being operated by Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Inc.

Westerman Well, Kalkaska, MI

 The permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality authorized one water well on the site. The estimated water required for the gas/oil well was 8.4 million gallons. (That compares to about 10,000 gallons used to complete or “stimulate” wells in the traditional way – a massive increase in consumptive water use by the fracking industry compared to the past.)

The Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT) estimated that 900 gallons per minute could be removed safely from the site and would cause no adverse resource impact. As it turns out, there isn’t enough water available on the site to provide 900 gallons per minute, let alone be safely removed.

An additional eight water wells were drilled on the site but apparently they did not produce either. Starting on May 31, 2013 water began being removed from the Kalkaska municipal water system to frack the gas/oil well.

The municipal withdrawal did not come close to supplying the water necessary to complete the Westerman well, so on Saturday, another water well was drilled off the site in the surrounding field.

westerman story photo 3

That water well also failed to produce sufficient water and trucks running around the clock continued to haul over 900,000 gallons of water from the Kalkaska municipal system over the weekend. At last report on June 4, 2013 the water was still being trucked to the well site from the municipal water supply.

Local resident and leading contributor of respectmyplanet.org, Paul Brady, states “If the citizens of Michigan knew corporations were destroying hundreds of millions of gallons of Michigan water – water that is supposedly protected by government for use by all of us – they would be opposing this new kind of completion technique. These deep shale unconventional wells are using massive amounts of water without adequate testing and solid data on aquifer capacity.”

Brady noted that the new fracking methods permanently remove water from Michigan’s watersheds. It is polluted with chemicals, shoved deep into the ground, and never returned to the water cycle. Encana has stated in shareholder presentations that up to 500 wells are planned for Michigan. Five new wells were permitted in Excelsior Township last week that estimate using 152,000,000 gallons of water. Eight more permit applications are pending.

The water use for these types of wells in Michigan is unprecedented: there is no gas or oil play in the entire USA that is using this much water per well.

The Michigan DEQ has taken some steps recently to try and deal with the astounding amounts of water destroyed by modern fracturing. But as of today, the primary tools that they are using to determine adverse impact to our water are inadequate to even judge how much water is available in any given location (as demonstrated by the Rapid River well situation), never mind how much can be safely removed. Michigan has no groundwater maps of this area; state officials don’t know how much water withdrawal our aquifers in Kalkaska County can support.

There is a way to find this out: do a pump aquifer yield test. State officials should require this testing whenever withdrawals of this magnitude are proposed for any reason, not just oil and gas exploration.

“This is not about the gas and oil industry”, says Brady. “We wholeheartedly support the Michigan oil and gas worker: they are our neighbors, family and friends here in Kalkaska. We are confident local oil and gas workers value the water as much as we do.”

Elected officials often remind us that water is by far our most precious resource. They need to step in and ensure that such massive quantities are not misused in this manner, and that unsustainable well drilling is not allowed.

This in an ongoing story and there will be additional installments forwarded as developments occur.

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Submitted by FARWatershed.com and respectmyplanet.org. All photos credited to respectmyplanet.org

Contact: Jacque Rose, FARWatershed@gmail.com517-410-8959