While the investigation was done by the federal government, oil and gas is not actually regulated by the federal government, but, rather, it is regulated by different entities in each state. In Texas, the Railroad Commission is in charge of oil and gas regulations.
The water contamination announcement is the first of its kind anywhere in the country and has some concerned that, if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.
Railroad Commission David Porter is fairly certain that what happened in Wyoming is not possible here in Texas for a number of reasons.
“The geology in Pavillion, Wyoming, is very unique, where fracturing has taken place both in and below the drinking water aquifer and very close to drinking water wells – conditions that are not common elsewhere in the United States or in Texas,” Porter said. “For example, hydraulic fracturing in Texas occurs sometimes a mile or more below aquifers, and no hydraulic fracturing occurs in Texas where there are drinking water aquifers.”
The shale in the Eagle Ford region is located much deeper than the shale in Wyoming, and there is also a dense layer of rock separating the water source and the shale.
“The depth of hydraulic fracturing in Texas varies depending on the reservoir, and the depth of aquifers also varies throughout the state,” Porter said. “Specifically, for the Eagle Ford Shale, the Carrizo Aquifer is at 6,000 to 7,000 feet depth. Below this aquifer are layers of isolating rock. And below the isolating rock, the Eagle Ford reservoir is found at a depth of 10,000 to 15,000 feet.”
In case the depth and rock separating the water source from the shale isn’t enough to ease people’s fears, the commission has also put in specific rules pertaining to how a well must be drilled and how the flowback water must be disposed of.
“The commission has stringent rules on how oil and gas wells are constructed, requiring several layers of steel casing and cement protection through aquifers,” Porter said. “These rules have helped to ensure that hydraulic fracturing has not impacted Texas groundwater. The disposal of flowback frac water is also strictly regulated by commission rules, which require disposal in RRC-permitted injection/disposal wells.”
Beeville resident Dan Hughes, owner of the Dan A. Hughes Company, has been working in oil and gas for more than six decades and agrees with Porter in believing fracking will not contaminate drinking water in Texas.