EPA releases summary of December 2013 technical roundtable on potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources

The U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) held a Technical Roundtable on December 9, 2013, concerning the EPA’s on-going study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. A follow-up webinar was held on January 28, 2014. A summary of these events was published on the EPA website on March 19, 2014. Comments of interest include:

  • In late 2014, the EPA will release the draft assessment report, which will undergo peer review by the Science Advisory Board (SAB) Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel as well as public comment. The EPA is continuing to conduct research, analyze information and literature, and engage stakeholders from the oil and gas industry, academia, the states, non-governmental organizations, and the public.
  • The Analytical Chemical Methods (ACM) workshop will consider the use of artificial tracers for tracking hydraulic fracturing fluids and the analytical methods used to measure those tracers. In addition, the ACM workshop requested information concerning (a) advances in industry practices that change the chemical makeup of hydraulic fracturing injection fluids and implication for chemical selection or field sample analysis and (b) guidelines for baseline sampling (where, when, during what segment of well operations.
  • The workshop on Well Construction/Operation and Subsurface Modeling solicited information on (a) current design techniques that prevent leaks through production well casing and fluid movement along the wellbore, (b) what testing can be conducted to verify issues do not exist prior to, during and after hydraulic fracturing, and (c) what testing or monitoring techniques can ensure adequate confinement of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing. This workshop emphasized the importance of using diagnostics and pressure monitoring to assess well integrity and that cementing is a critical confinement technique.
  • The workshop on Wastewater Treatment and Related Modeling will consider (a) the potential future trends in reuse, recycling, zero-liquid discharge and commercial transport and (b) how the residuals of hydraulic fracturing can be managed, disposed of and characterized. Other topics include the projected volumes of wastewater versus wastewater management capacity, consequences of disposal via landfills or beneficial reuse, centralized storage and treatment facilities, and the monitoring of wastewater disposition. It was noted that wastewater treatment has evolved from treatment largely at publicly owned treatment works to treatment at commercial wastewater and package plants.
  • The Water Acquisition Modeling workshop indicates that it will focus on water dynamics in heavily populated areas and will analyze existing and future water uses across geographies in order to understand local community impacts.
  • For the Case Studies, the importance of understanding site-specific geochemistry, including using statistical techniques and other appropriate techniques to analyze geochemistry, in order to understand the sources of ground water contamination was discussed.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.