EnCana answers questions about drilling operations at open house | PostIndependent.com

EnCana answers questions about drilling operations at open house

EnCana hosted an open house for residents of Silt and Rifle Thursday that drew about 65 people to the Rifle fairgrounds. Drilling techniques, water and waste were on the minds of the few who spoke up with questions.Oni Butterfly, who lives south of Silt in an area that has seen extensive drilling over the past few years, asked about the components of fracturing fluids. The fracturing process pumps fluid down a well bore to release natural gas trapped in pockets in certain rock layers.”There have been studies of the migration of frac’ing fluids migrating” into upper levels of rock layers, she said. She asked if EnCana had conducted similar studies.EnCana engineer Joel Fox explained the company drills into the Williams Fork formation of sandstones and shales. “There are hard shales” between the gas-bearing levels, he said which are fractured to release the gas.”Mother Nature provides a perfect seal” between those layers, he said. If fracturing fluid did not do its job properly “we would get a lot of water or no gas at all,” he said.Butterfly also asked about the composition of the fracturing fluid and whether or not it contained hydrocarbons which have toxic components.”It’s salt water and sand and surfactants, which is soap, and a gel agent,” Fox said. He also said trucks owned by the fracturing services companies such as Schlumberger and Halliburton carry forms that detail all the components of the fluids they carry and are available for inspection.Another member of the audience asked about the water EnCana produces in its drilling operations and how it is disposed of.Fox said EnCana conditions and recycles most of the water that comes out of the wells during drilling after the hydrocarbons are separated out. “We re-use 85 to 90 percent of it,” he said.Last year, EnCana recycled more than 3 million gallons of water from its wells, said David Grisso, field manager in EnCana’s South Piceance operations area south of the Colorado River.EnCana has a water treatment plan on Hunter Mesa south of Rifle that treats produced water.Butterfly also asked about the ingredients in “condensates” which are produced in the drilling process and contain hydrocarbons, and how that is disposed of. In December, Bill Barrett Corp., drilling close to Butterfly’s home near Silt, burned excess condensate off several pits near its wells, which resulted in a number of complaints from neighbors about noxious odors and excessive smoke from the burning.Fox explained that condensate is pumped into separators when it comes up from the well bore where it is separated from water. The condensate is then trucked away where it is processed for future sale.Volatile organic compounds, which are the gaseous form of hydrocarbons, are burned in enclosed conditions.”We try to do a no flare policy,” said completion manager Tim Baer. “We’d rather sell the gas.”Flaring was a common practice up until a few years ago and involved burning off gas into the atmosphere.Fox also reported that EnCana drilled 187 wells in 2005 and has 1,250 in production. The company plans to drill 124 wells this year.

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