Recently in Oil & Gas Category

The Directional Driller's 23rd Psalm
September 27, 2014 7:00 AM | Posted in: ,

My pal Kelly posted his version of the 23rd Psalm on his Facebook wall, written from the perspective of an oil driller. I was inspired by his version to create my version, which is similar - but since my company drills nothing but horizontal wells while Kelly tells me he's primarily drilling vertical wells, my angle (see what I did there?) is from the perspective of a directional driller. If you're not in the oil business, some of the jargon may be unfamiliar, so I've included links to pages that may clarify things a bit.

By the way, I don't think this is sacrilegious or disrespectful of Scripture, because we all seek (and find) God from where we are, and I believe He cares about all the details of our lives, and this includes what we do for a living. I think it's helpful and even important to try to relate Scripture to the everyday aspects of our lives. Given that, how might you re-word Psalm 23 to fit your personal situation?

The Lord is my Geosteerer; I shall not miss my target bottom hole location.

He makes me slide through soft shale; He leads me past thief zones.

He restores my mud motors; He leads me in the well path of mild doglegs for His name's sake.

Yea, though I drill through the zone of limestone stringers and chert, I will fear no DBR'd bit, for You are with me; Your agitator and kickpad they comfort me.

You prepare a directional plan before me in the presence of management skeptics;

You lube my wellbore with oil-based mud; my reserve pit doesn't run over.

Surely one-BHA laterals and cement to surface will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the cooling house[1] of the Lord forever.

[1] A cooling house, aka safety trailer or safety house, is an air-conditioned trailer placed on a drill site for the use of rig personnel who might be suffering from heat exhaustion.


Grading the Hybrid Bit Performance
May 17, 2013 10:03 PM | Posted in:

Remember this post? We finally got to run that fancy drill bit, two months later than planned thanks to some unexpected complications in the previous well. (If you work in the oil industry, you may recognize the phrase "unexpected complications" as a practical synonym for "business as usual.")

We drilled through a very tough formation that was up to 100% chert, and even this specially designed bit met its match. To refresh your memory, here's what the new bit looked like:

Photo of bit

And here's what it looked like coming out of the hole, after drilling about 900' in 80 hours:

Photo of bit

Quite a difference. The bit was under-gauge (meaning that it had a smaller diameter than when it went in, and drilling a smaller hole than planned can cause huge problems later), and the cones were frozen and perilously close to coming off completely. The diamond cutters on the "fins" were completely worn off, and the bit was badly cored (the phenomenon where the center of the tool is worn down).

At first glance, you might think the experiment was a failure, but it's not quite that straightforward. What we don't know is how a conventional bit might have fared in that same rock formation. We might have destroyed multiple bits trying to drill through that chert; this one came out ugly, but it came out in one piece, and came close to reaching our goals for it.

Is it worth the extra money we paid for it? That's something the engineers and our management will have to decide. But we got to see another vivid example of the challenges we face in drilling for oil in the Permian Basin.

One big frackin' mess
March 15, 2013 8:13 AM | Posted in:

It's not really my intent to turn this into an oil and gas blog, but I go where the muse takes me, and she's apparently spending a lot of time lately in the oilpatch, having heard about the healthy salaries and acknowledging that being a muse doesn't pay like it used to.
 
Below are some photos that were forwarded to me from an unnamed source, showing the results of a Frac Job Gone Wild (not to be confused with a Spring Break phenomenon).
 
By the way, the Texas Railroad Commission has a website where you can find details about all reported blowouts and well control problems. This particular event is at the top of the list as of the date of this post, having occurred on February 28.
 
Frac jobs are routine - and routinely dangerous. There are all kinds of Bad Things that can happen when pumping huge amounts of fluid into the ground at tremendous pressures, and even the best preventive measures can't always thwart a malevolent combination of physics and Mother Nature's bad moods. In this case, the casing (which is heavy pipe cemented in place throughout the length of the well and designed to address a variety of issues, from groundwater protection to wellbore integrity) parted and blew out of the hole, becoming the world's scariest javelin. Fortunately, there were no fatalities and only one injury (the person in the cab of the demolished truck suffered a concussion).

Site of gas well blowout
How would you like to call your insurance company about this?

Site of gas well blowout
Hard to believe that the guy in the truck survived.

Site of gas well blowout
This is the well itself...or what's left of it.

Site of gas well blowout
I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure this isn't what a well site is supposed to look like.

Site of gas well blowout
We normally see scenes like this from Siberian oilfields, not Texas locations.
 
If you ever question why oilfield salaries seem inordinately high, this illustrates one very good reason.

Bird's Eye View?
March 13, 2013 5:36 PM | Posted in: ,

We get daily reports from each drilling rig summarizing the operations for the previous 24 hours. Our rig supervisors are intelligent, experienced, and well-trained...but they weren't hired for their literary skills, and sometimes their reports contain phrases are, shall we say, mystifying. We in the office can usually discern their meaning based on context. For example, a few weeks ago one of the rigs reported that it had received a load of "bryan water" instead of "brine water," and that was pretty simple to interpret, as well as giving us a good laugh.
 
They're not always that easy to decipher, though. This one came in this morning, and it stumped everyone: "Inspection quail on top drive."
 
The first thing we do when confronted with a mystery phrase is assume that it's a misspelling, and we try to find rhyming words or homonyms that might fit in the context. In this case, the typist may have been referring to a bail, which is a thick bar of metal used to connect a couple of key components on a drilling rig ("top drive" refers to the kind of rig we're using). It's difficult to imagine how someone can type "qu" instead of "b," and it's doubtful that even Apple's infinitely annoying autocorrect would try to change "bail" to "quail," but that's the best we could come up with. (Heaven forbid that we should actually contact the rig crew and ask for clarification.)
 
Personally, I prefer to take the phrase at face value and assume that they've developed the time-saving technology of using avian inspectors in situations that might pose a danger to humans. Here's what I envisioned they used to verify that everything was OK on the rig:
 
Quail with a video camera strapped to his (or her) head
 
I applaud their ingenuity. I just hope they don't extend the technology to prairie chickens.

Disclaimer: I'll be the first to admit that the oilfield lexicon is brimming with arcane terms and neologisms and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that there actually is a legitimate application of "quail" to a piece of drilling-related equipment. Feel free to enlighten me if that's the case, and I'll issue a [mental] apology to our rig guys. But I'll still prefer my pictogram over reality. (As is so often the case, my therapist is fond of reminding me.)

Hybrid Drill Bits: Oilfield Geekiness
March 6, 2013 10:05 PM | Posted in:

First, some simple oilfield visual mathematics:

Roller cone bit plus PDC bit equals hybrid bit

You probably (possibly?) recognize those as the business end of drill bits, the tools that are used to bore holes down to where the oil and gas lives. The first one is a roller cone bit, and it operates like its name implies. Those three cones turn on bearings, and they crush or chip the rock in the process. Roller cone bits are generally used when drilling in very hard formations.

The one in the middle is a polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bit. You can't see them in the photo, but the flat side of each of the seven "blades" is lined with disks made of synthetic industrial diamonds. Those ultra-tough disks shear or cut the rock as the bit turns. They are most effective in softer rock.

But we're here to talk about the result of combining these two designs, which is referred to as a hybrid bit. There are different types of hybrid bits, but as you can see in the picture, this particular version consists of some conventional roller cones alternating with diamond-impregnated blades. As you might guess, this combination is designed to drill in formations that are not homogenous. Specifically, a hybrid bit will [theoretically] make drilling in rock that's interspersed with chert much less painful. Chert is a flinty, crystalline substance that can destroy a bit, and it's the bane of our existence in some areas of the Permian Basin, especially when drilling horizontal wellbores.

The reason I'm writing about this seemingly random topic is that our company's local region is about to run its first hybrid bit and we're all pretty excited about it. Lots of people dropped by the office yesterday to take photos when our bit showed up. Photos like these:

Baker Hughes Kymera drill bit

Baker Hughes Kymera drill bit

This is a Kymera™ hybrid drill bit manufactured by Baker Hughes to our specifications. You may notice some differences in this design and the one shown at the top of the page. The most obvious is that our bit has only two roller cones but four PDC blades (and the diamond discs are seen much more clearly). I'm not a drilling or bit engineer so I can't explain why we think this design is appropriate for the specific conditions we'll be drilling in, but it's safe to say that it's a bit (ha!) of an experiment. If it works as we hope, this hundred-pound hunk of metal will knock a few days off our normal drilling time. Since a long-lateral horizontal well might cost more than $20,000 per day to drill, the potential savings are nothing to sneeze at.

I've barely scratched the surface of the technological considerations related to drilling an oil well. I'm of the opinion that the typical American has no concept of just how complex the search for oil and gas has become. Jed Clampett may have discovered oil by firing a rifle into the ground, but we're not that fortunate.

The Uglification of West Texas
December 17, 2012 6:23 AM | Posted in: ,

It's no secret that our region is the beneficiary of an economic boom of historic proportion, due to a perfect storm of high commodity prices and technological advances that have unlocked significant oil and gas reserves that were considered by most to be unrecoverable a decade ago. 

The benefits of this boom are easily enumerated: low unemployment, high wages, and a staggering expansion of the tax base. The downsides are equally obvious: overtaxed infrastructure, scarce and expensive housing, and ridiculous traffic.

But there's one additional negative impact I haven't seen anyone else acknowledging, and that's the mess that my chosen industry is making of the West Texas landscape. The oil business is making our countryside ugly.



I realize that many - most? - people already think that the spare, even desolate scenery around here is already ugly. But it's getting much more so as we continue to bulldoze well sites and lease roads, build tank batteries and terminals and pipelines, and drill wells and install production equipment on increasingly tight spacing. As tough as our land is, it bruises easily and heals slowly.

I can also recall a time not so many years ago when it was actually possible to wander into the countryside and feel like you'd actually gotten away from civilization, with nothing manmade in sight. I wonder if there's anywhere in West Texas where that's still possible?

This observation was driven home as we traveled east from Midland on our way to the Hill Country. There's a stretch of road between Garden City and Sterling City where the land opens up to the south, with a miles-wide panorama lined by mesas. The wind was gusting, and the blowing dust and scarred landscape presented a post-apocalyptic tableau straight out of A Boy and His Dog. I half-expected a chopped-and-armored 18-wheeler with gun turrets to appear around the next curve.

I'm a beneficiary of the positive fallout from the current economic situation, and I'm not hypocritical enough to wish it away. I just wish the development could be done without leaving such a large footprint on a countryside that has a certain majesty to it, even if you sometimes have to look sideways and squint just right to discern it.

Drill Site Scenes
September 21, 2012 10:28 PM | Posted in: ,

*tap* *tap* Is this thing on?

Yeah, I know...it's been a while. Life gets in the way of blogging, quite frequently nowadays. I miss it. Well, we do what we can, right?

One of the facets of life that's interfered with my extracurricular activities is that job-like thing I attend to most days. Working in the drilling department of an oil company doesn't afford the best ever outlet for creativity, but that's not to say that I'm not getting to see and learn some very interesting things. I get to leave the office every now and then to visit a drill site, and I always try to remember to take a camera along. Of course, finding time to do something with the photos is an additional challenge, but I finally set aside some time tonight to fire up Photoshop and run a few recent pictures through the pixel grinder. Below is one of images that crawled out of the rathole (and the others are now lodged in the front end of the Gazette Gallery; feel free to visit at your leisure and see what results from busy hands and an idle mind).

Stylized photo of a crane on a oil well drilling site

You've Been Warned
August 23, 2012 6:06 AM | Posted in: ,

We're totally gonna put one of these in the company reception area:

Warning: Pirates and Ninjas and Lasers and S***

OK, maybe not, but it's hilarious to contemplate. This is an edited version (hey, this is a fambly blog, sort of) of a sign that's posted on the door of a certain local oilfield service's company tool repair lab. They do some seriously important work there...but obviously don't take themselves too seriously in the process.

Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do...
August 20, 2012 9:47 PM | Posted in:

I'm taking a directional drilling class at the PPDC this week, and it's pretty darned interesting. It's very basic - precisely what an accountant-turned-drilling analyst needs - but also quite relevant. We're drilling almost nothing but horizontal wells, as are many other operators in the Permian Basin, and while I'm not remotely involved in the planning or actual drilling of any of those wells, I still need to understand the processes, terminology, and challenges.

Not all of my six or so regular readers probably know a lot about directional drilling, so here's a quick primer. Advances in technology have allowed us to drill oil and gas wells straight down a couple of miles, at which point we can turn and aim the wellbore in any direction we wish, and drill out another mile (at least). Drillers can hit a target the size of a basketball by aiming three miles of wiggly steel pipe pushing a diamond-encrusted bit through rock in incredible temperatures and pressures. And hardly anything ever goes wrong, as this video demonstrates:



That, by the way, isn't one of our rigs.

Eh...it's a letdown to realize that what's portrayed in this rather exciting video (if you're in the bidness, anyway) is not actually a mistake. It seems a little too coincidental that someone would have a film crew in place at the exact spot and time the bit broke the surface of the earth like a graboid*, spewing drilling fluid (aka, mud) into the air. Now, given that it's Russians doing the drilling, we might assume that they well could have just been under the influence of a bit too much vodka, but in fact this was likely a pilot hole for a pipeline, drilled under an obstacle or surface feature that they didn't want to cross on the surface. Still, it's pretty cool to see a drill bit at work, and if you look closely, you can see the drilling rig in the distance where the operation presumably originated.

Details in the video are fuzzy, but that drill bit looks suspiciously like a big two-cone bit, which is historically significant, but never used** in modern oil and gas drilling operations. This would seem to reinforce the theory that the operation in the video was an intentional and relatively shallow operation. (Update: Eagle-eyed Gazette reader Jim Eakin emailed to suggest that I seriously need to check into getting a seeing-eye dog because that bit is obviously a common tri-cone. OK, he was actually more diplomatic than that, but also correct; once I viewed some of the earlier footage in stop motion, it is pretty obvious that the Russkies aren't still stuck in the early 20th century...at least not when it comes to out-of-control drill bits.)

*Don't tell me you don't know about graboids. Sheesh. Do I have to explain everything?

**OK, feel free to tell me about the 8,000 examples where double-cones are, in fact, still in use today.

Aitch Too Ess: Nothin' to Sneeze At
July 23, 2012 9:39 PM | Posted in:

Did I mention I have a new job? Still working for the same company, but I've moved over from the exploration group to the drilling department. I don't have any experience in that area, but they said they needed the help, and I'm all about helping (as long as the paycheck shows up every other Friday).

Anyway, it's an interesting - nay, fascinating - part of the oil and gas bidness, and I feel like I'm closer to the action than I've ever been. So close, in fact, that it could kill me.

If that sounds overly dramatic, check this out:

Photo of me wearing SCBA gear

This is old hat to some of you, but others may wonder what I'm doing wearing cowboy boots and SCUBA gear in the middle of the desert. Actually, that's SCBA gear - same thing, without the "Underwater" part. It's required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for working in areas where you may encounter H2S (hydrogen sulfide) - and that's pretty much everywhere there are oil and gas wells. If you're interested in the gory details, check out the Wikipedia entry regarding "safety" and H2S. But I can save you some time: it'll kill you dead with one breath. (And you don't have to be an oilfield worker - or even human - to succumb to this silent killer.)

So, H2S safety training is mandatory at our company for anyone who might have occasion to venture into the field, either around a drilling rig or onto a producing property or related facilities. Most of our operations don't have a high danger of H2S, but most of them have the potential, and we believe in being prepared. I daresay every other person reading this who works in the oilpatch has an employer that feels the same way.

I actually won't be out in the field very often (although three days after taking the safety course, I was clambering around a drilling rig), but I'm outfitted with an H2S monitor (like a personal smoke alarm), flame-resistant jeans and shirt, steel-toed boots, and, of course, hard hat. 

My "Roughnecks Drill Deeper" tattoo is on order.

Next up: the importance of hardbanding.

Photo of casing with hardbanding

Khurais Crude Increment Program
March 23, 2012 10:32 AM | Posted in:

This will likely be of limited interest to most Gazette visitors, but if you're in the awl bidness like me, you might find this as fascinating as I did. It's a 22-minute animated video showing the details of a huge oilfield development project in Saudi Arabia.

And when I say "huge," I mean "mind-boggingly humongous," at least in oilfield terms. The project, which treats and transports seawater to several inland fields where it's injected to increase production from those fields, is touted as not only the largest in Saudi history, but the largest in industry history, period. I don't know the basis for that claim, but some of the statistics are impressive:

  • The program will increase the capacity of the seawater treatment plant by 4.5 million barrels of water per day (or almost 200 million gallons daily)

  • As a result of this program, the three oilfields that receive the treated water will produce 1.2 million barrels of oil (plus associated natural gas and natural gas liquids) each day - or more than 5% of the daily average crude consumption in the USA. By way of comparison, the entire state of Texas produces only about a million barrels a day.


For more information about the video, this project, and the underlying technology, visit The Oil Drum.

Frac Reporting - Loophole?
February 1, 2012 5:29 PM | Posted in: ,

As we've reported before, today marks the beginning of mandatory reporting of the components of fluid used in hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells drilled in Texas. A careful reading of the regulations indicates that you shouldn't hold your breath to see what's going into that well that's planned for your back yard. Even if it's permitted today, the actual reporting of frac fluid isn't required until the well completion report is filed with the State; an operator has up to 90 days following the drilling of a well to file a completion report. However, the so-called Chemical Disclosure Registry form must be completed and uploaded to www.fracfocus.org at the same time the completion report is filed -- although there's nothing preventing companies from doing it sooner.

The regulations allow a company to claim that the identity and/or proportion of frac fluid ingredients is a "trade secret" and is therefore exempt from detailed reporting. Even then, the regs specify that "the chemical family or other similar description associated with such chemical ingredient must be provided." And regardless of trade secret status, the identity and proportions of all ingredients must be disclosed to "any health professional or emergency responder who needs the information for diagnostic, treatment or other emergency response purposes."

At the same time, land surface owners where the well is drilled, as well as landowners adjacent to that location, can challenge the trade secret designation by completing and submitting certain information (the regs suggest, but don't require, this format [PDF]). Interestingly, you don't have to explain why you want to make the challenge, and you have up to 24 months after the date the well completion report is filed to submit a challenge. 

Now, my reading of this section of the regulations is that if the office of the Texas Attorney General determines that the withheld information is not entitled to trade secret status, the information must be disclosed...but only to the requestor who challenged the status. This would seem to be a rather large loophole; there's no provision for a retroactive public disclosure on fracfocus.org.

I suspect that those companies who historically have played fast and loose with regulations (you know who you are...and many of us also know who you are) will do the same with this one. The majority will shoot for full compliance. But there may be an interesting dynamic involved, because the portion of the regs dealing with trade secrecy  seems to give equal status to "a supplier, service company, or operator," and each of these participants in the process might have different objectives and agendas.

LPG Fracs: Technology for the times?
January 20, 2012 10:08 AM | Posted in: ,

Update (1/21/12): Ran across this blog post about LPG fracing. I don't have a great ear for subtlety, but the writer seems to be entering the discussion with a distinct bias, and some of the claims are simply wrong (or misleading - an outcry over putting hydrocarbons into a rock strata where hydrocarbons already exist naturally is a bit specious). The comments are more enlightening than the actual article but it does highlight the indisputable fact that fracing is an emotional topic for many people on both sides of the issue.

The debate about the merits and hazards of hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells will likely never subside, as its opponents argue that the process causes everything from fiery faucets to endless earthquakes, and its proponents claim you can drink frac fluid without suffering ill effects other than an unnatural affinity for the Houston Texans. 

Image of drilling rig in a glass of waterBut at least one argument against the process is gaining validity, and that's the undeniable fact that fracing takes a heckuva lot of water, and water is a precious commodity that's growing painfully scarce in many parts of the country. The typical frac job uses tens of thousands of gallons of fresh water (and can require more than a million gallons), and much of that is rendered non potable by the process.

Perhaps it's time for oil and gas companies to take a serious look at using liquified petroleum gas (LPG) as a replacement for water. LPG is generally a mixture of propane and butane. I ran across this article on the Unconventional Oil & Gas Center website that describes the process and a Canadian company, GasFrac Energy Services, Inc, that specializes in LPG frac technology.

Once you get past the psychological impact of thinking about pumping a highly flammable mixture under unimaginable pressures into the ground (GasFrac contends that the process is actually quite safe, although they probably make that claim from deep inside a bunker in an undisclosed location), the benefits are obvious. You're using a hydrocarbon to entice other hydrocarbons to flee their rocky bonds while eliminating not only the need for copious amounts of water, but also for CO2 which is commonly used to "energize" the frac fluid. The frac fluid becomes a part of your revenue stream as it's produced with the reservoir oil and gas, rather than being an expensive disposal problem.

I did some quick asking around the office yesterday and no one was aware of any LPG fracs in the Permian Basin, although someone thought that Pioneer Resources may have tested the process locally. If anyone has some insights in that regard, feel free to share them.

Some companies will be better positioned than others to take advantage of this technology. For example, those with gas plants in the area of the drilling operations could, in theory, produce the LPG used for fracing, and then reprocess the produced liquids stream.

As recently as a couple of years ago, the proposition of pumping LPG into the ground as frac fluid was laughable, from a cost perspective. That perspective has to be changing as natural gas prices continue to tank, and the reality of dwindling water supplies sets in. Water may still be cheaper, but it's also more valuable. 

As I reported in these pages a month or so ago, owners of oil and gas wells permitted after February 1, 2012 must disclose the ingredients of frac fluid, as well as the volume of water used in the frac operation. Those disclosures will be made public on the FracFocus website.
As you've probably already heard, the Texas Railroad Commission (the oversight agency for the Texas oil and gas industry, for the non-Texians in the audience) today approved a regulation that will require the public disclosure of chemical ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells permitted on or after February 1, 2012 [read the RRC's news release]. This is a groundbreaking (no pun intended) move that, among other things, demonstrates that the industry can work in harmony with traditionally adversarial groups when it wants to. These regulations were widely supported not only by environmental and public advocacy groups, but also by oil and gas operators.

The report from the hearing [PDF] in which the final rules were approved makes for interesting reading, especially the sections documenting the public comments regarding the proposed regulations. (One item of note is Exxon's hearty approval of the rules, despite the fact that they are not one of the companies [PDF] who is currently voluntarily providing the information.) Update: Sorry; I just noticed that Exxon is actually listed under the entry for XTO Energy.

Many people may not realize that about eighty oil and gas companies doing business in Texas have already been voluntarily making these disclosures via a website called FracFocus. Not every well fracked by these companies is listed, but there's a big database already being built, and a very user-friendly interface for searching for wells in a given geographic area to find out what's being pumped into the ground to make the wells more productive. This same website will become the vehicle for the required reporting under the new regulations. 

I think it's safe to say that the Texas regulations will become a model for other states to follow as they deal with concerns over hydraulic fracturing (which, by the way, has been around for 60 years, has been applied to more than a million completions, and which has never - in Texas, anyway - been linked to groundwater contamination, regardless of what propaganda like the "documentary" Gasland would have us believe). This action will also probably head off federal intervention which would undoubtedly be more onerous and less logical.

I expressed support for public disclosure on this site a year ago. I thought it was a wise idea then, while I was a non-industry worker, and I still do, as an oil and gas company employee (a company that is already voluntarily disclosing frac ingredients via the FracFocus website).

However...

I doubt that disclosure of the list of chemical ingredients is going to be of much practical use to most people. A list of obscure compounds simply won't be meaningful to the layperson. For example, let's look at the Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Product Component Information Disclosure sheet [PDF] for SM Energy's University 7 Berkley #6 well located in Andrews County, just north of Odessa. SM Energy is my employer, by the way; it's only fair to use one of our own wells in this example.

The Berkley #6 is an oil well with a vertical depth of almost two miles. During the completion process, the formation was fractured using a solution of over 700,000 gallons of water (an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds only about 600,000 gallons), into which was mixed a combination of 27 additional substances, ranging from the mundane (citric acid) to the exotic (dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid, cytclohexene, and alkylaryl ethoxylate). Some of these substances comprised as little as .0005% of the total injected volume, or the equivalent of less than four gallons. I don't know about you, but I really can't assess whether this concentration of 2-butoxyethanol or sodium metaborate is a bad thing or not. This stuff is 10,000' underground, with several million (billion?) tons of rock on top of it. How can I assess the risk of having a chemical that, for all I know, occurs naturally elsewhere, pumped in relatively minute quantities into a deep hole in the ground?

If you looked at the above-linked PDF, you may have noticed a column labeled "Chemical Abstract Service Number (CAS #)." The CAS is a division of the American Chemical Society, and it maintains a database (registry) of more than 60 million substances. If you can access this database, you can learn a bit about the nature of these substances. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to access the official CAS registry; fortunately, other organizations are more altruistic and offer alternative methods of access. The best CAS search engine I've found is provided by the National Institute of Health's PubChem service. Simply type the CAS # into the search box, click "Go," and on the resulting page, click the "Full Report" link to get more information about the chemical than you probably ever wanted to know.

I'm of the opinion that giving the public more information is almost always better than giving it less, even if that information might be subject to misinterpretation or even misuse. Our industry stands to lose a lot more than it might gain by continuing to keep fracking contents secret.
If you live in Midland, you're familiar with the Midland Development Corporation (MDC), the quasi-governmental agency that uses some of our taxes to bribe entice companies to either locate in Midland County or expand their operations if they're already here. The special sales tax that funds these efforts has been in place for a decade, and our newspaper recently ran a series of articles about the results of the so-called economic development efforts. Those results are rather dreary, to say the least.

The impetus behind the economic development movement in this area is to diversify the economy, which has been completely dependent on the petroleum industry for decades. The theory is sound. If we have a wider variety of industries employing folks in the Permian Basin, we'll be better positioned to weather the next bust in the cycle of oil prices.

But I can't help wondering: what if that bust never comes? What if the petroleum industry continues to to enjoy uninterrupted success for decades to come? What if the roller coaster ride is over? Would that change how we look at the need for so-called economic development? 

I think it should, and I also believe we've entered a fundamentally altered landscape for the petroleum industry that supports the idea that we don't need economic diversification. And it's a good news/bad news situation. 

First, the good news, at least for those of us in the oil bidness (or whose livelihoods are directly tied thereto). I don't know if we've entered the era of "Peak Oil," where the physical availability of oil and gas will steadily dwindle from now on, but I do believe we've hit the point where global supply and demand are balanced at a point to ensure a price that's high enough to sustain the current level of activity as far out as one can reasonably look. 

The bad news is that the only thing that will make this not be the case is a global economic meltdown that kills demand, and sends the industry spiraling down into another bust. This would imply that China and India and Brazil and the other emerging drivers of economic expansion hit a wall. I don't mean to be dramatic, but this would be catastrophic for everyone, not just the oil and gas industry. 

In addition to these economic considerations, the argument that the Permian Basin cannot physically support significant industrial expansion grows more defensible as the drought continues and water becomes increasingly scarce. I think it's a fair question to ask if we've reached - or passed - critical mass in the region in terms of population. 

Yeah, I know the counterargument to all of this: if we're not growing, we're dying. Call me a pessimist, although I prefer to think I'm simply a realist, but we're dying anyway, and not just individually, for many different reasons. But none of those reasons include the inability to diversify our local economy. 

I think it's time to man up, and own the fact that this is oil country, and always will be. Our economic diversification could be defined to include both kinds of energy - oil and gas - to borrow a line from The Blues Brothers. We should make the most of what we have in terms of natural resources for as long as we can, and continue to provide relevant technology to the rest of the world, but have no illusions about the end game. Because barring a breakthrough in quantum physics and/or collective mindset, when the oil bidness finally dies, so does global society as we know it. I'll let you decide whether that's good news or bad.
Midland is in the list of top 10 cities nationwide for the lowest unemployment and our suite of economic indicators is nearing record high levels. Here's a graphic that pretty clearly shows why that's the case.

Map showing drilling permits in Midland County

This map show the drilling permits issued for Midland County in just the last six months. Each circle represents a potential oil/gas well.

The small blue dot represents the approximate location of our neighborhood. The placement of the red dot is a bit interesting, as it's the location of our municipal airport, and we expect to see drilling take place there sometime in the next twelve or so months. Even in the heart of the oilpatch, drilling inside city limits is controversial (bringing into perspective the oft-quoted phrase "not in my backyard!"). Yesterday's well blowout in neighboring Martin County won't exactly soothe fears about drilling adjacent to Midland College and residential neighborhoods. 

But, for any number of reasons, such "progress" seems inevitable. It may seem a little hypocritical to accept the good things the current boomlet is bringing, while trying to insulate ourselves against the price it demands. OTOH, it's natural to want to insulate one's family and personal property against the risks of industrial development. I'm just surprised it's taken this long for the opposing forces to finally meet.
One of our local TV stations made a provocative post on Facebook this morning, on the subject of the Congressional hearings about gasoline prices, and whether oil companies "should get these tax breaks as oil and gas prices continue to soar, even if it impacted business here in West Texas?"

The comments were predictably appalling in their lack of understanding of even the most fundamental economic realities, both concerning oil company earnings and taxes, and the pricing of crude oil and gasoline. Here's a sample, completely unedited (you might want to have a barf bag handy):
IF the United States were to opt out of OPEC (or just do away with OPEC all together), WE would be able to survive and support ourselves.

if anything they need to PAY BACK the money theyve stolen from us over the past 10 years

why not just stop importing oil, and stop putting money into terrorist pockets thus making our country vulnerable.

Pshh there should be a law against gas going above a certain price. And if for some reason it has to go above that set price for any length of time the oil companies should be fined and that money should be paid back by them to the American people during income tax as their way of saying sorry we are ripping you guys off here's your money back.

NOPE. Everybody I know is STRUGGLING. Why should THEY GET A BREAK-OF ANY KIND??? Let the ppl that go to work-EVERYDAY-get a break!

they make profits, why shold they get a break!

Well. It's hard to believe that our nation has an economic crisis, given the simplicity of the solutions these budding Nobel laureate geniuses have pointed out. How could we have been so stupid as to miss the fact that we could have just done away with OPEC and - voila! - gasoline would be cheap and life would be good. And I was particularly surprised to learn that the US has apparently secretly been a member of OPEC all these years. Why, it makes perfect sense now that I've been shown the light!

Enough of the sarcasm (not really, but let's rise above it for the time being). How about let's defy tradition and base our opinions on facts for a change? To wit:

  • The profit margin in the oil and gas industry is 6-8%. Perspective: this was lower than all manufacturers as a whole, and much lower (by a factor of 2-3x) than pharmaceutical and computer manufacturers. [Source]

  • The oil industry generates almost $100 million PER DAY in revenue for the US Federal Government [Source]

  • Between 2004 and 2008 the industry incurred more than $300 billion in income taxes, more than half of which went to the US Federal Government [Source]

  • Oil prices are NOT SET BY OIL COMPANIES. [No source required; it's just fact, like the sun rising in the east]

  • ExxonMobil is frequently used as the poster child for all the things wrong with the oil and gas industry. In the last three months of 2010, they earned a little more than 2 cents per gallon on gasoline, diesel and other finished products made and sold in the US. And gasoline sales made up only 3% of the companies net income. And as far as taxes go, over the past five years, ExxonMobil incurred a total U.S. tax expense of almost $59 billion, which is $18 billion more than it earned in the United States during the same period.  [Source]

  • And, finally, in case there's some lingering doubt, the US is not, has never been, and never will be (thanks to many factors, not the least of which is our own federal government) a member of OPEC. Sheesh.
The facts surrounding the "tax breaks" alluded to by the TV station are beyond the scope of this post, but it's worth noting that many of them are not oil and gas industry-specific; they apply equally to all manufacturing industries.

If you get some kind of perverse pleasure from punishing oil and gas companies by raising their taxes, so be it. Just recognize that (a) it won't result in lower gasoline prices, and (b) it will, in fact, result in lowered US production of oil and gas, and the logical supply-and-demand impact will be...oh, never mind. That economic concept is apparently too complicated for some people to grasp.

Update: I intended to include a link to George's excellent post over at Sleepless In Midland wherein he breaks down the supposed "subsidies" that oil companies enjoy.

Random Thursday
December 2, 2010 6:36 AM | Posted in: ,

Rob, this post's for you. Or because of you.

  • You saw the movie Take The Lead, didn't you, the one starring Antonio Banderas as a dance instructor who volunteers to teach ballroom dancing to some at-risk high school students and ends up making a big difference in their lives? That could never actually happen, could it, at least not in a relative backwater like, say, Odessa?

  • Oh, look...another dragonfly picture! Click to, as they say, embiggen.


  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is considering requiring gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing. The story is also getting a lot of attention in local media, print and broadcast. The industry is pushing back, citing competitive confidentiality concerns. This is one area where the drillers would be wise to give in. There's so much misguided hysteria about fracing as it is (including how to spell the word, which is surpassed only by "blogging" in terms of unwieldiness), and secrecy about what's being pumped into the ground just exacerbates the problem. People are justifiably protective of their water supplies.

    Disclosing the ingredients doesn't mean that you have to give the recipe (and the Administration would be wise not to press for that). The downside, of course, is that while there has never been a single documented case of hydraulic fracturing contaminating an underground source of drinking water, the disclosure that some of the chemicals used in the process aren't exactly potable will lead to further hysteria.

  • However, if you're curious about the generic makeup of frac fluid, here's a PDF provided by Energy In Depth that gives an easy to understand breakout. Or, if you don't trust an industry advocate website, download this PDF from the U.S. Department of Energy and scroll to page 63. Heck, you can even get some specific frac "recipes" via this PDF provided by industry regulators in Pennsylvania, where a huge amount of hydraulic fracturing is now taking place. This document shows how each service company concocts its "secret sauce" for injecting into the producing formation. (This reporting to the state would seem to defuse industry arguments about protecting proprietary information.)

  • I'm sure there are any number of good reasons not to live in West Texas, but the fear of natural disasters is not one of them. I've often thought that our neck of the, uh, desert should be in its own homeowners insurance pool, separate from the rest of the state, because other than the occasional dust storm, and some hail every few years, we simply don't live in fear of what Mother Nature might have up her sleeve. And this website supports my contention. (Link via the staggeringly prolific Neatorama)

  • One thing I like about high school football games is how quickly they proceed. There are no TV timeouts, no referee reviews, and usually not a lot of passing plays. Football is an awfully inefficient game when you consider how much actual action occurs during its official 60 minutes and its actual 3+ hours at the college and pro level. In fact, researchers have determined that in the average pro football game, the ball is in play for only 11 minutes. But, guess what? That's still more than 100 times the lifespan of a rifle barrel. Yep, according to more of those industrious researchers, a gun barrel has a bullet going through it for a total of only about 6 seconds during its life (measured in terms of accuracy). (Rifle barrel link via - you guessed it - Neatorama; football link discovered through my own exhaustive research)
Remember this post where I expressed some disappointment in the outcome of the first meeting of Midland's Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (OGAC)? I'm pleased to report that my concerns have generated at least a bit of action.

In that post I mentioned that I had passed my concerns along to the OGAC's chairman, and he responded with a thorough and informative explanation of the committee's reasoning for its actions. He also passed along to the City's Oil & Gas Compliance Officer my observation about the neighborhood oil well that has not yet been landscaped according to the agreement under which the well had received approval.

Yesterday, I received an email from Ron Jenkins, the aforementioned Compliance Officer, addressing that situation. Here's an excerpt from that email.
I received a copy of your email and wanted to address your concern of the well located East of Woodland Park not being properly landscaped. I came on board with the City at the end of March. One of my goals has been identifying the wells their operators and the different ordinances associated with the individual wells that had been previously permitted. I had recently identified the MCC #8 well operated by Patriot Resources was not in compliance with the landscaping requirement. I had recently notified [a] representative of Patriot Resources and have been informed they are currently taking action to get the well location into compliance. I will continue to stay in communication with Patriot Resources and if the well location is not brought into compliance I will pursue further actions as permitted.
In my reply to Mr. Jenkins, I thanked him for his consideration of this matter. While well site landscaping is certainly not something we're losing sleep over, attention to details like this give some assurance that oil and gas developers are taking seriously their responsibilities to be "good neighbors." And it's reassuring to know that the City is also being proactive in its enforcement responsibilities.
The committee considered two proposals Thursday by Pioneer Natural Resources for exceptions to requirements for landscaping and fencing around drilling rigs being added within city limits. In a 5-0 vote, committee members approved requests to forgo landscaping requirements...

The first meeting of Midland's Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (OGAC) - the group created earlier this year to ensure that oil and real estate development in our city proceeds without undue burden on each other - yielded disappointing but not unexpected results. If yesterday's meeting is a predictor of things to come, we'll see a steady stream of oil companies appearing to get exemptions from various provisions of the city's drilling ordinance, and we'll see those exceptions routinely granted.

The quote above is from the Midland Reporter Telegram's meeting coverage, and the first sentence of that article spoke to the Committee's desire to "stay in front of development." But its approval of the landscape exception flies in the face of that expressed intent.

The landscaping requirement in the City's drilling ordinance is intended to provide a cosmetic shield around a well site. Some might argue that planting trees around a site where there's not yet any real estate development is unnecessary, but that tends to overlook the fact that it takes several years for trees to grow enough to provide the effective shielding anticipated by the ordinance. Waiting until real estate development reaches the well site before requiring the landscape just delays the effectiveness of that provision...and certainly isn't a good example for staying "in front of development."

The MRT also reported that the Committee's chair, Richard Dunham*, said that developers of future real estate in the area could approach the oil operator and "work out an agreement for what landscaping is needed." In my opinion, that's a naive approach, and fails to recognize two things. First, at that point the real estate developer has no leverage to negotiate with the oil operator. Second, there's some anecdotal evidence that oil operators are ignoring such agreements already, and that the city is not taking steps to enforce them.

Exhibit "A" is a well that was drilled by Patriot Resources on Midland Country Club's property just to the east of Woodland Park. In a City Council meeting in February, 2009, that well was approved with the express requirement of a dirt berm AND the planting of trees around the berm. Almost two years later, not a single tree has been planted, as far as I can tell without trespassing on the property. The photo at right was taken this morning from "A" Street; click it to see a larger version.

I hate to extrapolate too much from a single action item from the first meeting, but it's difficult to ignore the precedent that's been set. I've been concerned from the start that the OGAC would a rubber-stamp for oil development within the city limits, and yesterday's action did little to dispel that concern.

[Update (11/9/10)] I've been notified by the city's Oil & Gas Compliance Officer that the city is aware of the non-compliance of the above-mentioned well and is working with the operator to bring it into compliance. See this update for details.

 *Disclosure: Richard is both a friend and a client. I've already expressed these concerns to him via email. I appreciate the difficulty of the task set before the members of the OGAC, but I think it's important to let the committee know how "regular folks" feel about these issues.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is going to make BP "pay salaries of oil-services workers who lose their jobs as a result of the spill." This follows on the heels of Obama's interview with NBC's Matt Laurer this morning in which the Butt Kicker-in-Chief got all businesslike and stern, and used the A-word on national TV to show how serious he is in, well, being serious about this whole oil leak thing. If he figured that using that language would make him look more leader-like and even presidential, I'm afraid he's in for a surprise. And it really didn't do anything to get the well plugged faster.

Anyway, let's get back to this thing about oil-services workers losing their jobs and BP having to pay their salaries. If I understand things correctly, the administration is going to put a six-month (at least) moratorium on a bunch of offshore drilling, which should directly correlate to a loss of jobs for people who actually depend on that drilling for their livelihoods. So, in effect, the feds want to tax BP to fund their program, a program which, by the way, was not supported by the majority of the engineering experts assigned to review the situation. I'm no Constitutional lawyer, but I suspect there are some issues ripe for arguing in that scenario. If nothing else, it's an example of just how weird things are getting.

Am I the only one who senses that the administration is seeking nothing short of the bankruptcy of BP? Thus far, according to the WSJ article, BP has not denied a single claim and has paid out nearly $49 million to fishermen and small business owners. To my knowledge, the company hasn't waffled a bit in owning up to its responsibility for making things right, however long and however much money it takes. And yet the level of hostility in Washington, D.C. towards BP seems to grow exponentially. Some financial experts are directly attributing today's 16% drop in BP's stock price to Obama's remarks on The Today Show.

I fail to see how putting BP out of business is going to help anyone or any part of the situation.

At some point, there may well be a need for punishment to be doled out, but I don't think anyone knows enough now to even talk about kicking a**.

Fake BP Ad
June 9, 2010 1:04 PM | Posted in: ,

Have you seen the following graphic that's making the email forwarding rounds?

Fake BP Logo

This is being put forth as a BP ad "from the late 90's." It is, of course, a fake, cooked up by those rascally rapscallions over at Despair.com (who make some pretty hilarious stuff, generally speaking). I'm pretty sure that Despair.com didn't try to pass it off as genuine, but whoever decided to try to add some legitimacy to it didn't do their homework.

BP's "helios" logo wasn't adopted until the year 2000, so trying to place the putative ad into the 90s instantly gives it away as a fake. At the same time, the company switched back to its BP name (it was BP Amoco for a couple of years prior to that) and adopted the tagline "Beyond Petroleum."

I'll leave to you to debate whether BP's ad agency would have been so foolish as to suggest the slogan shown above. I'm simply not going there.

BP's Desperation
June 1, 2010 9:19 PM | Posted in:

Some of you may recall that Debbie and I are both BP retirees, having taken an "enhanced retirement" package following the company's acquisition of ARCO in 2000. We were both long-time ARCO employees and neither of us was interested in continuing employment with the new company.

This classification has little practical significance. We voluntarily discontinued our retiree health insurance provided by BP for reasons that aren't important here, and we sold our BP stock almost three years ago. But we're still carried in the company's database as retired employees, thus explaining why we received the following email today:

To: BP retirees located in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi & Florida
From: DCSR US
Subject: BP retiree volunteers asked to help with Gulf of Mexico response

As you are aware, BP is doing everything possible to respond to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We have deployed large numbers of our staff to help with the response. As part of our planning process, we are reaching out to the BP retiree community living in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, in order to identify individuals who have an interest in volunteering to return to work for BP or a contractor company in one of our field response centers.  We're interested in hearing from you if you are not currently employed, and can be available for 14-day rotational shifts (up to 12-hours per shift).

If you are available to volunteer your time and expertise, please reply to this email and provide the following information (note: if you are already deployed or are in the incident resourcing database there is no need to respond to this email):   

1) (Legal) First and Last Name:
 
2) Home City and Zip (No Street address necessary):
 
3) Home Phone:
 
4) Cell Phone:
 
5) E-mail Address:
 
6) Last title/position held before leaving BP:
 
7) Dates available from: (i.e. 5/20/2010)
 
8) Dates available to: (i.e. 8/31/2010)
 
9) Shift available: Day or Night?

10) In what capacity were you thinking of assisting/contributing?
 
11) Have you ever worked in an Incident Management Team (IMT) capacity? If Yes, what role did you perform?
 
12) Are you HAZMAT or HAZWOPER certified?
 
Due to the anticipated number of responses, we'll be in touch if a role is identified for you.
 
Thank you for your support.
 
Regards,
 
BP Incident Response Resourcing Team


I've never heard of such a thing...but then, the industry has never dealt with such a catastrophic event. On the other hand, don't expect much sympathy from former Amoco and ARCO employees when it comes to volunteering to bail out a company that consumed their employers and - in some cases - their careers.
Charles Krauthammer's column in the Washington Post [thanks to Soccer Dad for the link] points out the sad irony in the circumstances that contributed to the Gulf oil spill, opening with the question of why we were drilling through a mile of ocean to begin with:

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama's tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we've had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Some will take issue with Mr. Krauthammer's pragmatism (paraphrase: we'll always have catastrophic oil spills, so why not make sure they occur in less sensitive areas?) and I think he's minimizing a couple of immutable realities of the industry (oil is where you find it, and the "easy" oil has been found), but his point is nevertheless valid. By forcing oil companies to explore in areas where the environmental and economic effects of [inevitable] mistakes are magnified, those who claim to be advocates for the environment have actually done it a disservice.

Of course, logic and reality have never been the Environistas strong points. Some of them are the same people who object to wind farms off the coast of New England because they'll spoil the view.

Gulf Oil Leak Perspective
May 12, 2010 6:01 PM | Posted in: ,

Last Sunday's newspaper carried a letter to the editor from a prominent local oilman in which he chastised the news media for continuing to report the volume of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in terms of gallons instead of barrels. He apparently believes that this is yet another attempt by the media to sensationalize the extent of the leak, thereby casting the oil and gas industry in a bad light. I'd link to the letter but for some reason the only letters on the paper's website are from the prior Sunday. Anyway, my recollection is that the writer closed by sarcastically suggesting that the media should report the spill in terms of teaspoons if they really want to sensationalize things.

Normally, I'd be the first to jump on the "media bias" bandwagon, but in this rare instance, I think the writer is wrong. First, there's just no way to sensationalize a disastrous situation like this, unless you try to compare it to the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, or Britney Spears's comeback attempts. An oil slick hundreds of miles in area that has the potential of destroying an ecosystem and a generation of people who depend upon it for their livelihood is, by definition, a Very Serious Thing, and it's a useless distraction to argue about the metric by which it's quantified.

But second - and here's my real point - there's no reason to fault the media for describing something in terms that the average reader/viewer/listener can relate to (especially if it's also accurate), and, frankly, nobody knows what a barrel of oil looks like. I worked in the oil business for 25 years and I never saw a barrel of oil, outside of a museum display set up to show what a barrel of oil looks like because no one would know otherwise. I've seen plenty of 55-gallon drums of chemicals and other products, but never a physical 42-gallon barrel, and I'll bet I'm not alone.

The barrel is an abstraction, an arbitrary volume agreed upon back in the early days of the oil industry (before the term "Texas tea" had any meaning whatsoever), according to my extensive research (well, I did read an article from Wikipedia). And while I'm sure that originally there were actual 42-gallon barrels (I'll have to go back and watch There Will Be Blood again), I'm pretty sure that no one alive today actually witnessed that. On the other hand, everyone can relate to a gallon - we've all seen gallons of milk or gasoline or cheap wine - so it's only natural to use that as a way to describe an oil spill or leak.

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and a Rhode Island-sized layer of oil on the ocean's surface described in any other terms is just as disastrous. Oops...there I go, sensationalizing again. Besides, who how big is Rhode Island, anyway? I think we have bigger counties in West Texas.

Laugh for the Day (or not)
March 4, 2010 11:23 AM | Posted in: ,

If you work in the oil industry - or know anything at all about it - and are looking for a laugh, you might want to check out this article at a website called The People's Voice.

The author decries our economy's continued reliance on fossil fuels, but implies that as long as we're going to drill for oil, we ought to stop doing it where it costs so dang much money.

Inexplicably, the industry picks the most expensive places on the earth to drill for oil.

He then quotes another apparent genius in the field:

"You really don't need to know a lot about geology or oil to figure out something is wrong here, why don't they go back to the old days and drill oil wells onshore?"

I'm sure the chairmen of Exxon, Chevron, and BP are at this very moment slapping their collective foreheads and exclaiming with great vigor, "why didn't we think of that!? We should just drill where it costs less!"

After reading that, I quickly checked the address bar of my browser to make sure I hadn't been redirected to The Onion without noticing.

Interestingly, those assertions are the most reasonable things put forth by the author, as he then attributes various natural disasters around the world to the pain caused to Mother Earth by poking holes in her skin. Seriously.

During the various stages of the energy extraction process, the globe of the earth suffers limitless pain as the area where the drilling occurs. It is gradually being depressurized and cooled internally, causing cycles of contsriction [sic], joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation and searing pain as they use large drills to puncture pericardium and into the heart, sometimes as deep as 10,000 feet.

He even provides Bible verses to back up his thesis.

OK, on further review, this isn't a bit funny.

Link via The Oil Drum

I shouldn't be surprised but he can't even get the basic facts right to support his hypothesis. Drilling often occurs below 10,000 feet, but the deepest wells on record are only six miles deep. Compared to the almost 8,000 mile diameter of the earth, this is barely a pinprick to the skin, much less a penetration to the "pericardium and into the heart."

The Midland City Council has reworked the proposed oil and gas drilling ordinance submitted by the task force and, as expected, the new version is much more industry-friendly. But, I'll let you judge that for yourself. The following documents are in PDF format:

  • The original proposed ordinance submitted by the task force

  • The revised ordinance as edited by the city council

  • A marked-up version (using Word's Compare Documents feature) highlighting the changes. The red underscores indicate new or replacement wording; the strike-throughs indicate where language from the original proposal was deleted. I apologize in advance for the funky line spacing in this document; it results from the conversion of the PDF text to Word and back again.
Many of the changes to the original serve to dilute the attempts to make oil and gas development less obtrusive or more cosmetically consistent with surrounding neighborhoods. For example, the requirement for an 8' stone or block wall was removed (replaced with the ever-classy chain link with beige aluminum slats fence) as was the requirement that low-profile tanks be used.

Also, in the original proposal, underground electrical lines were required; now, they are not required unless the surrounding neighborhood already has them. Tanks are no longer required to be set on concrete foundations. Heaven forbid that an oil and gas development might actually be required to improve the look of a neighborhood, or that city standards might go beyond minimum state requirements.

As I stated in my previous post, some of the provisions in the original proposal were overreaching and did expose the city to unnecessary legal risk. To the extent those things have been removed or mitigated, the revised ordinance is an improvement. It's unfortunate, however, that oil and gas developers are apparently unwilling to do more than the absolute minimum to fit in with the orderly development of our city.

I believe that oil and gas operations within the city limits should be held to a higher standard than those outside the city's jurisdiction. The revised ordinance doesn't seem to move very far in that direction.

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