Terry Ragsdale Plays Down Fracking Risks in Talk at OSU Energy Conference

Ragsdale-OSUEnergyMuch has been made in the media and the courts regarding fracking and its possible link to earthquakes and pollution.

But Terry Ragsdale, shareholder at GableGotwals Law Firm, isn’t convinced.

Ragsdale’s roots to the energy industry date back to the 1980s, when he worked as a petroleum engineer in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for five years before going to law school.

He spoke recently at the Ninth Annual Oklahoma State University Energy Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

As a petroleum engineer, he personally designed and performed a number of hydraulic fracturing operations.

At the time he became a petroleum engineer, he says fracking was old technology.

“It has been around since the 1940s,” he told the room full of energy professionals. More than one million frack jobs had been performed by the time I performed my first one.”

At the time, it was completely uncontroversial and there was nothing unusual about it, he said.

“There was no particular impact on the environment or wells, other than hopefully enhancing the production of the wells that I drilled,” he said.

The majority of wells drilled in Oklahoma are horizontal wells.

Ragsdale says with all of the misinformation about fracking, it is important for those in the industry to educate their family and neighbors about what fracking really is all about.

Frack jobs are performed to increase the productivity of the well.

“There are a lot pore spaces in rock or shale,” he said. “There are molecules of natural gas and oil that are trapped there. Some reservoir rock is very highly permeable, imagine sand on a seashore. It’s pretty easy to drill the oil or gas out of permeable rock, but not so with shale. It is virtually impermeable, unless you do a frack job and create fissures in it to release the trapped oil or gas, it’s not going to come out in an economic way.”

Fracking takes a small amount of water mixed with small percentages of chemicals in the water to make a gel,” he explained.

They inject a frack into the gel pack. Then they have massive pumps that pump it into the well where it’s been drilled and it creates fissures in the rock. It propagates hundreds or thousands of feet.

“No one knows which direction it is going to go until you actually do the frack job,” Ragsdale said. “That is decided by Mother Nature and they measure it to the hundredth of an inch.”

Ragsdale addressed some of the myths associated with fracking.

One so-called myth proposed that fracking caused gas to leak into tap water, which supposedly caught on fire.

“A frack job may be 10,000 feet under the ground. It’s inconceivable that the frack could go 10,000 feet, back up the well and get into somebody’s house or water supply,” Ragsdale said. “It virtually never happens despite millions of frack jobs being performed.”

He also says the amount of water used is not a valid issue.

“The amount of water used is minuscule compared to other public uses of water,” he said.

As for seismicity, he says people think fracking causes earthquakes, but it doesn’t.

“Even the Obama Administration’s U.S. Geological Survey said their studies don’t link seismicity to hydraulic fractures,” he said.

Fracking is not inducing earthquakes, he says. However, there is a trend toward mandatory disclosure of fracking chemicals. He says the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is addressing those concerns.

First, they have ruled producers are not allowed to pollute fresh water. Second, there must be a disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing fluid within 60 days.

And, on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s website, one can view all of the frack jobs within a certain county.

The website shows the precise GPS coordinates of where the frack job was performed.

Furthermore, if a homeowners are concerned about what chemicals are going into a well within their neighborhood, there is a national database where they can find out what chemicals are being used at the site.

Lesa Jones
Twitter: @LesaLJones

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