A little always adds up…

This morning I drank a refreshing glass of water as I always do and for a moment stared at the glass, wondering if all the answers to my next screenplay were somehow connected to my hydration. How each drop of water played a part in the internal make up of my body, which maybe lubricated my mind hydrating and facilitating the parts of me that have a voice.

Then I got on my computer and in my oilfield research I found the old Rock Center story where Brian Williams talked about the oil boom and Williston. I remember watching the story on ABC a couple years back. What I didn’t see was the story after the story called ‘Boomtown: Viewer’s Questions Answered’ until today.

Both Brian Williams and the correspondent Harry Smith, who went to Williston and made the story, were blown away by the number of folks who wanted to know more about Williston, the oil boom, and especially JOBS after the story aired.

Williams switched gears and said:

“Now a big deal, which we did not have time to immerse ourselves in…this is fracking, hydrofracking and it’s proven so controversial and environmentally damaging in other parts of the country…why is it any different out there [North Dakota]?”

Then correspondent Smith replies, with a neat little graphic:

“They drill down 2 miles deep into the earth and then that pipe starts to go sideways…They shoot some water in there with a little bit of sand and a little bit of chemicals at high pressure into that rock and the oil just comes oozing out. Now the only real environmental concern is what happens to the wastewater, they put it in ponds. There was a flood last spring, some of it got out and some animals were hurt…”

Smith then goes on to finish by saying:

“Beyond that [fracking] the larger environmental issue for them in North Dakota is this has always been a pristine wide open rural landscape, put 50,000 wells on there it changes things.”

It’s a couple years old, but WOW! Here I go…

What I love is how Smith talks about fracking:

“They shoot some water in there with a little bit of sand and a little bit of chemicals at high pressure.”

Like a little super soaker with a handful of sand and a small syringe of chemicals.


From Bakken Decision Support System (BCSS), “An example of a well in 2010 with a horizontal length of 10,000 feet had used approximately 3.5 million gallons of fluid and 4.5 million pounds of proppant (sand and ceramics of specific sizes, strengths, and treatments that increase the likelihood for the proppant to remain in the formation versus flowing back to the surface with the fluids).”

“Water is either piped in from local ponds, streams, or reservoirs…in cooperation with local communities and landowners or can be trucked in when local water sources are not available.”

I called the ND Petroleum Council and found that from Jan. 2012 – Oct. 2013, 3,283 wells were drilled in North Dakota. The Boomtown segment aired at the end of 2011 so for an easy time roundup I started the well count at Jan. of 2012. BCSS said 3.5 million gallons of fluid is used per well. Because I am not a mathematician or a chemist I am going to use this simple formula:

Amount of fluid per well – 3.5 million gallons
_______________________________________________(divided by)

Chemicals per 1000 gallons of fluid


3500 ((1,000 gallon)) units of each chemical used

On Halliburton’s website, Fluid Disclosure ‘Bakken Hybrid Formulation 1’ their chemical usage was an average amount of chemical they used per 1000 gal of fluid so following the formula above 3,500,000/1000 = 3500 ((1,000 gallon)) units of chemical. I took the low end range of the amount of each chemical used in the fracking process per 1000 gallons and multiplied that number by 3500.

I came up with:

19,460 gallons of chemical per well
9,975 lbs of chemical per well

Because Halliburton wasn’t clear and because they were using the term gallons in their estimates, the 4.5 million pounds of proppant (sand, ceramics and even more chemicals) is in a separate category I don’t have information on (yet). So this “They shoot some water in there with a little bit of sand and a little bit of chemicals at high pressure” comment by Mr. Smith sounds a bit insulting.

Numbers tell me that ‘some water…with a little bit of sand and a little bit of chemicals’ multiplied by 3,283 wells equals:

3.5 million gallons of fluid x 3,283 wells = 11,490,500,000 billion gallons of fluid

19,460 gallons of chemical x 3,283 wells = 63,887,180 gallons of chemical

9,975 lbs of chemical x 3,283 wells = 32,747,925 lbs of chemical


4.5 million lbs of proppant x 3,283 wells = 14,773,500,000 billion pounds of proppant

So all those little numbers together look like this:

11,490,500,000+63,887,180+32,747,925+14,773,500,000 =

11,554,387,180 billion gallons of water and fluid chemicals

14,806,247925 billion pounds of sand and solid proppant chemicals

Enough gallons and pounds of shitty waste water proppant material to fill________________________(insert relative object here)

Remember Mr. Smith says “Now the only real environmental concern is what happens to the wastewater, they put it in ponds. There was a flood last spring, some of it got out and some animals were hurt…”

Again these little terms “some water” “little bit of sand” “little bit of chemicals” “some [wastewater] got out” “some animals were hurt” that Mr. Smith uses make the Bakken sound, for lack of a better word, small and there is nothing small about 3,283 wells and counting and all the other wells drilled before 2012.

At least the oil and gas industry is doing their part to figure out how to recycle their wastewater and I use the term recycle very very loosely.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“While the recycled water can’t currently be cleaned up enough for drinking or growing crops, it can be cleaned of chemicals and rock debris and reused to frack additional wells, which could sharply cut the costs that energy companies face securing and disposing of water.”

Reusing shitty water is a great thing, but this is a bit disturbing:

“Some companies are finding it is still cheaper in many parts of the U.S. to inject the wastewater deep underground instead of cleaning it, which has slowed adoption of recycling technology. But experts say that is likely to change as fracking grows. At Schlumberger, which predicts that a million new wells will be fracked around the world between now and 2035, reducing freshwater use “is no longer just an environmental issue—it has to be an issue of strategic importance,” Salvador Ayala, vice president of well-production services, told a recent conference.

It all goes back to making money, by either reducing the amount of fresh water used or inventing/controlling a whole slew of other crap to treat the crap they made. One million fracked wells by 2035 is scary shit unless not one drop of freshwater is used, but if shitty water is injected underground then you have to keep using freshwater.

And then there’s a whole other story about how much shitty water actually comes back to surface after a fracking job.

And when we are done fracking, a million years from now, what happens to all the recycled shitty water that can’t be used to grow crops or be used for human consumption?

I know one thing, it took a lot guts for the chairman of the ND Republican Party and a founding member of the ND Tea Party caucus Robert Harms — on paper this guy has energy development literally written into his bio and for him to say, after the Casselton, ND crude oil train derailment/collision: “I think it’s a good wake up call for all of us, both local and state officials, as well as the people with the oil and gas industry and the transportation industry…Even people within the oil and gas industry that I’ve talked to feel that sometimes we’re just going too fast and too hard.”

Too often, it is much easier to see the damage things can cause above ground without really paying much attention to the damage that can occur below ground.

Now if Harms statement is just fodder to bolster support for the Keystone Pipeline, that is just wrong, but I couldn’t help but feel real sincerity in his words.

It’s much bigger and when talking fresh water, is very scary because fresh water is the most important resource in the world and my kids don’t have a voice in it yet, but I do.


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