Recently the Nevada Division of Minerals held a series of public hearings across the state to obtain comments on its new rules regulating hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, used in oil and natural gas wells.
At the hearings Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry explained how Nevada’s 20-page revised rules will require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.
Public comments ranged from the rationally cautious to the histrionic.
“We trusted the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve our public land so that future generations of Americans could continue to enjoy them, and now they’ve leased millions of acres to oil and gas companies, turning wilderness into industrial hell holes that can potentially contaminate the land beyond repair,” testified Las Vegas resident Shannon Salter.
Asked about the potential to contaminate the land beyond repair, the Division of Minerals staff replied, “From our review of existing studies, we can’t find any substantiate contamination of groundwater from the actual hydraulic fracturing treatment.”
Speaking at hearings on behalf of Noble Energy, the primary company doing any major exploration in Nevada, Kevin Vorhaben, Rockies Business Unit Manager, said, “We firmly believe that with good regulation we can have the energy we need, the economy we want and the environment we deserve.”
In a follow-up interview, Vorhaben said his company is leasing 370,000 acres in Elko County and has already drilled two wells. One should be producing oil by the end of this month.
Though many seem to think hydraulic fracturing is some new, untested technology, it has been used extensively since the 1940s. Vorhaben estimates 90 percent of all wells drilled today are fracked. Fracturing methods date back to the mid-1800s when drillers would drop explosives down a well to break open rock formations.
Of the 370,000 acres leased, approximately 63 percent is on private land, while the remainder is largely on BLM land. On public lands a royalty of 12.5 percent is collected on the value of the oil produced, split evenly between the federal and state governments. Vorhaben said owners of private land typically receive a similar royalty.
If the company reaches its anticipated production of 50,000 barrels a day by 2021, and the price remains near $100 a barrel, royalties could amount to more than $600,000 a day.
With that kind of money, one can afford to spruce up the industrial hell hole.