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Bureau of Land Management Hosts A Fracturing Forum

The Bureau of Land Management says there are 1,800 oil wells on public and tribal land in North Dakota and asked for public opinion Wednesday on the industry’s method of hydraulic fracturing those wells.

Hydraulic fracturing is coming under increased public and government scrutiny and about 250 people attended a forum in Bismarck on Wednesday, one of three the BLM will hold by Monday – here, in Colorado and Arkansas.

The Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether to use a fracture fluid spill near Killdeer as one of five case studies for potential regulatory rules.

BLM manager Lonny Bagley said North Dakota was picked because of the level of activity.

“We just want to hear what people have to say,” Bagley said.

He said public comments could affect the BLM’s hydraulic fracturing policy.

Wells on federal land make up more than one-third of all wells in the state, and another 160 are in the permit process now. Nearly 200 wells are on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network), a student activist  from Fort Berthold, said she thinks oil companies should have to disclose the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process.

“There’s a lack of disclosure, no regulation and no oversight” on the reservation, she said.

She’s most worried about surface contamination from chemical spills and the human cost in fatalities resulting from chemical and water trucks traveling to well sites.

Bagley said companies are required to disclose fracking chemicals when asked by the federal government, but the BLM doesn’t ask for that information.

Mike Eberhard said Halliburton, the oil service and frack company he works for, would lose its competitive advantage if it had to disclose its frack recipes.

He said his company is combining “green” fluids and mechanical solutions to replace traditional chemicals.

“No one wants to pump more water down than they have to, or put down chemicals they don’t have to,” Eberhard said.

Fracking involves the pressurized injection of mostly water and sand and a fractional amount of chemicals to crack open the Bakken oil reservoir.

The process requires millions of gallons of water per well. People expressed concerns about chemicals infiltrating groundwater while the well is being fracture-treated, the potential to deplete water sources and the possibility of surface water contamination when fracture treatments fail.

Four have failed since September.

Eberhard said his company records show that the deepest aquifer water is at about 1,200 feet, while the closest fractures from a horizontal well are at 4,000 feet.

He said a new website,, contains information about fracture chemicals, but not much yet specific to North Dakota.

In response to a question about use of diesel in fracture treatments, Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the fluid was used at about a dozen wells several years ago, but was discontinued in 2009 because Bakken wells produce too much salt for chemical compatibility.

Don Nelson, a Keene area rancher and member of the Dakota Resource Council, said his group isn’t against fracture treatments, but it does promote responsible development and chemical disclosure.

“Slow down,” Nelson said. “The oil isn’t going anywhere.”

Helms has said 2,000 wells will be drilled in North Dakota this year, more than any other year in history. There are 175 rigs operating in the oil patch.

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