Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan

Hydraulic fracturing is a well completion operation that involves pumping fluid and proppants into a target formation under pressure to create or propagate artificial fractures, or enhance natural fractures, for the purpose of improving deliverability and production of hydrocarbons.

Hydraulic fracturing has been in the news a great deal recently, but the process for enhancing oil and natural gas production is far from new. This method of well completion has been occurring in Michigan for over ½ of a century where more than 12,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured.

Extensive use of ‘High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing’ (HVHF) is a more recent development. HVHF is defined in Michigan as a well completion operation that uses over 100,000 gallons of primary carrier fluid. While limited overall compared to the volume of activities in other states, HVHF well completions have occurred in Michigan. Since 2008, over 30 wells have been completed using HVHF.

For specific details regarding HVHF activities in Michigan, please follow the links below:

The Michigan High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Activity Map shows the locations and status of applications and permits for high volume hydraulic fracturing in Michigan since 2008.

The High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use Tracking table shows approximate groundwater volumes withdrawn for high volume hydraulic fracturing completions in Michigan since 2008.

Differences with High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

As compared to typical oil and gas development and smaller volume hydraulic fracturing activities, there are additional concerns associated with HVHF well completions. For example, well site activity for HVHF well completions is normally more intense. There is overall more equipment, personnel, and truck traffic during the initial few months of development. The hydraulic fracturing process is usually a one-time event for that particular well, so once the initial well completion has occurred, the site activity (equipment, personnel, and truck traffic) is reduced and any further activity does not significantly differ from typical oil and gas development.

Additional concerns with HVHF include:

  • Larger overall water usage for well completions.

  • Increased use of chemical additives.

  • Larger initial volumes and handling of flowback fluids.

Michigan’s administrative rules governing oil and gas development activities (Part 615, Supervisor of Wells, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Public Act 451 of 1994) were recently revised to address the additional concerns associated with HVHF well completions.

Some specific protective measures in Michigan’s rules include:

  • Confirmation that there will not be an adverse resource impact to the local hydrology due to a large volume water withdrawal associated with HVHF; Michigan rules require additional monitoring and further approval through Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT).

  • Requiring operators to disclose the chemical additives through the nationwide FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry and conduct baseline sampling of nearby water wells.

  • Requiring that all flowback and produced fluids to be properly contained. In Michigan, this means steel tanks with secondary containment. Open pits storage of these fluids is prohibited. These fluids are ultimately disposed in deep injection wells that are permitted specifically for that purpose and are protective of fresh water resources.

Michigan’s oil and gas regulations provide for protection of the environment and public health and safety for the entire life cycle of oil and gas development activities, including the additional concerns associated with HVHF well completions.  Interested parties can view and download the newly Revised Part 615 Administrative Rules.  A rules revision guidance document summarizing the changes is also available.

Additional Information

The process of hydraulic fracturing itself has never caused environmental damage in Michigan. In fact, a recently-released draft of a nationwide study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. The study did not identify any problems in Michigan.

For more information about hydraulic fracturing, please follow these links:

Michigan Fracking Q&A 

Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan

Additional Facts on Fracking

And visit the following websites:

 http://www.michigan.gov/images/deq/fracFocus_401073_7.png

Frac Focus

click here to go to the Ground Water Protection Council site

Ground Water Protection Council – GWPC

click here to go to the Interstate Oil Compact Commission site

Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission – IOGCC

EPA Hydraulic Fracturing