Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan

Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan

Hydraulic fracturing is a well completion operation that involves pumping fluids and proppant (typically sand) 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 active applications, active permits, and drilled wells utilizing 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The High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use Tracking Table shows approximate groundwater volumes withdrawn for high volume hydraulic fracturing completions in Michigan since 2008.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 Flowback fluids are comprised of the initial return hydraulic fracturing fluids and native brines that are brought back to the surface after the well is completed and pressure is released.

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 that operators conduct sampling of area water wells to establish baseline water quality and provide additional assurance that water quality is not impacted from development activities
  • 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. That said, and similar to many other industrial processes, there are risks to water resources involved with oil and gas development in general and hydraulic fracturing in particular. A recently-released nationwide study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency detailed certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe. The study did not identify any problems here in Michigan, but does confirm the need for additional protective measures - like the additional protections Michigan recently enacted.

These changes, in addition to the Michigan’s strict existing oil and gas regulations, provide the requisite protections to assure that continued use of this completion technique is done in manner that is protective to the environment and water resources

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

United States Environmental Protection Agency Logo

EPA Hydraulic Fracturing