Carbondale Despite assurances from EnCana Oil and Gas representatives, some town trustees in Carbondale remain skeptical about the prospect of drilling activity to develop natural gas wells in the nearby Thompson Divide area.
“With all due respect, when (a well) fails, the potential risks are what people are afraid of,” Mayor Stacey Bernot said during a board of trustees work session Tuesday.
Mark Balderston, a supervisor of hydraulic fracturing, and Sher Long, a corporate relations officer for EnCana, made a 90-minute presentation on drilling to the trustees during the work session.
The Carbondale trustees have gone on record opposing drilling in the Thompson Divide area, in the mountains to the west and north of town, because of concerns about potential air pollution, water contamination and other impacts from drilling and industry activities.
The Thompson Divide Coalition has offered more than
$2.5 million to six companies, including EnCana, to buy out the 44 gas leases the companies hold in the area.
Balderston told the trustees that his company is doing its best to satisfy citizen concerns about the industry, starting with improvements to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.
He said fracking now can take as little as a day and a half per well.
Fracking involves the injection of water, sand and chemicals to break up rock formations as deep as 8,000 to 10,000 feet underground. The process frees up deposits of gas and oil and lets them flow to the surface.
The presentation by Balderston and Long was meant to inform the trustees of measures taken by the industry to avoid contamination of groundwater, minimize surface disturbances and limit the emission of air-polluting chemicals.
“I think it was a nice presentation,” said Trustee Allyn Harvey when reached by telephone Wednesday. “It was largely a sales pitch on the virtues of modern-day fracking. I don’t think we came away with any real understanding of the true impacts of fracking.”
At the meeting, Harvey asked about the construction of roads to reach remote areas and set up the drilling rigs. Balderston said the industry uses existing roads in many cases.
Balderston told the trustees his company has moved away from using huge fleets of semi-trailers to transport water to well sites. Fracking sometimes has involved as many as 8,000 truck trips per well, he said, but the company now is shifting to the use of pipelines rather than trucks.
Balderston said EnCana reuses the produced water, which surges back up out of a well that has been fracked, over and over at other wells. Produced water is laden with fracking chemicals, as well as hydrocarbons and other substances from the gas-bearing regions.
But at some point it is no longer usable and is disposed of in injection wells, he said.