Democrats Allege Halliburton and Others are Using Diesel Fuel in Hydraulic Fracturing, Asks EPA to “Do Something”

Henry WaxmanPrepare for the deafening noise now being generated by the mainstream press echo-chamber against the decades-old method of natural gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing. The latest attack comes courtesy of three Congressional Democrats. Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, and Diana DeGette sent a letter today to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the results of an investigation into the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids.

News outlets around the U.S., as well as international news organizations have picked up this story and are now blasting it out. The New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters and many others have issued stories essentially regurgitating the talking points of the letter distributed by the Democrats.

Here is a summary of the points made by Henry Waxman and the other signatories of the letter:

  • Waxman, as Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy & Commerce, and the other two Democrats, conducted a yearlong review of the chemicals being used in hydraulic fracturing operations by some of the country’s largest energy services companies. The committee requested a list of the chemicals used and the quantities in which they were used across all of their hydraulic fracturing operations for the period of 2005-2009.
  • Waxman’s staff analyzed the list of chemicals and found that diesel fuel is among the chemicals used in some instances. The staffers then calculated the amount of diesel fuel used according to the reports filed by the energy companies (although there is no explanation for how those calculations were made).
  • According to the EPA, any company that performs hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel must receive a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Waxman’s committee checked with state and federal regulators and found that no permits were issued in the 19 states where the energy companies injected diesel fuel into the ground as part of hydraulic fracturing for the period 2005-2009.
  • Therefore, Waxman, et al contend to EPA Administrator Jackson that these companies are in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, that that the EPA should do something about it.

Below is a list of the companies and quantities of diesel fuel (in gallons) those companies are supposed to have injected into the ground as part of their hydraulic fracturing operations from 2005 to 2009.

Company – Volume (gallons)

  • Basic Energy Services – 204,013
  • BJ Services – 11,555,538
  • Complete – 4,625
  • Frac Tech – 159,371
  • Halliburton – 7,207,216
  • Key Energy Services – 1,641,213
  • RPC – 4,314,110
  • Sanjel – 3,641,270
  • Schlumberger – 443,689
  • Superior – 833,431
  • Trican – 92,537
  • Weatherford – 2,105,062

Total Quantity – 32,202,075 gallons

What’s the takeaway from this? First, the story just broke today and has a “gotcha” feeling to it. MDN expects there will be a response by the companies listed. They simply have not yet had time to put out a response to the allegations by Waxman, et al. Second, this is a naked political play. Waxman and the others want the EPA to assume powers to regulate what they currently do not have the right to regulate by shifting oversight for mining and drilling to the EPA, using this as an excuse to do it. Third, let’s put it in perspective. If these numbers are correct (not a given!), and if that much diesel fuel was used, how many wells were drilled using it over that five year period of time? Tens of thousands of wells, no doubt. The amount used at any given location was likely very, very small. Don’t forget that 99.5% of what goes down the hole in hydraulic fracturing is sand and water, and only 0.5% (one-half of one percent) is chemicals.

MDN will track this story as it develops and issue new posts when more details become available.

Read the full text of the letter from Reps. Waxman, Markey and DeGette here: Waxman, Markey, and DeGette Investigation Finds Continued Use of Diesel in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids.

  • Bob Rosen

    You say: “Waxman and the others want the EPA to assume powers to regulate what they currently do not have the right to regulate by shifting oversight for mining and drilling to the EPA, using this as an excuse to do it.”

    But the NY Times article says something completely different: “Oil and gas companies acknowledged using diesel fuel in their fracking fluids, but they… said that the E.P.A. had never properly developed rules and procedures to regulate the use of diesel in fracking, despite a clear grant of authority from Congress over the issue.”

    So which is it? That they have no right to regulate whether diesel fuel can be injected into the ground, because… diesel fuel is perfectly safe?

    Or it isn’t safe at all, but it’s the EPA’s fault for not doing their job properly?

    Heads you win, tails we lose. You and the O&G lobby need to get together and decide which lie you’re going to tell everyone this time around.

  • Jim Willis

    I’m saying that the EPA does not have the right to regulate it. I’m not saying it’s “perfectly safe” to inject diesel fuel into the ground. It is the role of state agencies to regulate the drilling companies, and they do a good job. My contention: Keep the feds out of it. Whenever they get involved, it’s bad for everyone. No attempt on my part to lie my friend. Just calling it straight like I see it. 🙂

  • Bob Rosen

    So at least you admit that dumping millions of gallons of diesel fuel into the ground as part of the fracking process is a BAD idea.

    And if, as you claim, it was the responsibility of all these state agencies to make sure everything is done safely, then it doesn’t look like they were up to the task, does it?

    Which is precisely why there needs to be some federal oversight over them. Not a single one of these state regulatory agencies did anything at all to prevent this from happening. Because there were no standards?? Then who exactly should be setting these standards?

    If Oklahoma says it’s ok to dump diesel fuel, but Texas says it’s absolutely not, and WY says a moderate amount is “perfectly safe”, is THAT OK??? Are they ALL doing “a good job”??

  • Geobill

    political correctness and I’m sure some good reasons have minimized the use of “diesel fracs”. I think diesel fracs were used less because when they are pulled back from the wells they are hard to get rid of because of the high concentration of diesel in the fluids. These “diesel fracs” are not the same thing as using diesel in very low quantities in modern day fracs. Just like taking a shower in antifreeze is not the same thing as using shampoo with ethylene glycol in it.

    Urinating in your septic system is not a big deal right cause that is what is already in there. Well the Marcellus Shale and nearly all other oil and gas bearing zones contain toxic chemicals exactly like diesel and in-fact natural gas liquids (NGLs) or condensate produced from some Marcellus wells has the chemistry very close to gasoline. So why do people care that I put in a drop diesel, benzene, acid, or whatever into a zone that contains gasoline!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Frac fluid chemistry is a NON ISSUE – IT GOES INTO zones containing gasoline!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’d be glad to discuss this with anyone who really cares about their environment or is worried.

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