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December 06, 2012

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Paul Rawlings

I am an electrical engineer involved in designing instrumentation and control systems used on oilfield pressure pumping equipment (well completion, stimulation and conveyance). In the last 30+ years I worked for both Schlumberger and Baker Hughes and I have been involved in the design of pumping units used for hydraulic fracturing. I’ve been an I.E.E.E. member for many years.
Your article for the most part is factually accurate and reflects favorably on our industry, but I would like to add a few details that may be of interest to your readers.
Fracturing is used to improve the production of oil and gas wells, but there are other applications such as geothermal wells. Many wells are not economical to produce without stimulation; which includes fracturing. Fracturing of oil wells in the 1860’s was done using nitroglycerine. Transportation and handling of nitroglycerine got a lot of people killed. Hydraulic fracturing started 1947. Since then tens of thousands of wells have been fractured all over the world and there are very few confirmed cases of ground water contamination directly related to the fracturing process.
It’s interesting that fracturing wasn’t on the mind of the public until 5 or 6 years ago when politicians and the popular news media decided to use it to demonize the oil and gas industry. “Journalists” in the popular media came up with the derisive word “frack” which people in the oil and gas industry find very offensive. You won’t find the word “frack” in any dictionary or unmodified computer spell checker. There is no K in hydraulic fracturing or the common industry short-hand term fracing. It’s obvious that most of them don’t take the time to verify their facts. It’s much easier to parrot something that they copied from other un-informed sources. It is rare to see them use information from API (American Petroleum Institute), the Society of Petroleum Engineers or even less scholarly but reasonable accurate sources like Wikipedia. API is a professional engineering organization representing the oil and gas industry just as I.E.E.E. represents electrical and electronics engineering.
Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in rock formations through use of a pressurized fluid; typically water. While some wells are fractured using “slick water” many wells are fractured with using a slurry consisting of water, a guar (food additive) based polymer vicosifier and “proppant” (sand, ceramic beads, or bauxite). Water and proppant make up 99.5% of most slurries used in hydraulic fracturing. After the rock is fractured and the pressure is released, the “proppant” stays in the fracture to create a high porosity channel for the oil and gas to flow into the well bore.
In our industry the water that flows out of the well is called “produced water”. In addition to hydraulic fracturing, produced water also comes from other sources. Even wells that have not been fractured can be sources of produced water. The title of your article is a bit misleading. Drillers aren’t reusing the water; it’s the pumping service companies who are doing the hydraulic fracturing. The drillers are long gone by the time the produced water is available for reuse. The use of pits to store the water is illegal in many places it is becoming a common practice to store the water in enclosed tanks.
Baker Hughes is an industry leader with several methods to re-cycle produced water; including the very popular H2Pro electro-coagulation unit.
The API Journal and publications from the Society of Petroleum Engineers are an excellent sources for scholarly articles on hydraulic fracturing and other topics pertinent to the oil and gas industry. I really enjoy the articles that you have written about electronics, but it might be wise to stick to topics of which you have first-hand knowledge lest you fall into the trap of parroting information from uninformed sources.

carl schwab


To Paul Rawlings---Thanks for your very informative reply--Your criticism is noted------sincerely Carl Schwab

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