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Minimizing Impacts of Well Preparation

Technologies that can minimize the environmental impacts of well preparation

Siting Multiple Wells at the Same Well Pad

Operators can reduce the number of trips by heavy vehicles across unimproved county roads by locating multiple wells at the same well pad. Although the requirements for sand and other supplies increase in proportion to the number of wells being fracced, the working equipment needed for the frac jobs must be moved only a single time.

Use of Non-Toxic Frac Fluids

The issue of the types of chemicals used in frac fluids has received national attention over the past decade. Fayetteville Shale operators have found they can successfully fracture shale formations using non-toxic substances (e.g., water, surfactants). This practice presents less safety issues for workers and lowers environmental impacts from managing the flow-back water.

Use of Water Piped in from Local Sources

Fayetteville Shale well frac jobs require a large volume of water for each well (2 to 3 million gallons). If local water sources are not available, operators need to haul the water in by truck. This involves a large number of truck trips on unimproved roads.

The larger operators are working with local communities and residents in the Fayetteville Shale Play area to make sufficient water available to complete the necessary frac jobs. One operator has constructed a large reservoir near the Little Red River and has plans to withdraw approximately 1,500 acre-feet of water on an annual basis from the river during high flow. The operator plans to construct distribution pipelines from this reservoir to distribution points throughout White County where the water will be available for well fracturing. Another operator is constructing multiple small, 1- to 5-acre reservoirs throughout the Fayetteville Shale region from which water will be piped to individual well pads for frac jobs.

When searching for potential water supplies, companies should avoid impacts to water bodies that contain high quality waters constituting an outstanding state or national resource, such as those waters designated as extraordinary resource waters, ecologically sensitive, or natural and scenic waterways. Likewise, companies should avoid impacts to waters supporting rare, threatened, or endangered species.

Reuse Frac Flow-Back Water

Flow-back water comes out of a well at the completion of a frac job. It is typically collected in frac tanks. One operator typically attempts to reuse this water for subsequent frac jobs; however, this becomes more difficult as the salts and other contaminants build up in the water with each reuse. Typically, the flow-back water can be reused 3 to 4 times, but in some situations, it can be reused as many as 8 times.

One barrier to reusing flow-back water is having sufficient volume available when the next frac job is scheduled. Much of the frac water flows back out of a well immediately following the frac job. However, a significant volume exits the well at a slower rate over an extended period of time and is not necessarily available when needed.

Temporal and Spatial Offsets for Threatened and Endangered Species

Additional protection for threatened and endangered species can be provided by scheduling well preparation and fraccing activities to avoid certain times of the year, when threatened and endangered species are mating, nesting, or rearing young. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed voluntary best management practices for protecting threatened and endangered species. These are described on the well preparation regulatory requirements page.

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