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Posted on Mon, May 9, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Natural gas drilling technique called 'hydrofracking' comes to Michigan: 7 facts you should know

By Juliana Keeping

Water-intensive drilling techniques used for the first time in Michigan in the last year extract natural gas from deeper underground than ever before.

The new tactics could result in more natural gas used for generating electricity, heating homes and cooking. But water-intensive drilling tactics worry Ann Arbor environmentalists, said Marc Smith, a senior policy manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor.

Companies have drilled two exploratory wells in the northwest Lower Peninsula’s Collingwood and Utica Shale within the last year that use high pressure "fracking" or hydrofracking to get at natural gas.

The depth, combined with the use of horizontal drilling, requires the injection of millions of gallons of water, plus a mix of sand and chemicals, to get to the gas-bearing shale in deeper, hard-to-reach spots underground.

Groups like the NWF are concerned about the environmental implications of the millions of gallons of water needed for hydrofracking; the possibility of predatory lease arrangements between private land owners and gas companies; and the environmental impact of secret chemicals used to help break up the gas-bearing shale.

The Ann Arbor office, along with other groups, is starting to push for more regulatory controls, Smith said.


Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center

NWF photo

The state says its regulatory process does a better job than other states at keeping environmental problems at bay and accidents at a minimum.

Hal Fitch, director of the office of geological survey within the Department of Environmental Quality said recently that he’s been fielding more calls about fracking than ever before.

He attributed the increased interest to the 2010 documentary of natural gas drilling and its environmental and health implications, GasLand, as well as recent mine blowouts and toxic spills in states such as Pennsylvania.

Gas companies don’t have to reveal the mix of chemicals in fracking fluids under state or federal laws, another concern for environmentalists like Smith. And nothing in state or federal law requires oil and gas companies to assess the impact of millions of gallons of water use on surface water near drilling sites.

Officials from the Michigan Oil and Gas Association did not return phone calls for this report.

In light of recent national discussion of hydrofracking and more than a dozen hydrofracking sites on the brink of exploration in Michigan, here are 7 things to know about fracking.

1. Natural gas drilling isn’t new to the state. Gas-bearing shale formations have led to 12,000 wells being drilled since the 1960s, Fitch said.

2. Prospects explored in the deep Collingwood shale in the last year hold the potential to significantly boost Michigan’s production potential, according to the Michigan Oil & Gas Producers Education Foundation.

3. The two high-pressure hydraulic fracturing operations in Michigan in the last year used about 5 million gallons of water each, as opposed to 50,000 to 100,000 gallons for more typical drilling operations.

4. A letter sent from NWF and other conservation groups in November 2010 asks the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and others to tighten regulations around hydrofracking sites, such as requiring assessments of water.

5. In Michigan, used fracking fluids are stored in steel tanks and later injected into hundreds of deep wells regulated by the state and the Environmental Protection Agency. This differs from Pennsylvania, where fluids are sent to wastewater treatment plants.

6. Michigan has issued permits to companies for around 15 more exploratory wells that would require hydrofracking, Fitch said, while more applications are pending. None of the permits issued so far has been in southeast Michigan.

7. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund stands to benefit from increased natural gas production. It’s subsidized by revenues from the oil and gas industry and used for recreation and conservation projects around the state.

What's your take on this issue? Leave a comment below and take our poll.


View a larger version of this map here.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Wed, May 11, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

A study released May 11, 2011 indicates that methane contamination of drinking water accompanies fracking. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Point #1 of the &quot;7 things to know about fracking&quot; is somewhat misleading. The kind of fracking that's being debated here is called &quot;horizontal hydraulic fracturing&quot; and is not the same kind of drilling that has taken place in Michigan for a long time. It's much deeper, it affects much more land, and it takes way more water (see point #3). And that water is basically gone out of the water cycle forever, it's so contaminated. Since one of our unique resources is the Great Lakes, I think we need to take that seriously. I agree that we can't just say, &quot;don't do this&quot; and &quot;don't do that&quot; without looking at the energy we ourselves use, but I think we should be making a major effort to use less energy, use it efficiently and focus on renewable sources. Also, if you hear that gas is a clean energy source, that does not apply to gas obtained by this kind of fracking. If you add in all that's involved, it turns out to be as bad for the climate as coal--which is bad.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

DonBee wrote: &quot;Fluid does not need to contain chemicals, it can be pure water.&quot; There ya go again, DonBee, just makin' it up. According to Halliburton (and they know a thing or two), all sorts of nasty chemicals (including thousands of gallons of Hydrochloric Acid in some procedures) are used in &quot;Hydro&quot;-fracking. Not a single one of Halliburton's procedures employs only water And, lacking evidence to the contrary, one must assume that Halliburton is putting a big smiley face on its operations and likely underreporting its use of chemicals. Gee, no reason to doubt 'em, is there? Source: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

The PA wells were contaminated by the fluids being pumped out and dumped in a local stream. Several laws were broken in doing this. Fluid does not need to contain chemicals, it can be pure water. Sand is helpful. Drillers have been adding all sorts of things because they think it might help. Most of the drillers own one or two drilling rigs, since the large companies are mostly out of owning the rigs (probably to spread the liability). We don't need to clear cut the state, but it would be nice for the folks in the UP if the state re-opened some of the land closed, it would significantly help the economy without turning the state into a desert. Good rules and good regulations combined with enforcement is important in the extraction of any resources.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

The thought of for-profit companies shortsightedly injecting unregulated chemicals into the groundwater without having to offer proof of their long-term safety makes me get so close to screaming obscenities at my computer it's scary... It's so ludicrous that this is legal. The failings of our government are astounding and surpassed only by the moral compasses of the &quot;gold&quot;-digging companies that aim to steal from Michigan its last, resiliently unadulterated waterways. As far as I can tell, Dave Davis is the person in charge of permits and regulations for gas and oil drilling. I'm e-mailing him directly after this post to voice my displeasure and hope for quick and positive directional change on this issue. Here's his contact info from the DNR website. 517-241-1529 Hal Fitch, mentioned in the article, is at: 517-241-1548

Tom Whitaker

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

A recent Duke University study found half of the 68 drinking water wells they tested, located close to gas wells using fracking, were contaminated with methane. Several had more than enough to cause an explosion. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Moscow On The Huron

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

I think one of the chemicals they are using is dihydrogen monoxide. That stuff is deadly.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Here's a CNN article from today - <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

No wonder we have been seeing so many smiling faces of the gas and oil industries on our commercials lately. Don't worry, we're here to help. Nothing to see here, just move along...


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

can fracking cause earthquakes ?


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

It appears is on the "frackers" side their 7 things seemed to be on the positive side. Here are some things from the negative side. Not only is the Gasland documentary worth getting your hands on, one of the CSI shows depicted what fracking can do for (to) you. Guy dies when he throws a match in his well. 1. Dying of cancer from ground and water contamination. 2. Watching your love ones die before you. 3. Watching the hair and feathers of your pets and farm animals fall off before they die of cancer. 4. Watch the wildlife numbers drop drastically, that's for all you game hunters. (PS. Don't eat the meat) 5. Being able to light your drinking water for the fun and amusement of your friends. 6. Watching the warm glow of flames from that pond you spent 10K on to dredge. 7. Keep in mind you won't smell the gas in the air because it is odorless and colorless. 8. Farmland ruined no crops, no food. 9. Having your drinking water hauled in, but the gas company may pay for it (if you sue). I won't even bring up the drop in property values, they are low enough. Call a friend or relative in Colorado or Wyoming or an internet search of "fracking in America".


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

So for all of you who are opposed to drilling for gas, Are you 100% off the power grid? Use solar, or wind for your power? Do not drive a car? Work for the State of Mich or one of the state supported institutions? Against any budget cut? Where do you think the money to support you comes from? Leprocons at the end of the rainbow?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

So my choice is to either live in a cave or to live in a poisoned environment? I think you need to Google &quot;reductio ad absurdum argument&quot;. Yours is one. Good Night and Good Luck

John B.

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

The money to support me comes from me. I earn it.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

it sounds like we've dropped former alternative energy incentives and fallen into the lure of short-term solutions with long-term consequences. alternative energy is the next big thing. anybody who doesn't see that is in denial (and/or just wants a quick buck). if there's any hope for our state, it's in alternative energy r&amp;d. if this is going to happen at all, i would hope it would be very, very tightly regulated, because the state's land and water resources are its biggest assets.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

When you and your neighbors discover your ground water is contaminated with god knows what these companies will be gone or so lawyered up no one will be able to afford to sue them. Sounds like 'business as usual' for the Republicans. And when the clean up is needed you know the Republicans will stick the tax payers with the bill. Been there, done that. Real energy conservation would make fracking unneeded but that's not what this is about - it's about energy companies keeping the status quo going. Conservation would not make them money.

Roger Roth

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

@insidethehall Trouble is, &quot;hydro&quot; is a misnomer, probably intentionally. And that's where the trouble begins. Where in the world did you get the notion that fracking is &quot;environmentally sound?&quot;


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

The NWF would like all gas &amp; oil production stopped. They testified in Congress ( It is on their website) that Canadian oil sands production was a conspirisy to raise U.S. gas prices. Michigan needs the jobs and royalities gas &amp; oil production will produce. Drill baby Drill was supported, at least verbally but noy in votes, by Senator Stabenhow in 2008. However that was an election year.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:25 p.m. long as it creates jobs, it sounds like Mike and Outdoor are all in. Clear cut the entire state; make it into a desert. We'll be just like the Middle trees, plenty of sand and all the oil you can burn..and jobs, jobs, jobs!!


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

OK, let's dig up YOUR backyard and destroy it. Shouldn't bother you as I see it.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

@outdoor6709 - Do you know how tar/oil sands production works? Wherever the oil is located the area is clearcut. So much for the &quot;outdoors&quot;.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

The &quot;unknown&quot; toxic chemicals: diesel fuel, which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. August, 2002. DRAFT Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs. EPA 816-D-02-006.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Ah ha, this explains the recent legislation which begins curbing state environmental agencies ability to set more stringent rules than the feds.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

The most valuable thing Michigan has is its great lakes. Endangering them is insanity. With global climate change well on its way, millions of people will be without water; the idea of wasting our precious resource like this is an outrage!


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 1 p.m.

The only thing that bothers me, is that these companies don't have to reveal what chemicals they're putting in the ground. Again, I hear drlll baby drill, and that this is the death of us all. How about a little common sense? Make the companies document what they are putting in our ground, regulate, and monitor, and finally, &quot;Drill Baby Drill!&quot; Energy independence ends all this crap going on in the world, and would take alot money away from the financiers of terrorism.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

I believe that this country needs to drill, become less dependent on foreign sources, and simply use less fossil fuels. That being said, from what I know and am learning about this type of drilling, this is not the way to do it. Anyone, and many do, that depend on ground water for their homes should be scared to death that this is happening.

Tim Belcher

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Certainly we should have a bit more oversight/regulation. We can't afford to be short-sighted when it comes to our environment. Deep-well injection of waste water is also a concern. Disclosure of the chemicals injected would be a good first step, and it's not just water &quot;Mike&quot;. A while water may not be completely a finite resource, that is a lot of water to use. I know many will say we don't need more government intervention but if government can tell us who can and can't get married ....well you fill in the rest.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

This is a blatently greedy attempt to reap billions on the helth and well being of the state's residents and the environment at large. We should ban this sort of thing not just from Michigan, but from the nation as a whole..

L. C. Burgundy

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

I totally agree. All power production is inherently bad and MUST be banned in this state. Manna will fall from heaven and holistic crystal medicine will replace the need for medical care. So, yeah, which cave will you choose to freeze to death in?


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:25 a.m.

Watch the trailer to 'Gasland.' <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Moscow On The Huron

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

It's true! I saw it on the Internet!


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Mike, you are using a type of logical fallacy called &quot;Hasty Generalization.&quot; It is when you find one example of something and conclude that because this one example is a certain way, all other similar things must be the same way as well. Ex. A Bad-Ass Ninja President named Obama killed a terrorist named bin Laden. Therefore, all people named Obama are Bad-Ass Ninja Presidents. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

That's right. One video on the internet is a fraud therefore every documentary ever made must also be a fraud. Good thinking.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

They have videos on youtube about camps being built to put all of us into during the rise of communism. Do you think that's the gospel truth also?


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

Great, a profit driven energy company injecting unknown toxic chemicals into the ground while the EPA is forbidden to watch. Sounds like another teapublican drill baby drill act of self destruction that benefits who?

John B.

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

@Mike: One of the liquids that we know is in the mix is diesel fuel. Diesel fuel contains benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen. And that's only ONE of the components of the fracking fluid. So then this used-up toxic soup will be reinjected into deep wells? That's how we got the Gelman spill that ended up on the EPA's Superfund list! That Dioxane was legally re-injected into deep wells, way back when.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Mike, Of course all companies are profit driven and I have no expectation otherwise. I mentioned it in relation to this article because the lack of regulation means that we have to trust these multinational corporations to act in the public interest. Their only purpose for existing however, requires they cut costs at every opportunity to achieve their goals by their next shareholder statement. The track record of companies like Exxon, BP, Haliburton speaks for itself in the environmental destruction left behind.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Mike, Did you read the article? The toxic mix of chemicals is 97% water. At 5 million gallons that means 150,000 gallons of toxic chemicals. Gas is not the cleanest form of energy if its your municipal well that's contaminated and undrinkable. In Bradford county PA, over 100 wells have already been poisoned by the chemicals from fracking (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. It was W and Dick that made sure that this activity was not regulated. Haliburton is now one of the few companies involved in fracking that doesn't support reporting of the chemicals involved. W's family made their wealth with the birth of the oil business. The teapublican leadership is so financially tied to oil and gas extraction that, with this prohibition on fracking regulation, they have blatantly acted against the health and welfare of the citizens of this country.


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

The unknown toxic chemical is water. The environmentalists force the oil and gas companies to drill in ways and places that we don't need to yet and then complain. Gas is the cleanest form of energy yet there's always an environmental reason not to drill, not to use water in California, not to build new housing, etc. Any company that is not profit driven is not a company for very long. Who do you work for? Must be some place funded by the government (i.e. all of the taxpayers)

Roger Roth

Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

No unions! No pensions! Fire the teachers! And absolutely no freekin' frackin'


Mon, May 9, 2011 : 11:15 a.m.

Anyone who has seen the documentary Gasland will be sickened by this news, though not as sickened as those who sign away rights to their own property to permit fracking. This process is obscene both visually and environmentally, and unless things have changed, the process is exempt from federal clean air and water acts. I urge everyone who may eventually be given the choice to permit this on their own land to do a little research and then get the frack out of there.