by A.C. Hall
Council member Steve Ott gave a presentation at the White Settlement City Council meeting on Tuesday and presented more information about waterless fracking. This alternative method of fracking wells was first discussed last week at a special council meeting, and Ott built upon that meeting as he continued to stress the importance of water conservation. “As everyone knows, we’re going through a drought and we’re still in drought stages,” Ott said.
Looking at many lakes and reservoirs in the area, Ott highlighted just how low many of these bodies of water are. Fracking uses around 3 million gallons of water to frack a single well and Ott presented statistics showing that 17,332 wells have been drilled in the Barnett Shale. Using a conservative estimate of 2 million gallons of water per well, Ott stated that around 35 billion gallons of water has been used fracking wells in the Barnett Shale.
“Water is fast becoming a precious commodity and in this time of drought we need to conserve as much as we can,” Ott said.
Ott next spoke about companies that do waterless fracking, saying they use propane and sand to frack a well instead of water. Beyond water conservation, Ott also highlighted the fact that the waterless fracking companies don’t use chemicals in their fracking mixture. The traditional water fracking method sees water mixed with chemicals and shot into the wells. Ott stated that some drilling companies do not disclose what chemicals they are using when they do this.
“You don’t know what’s going down that well bore,” Ott said of the water and chemical mixture that some companies use.
Another feature of waterless fracking is that the propane used can be recaptured and reused as it returns to the surface. Some estimates say that seventy-five percent of the propane used in waterless fracking can be recaptured and reused.
While he didn’t have exact figures, Ott did state that waterless fracking is more expensive than the traditional method, but continued to stand firm that he’s more concerned with water conservation than he is with the profits of drilling companies.
“I have nothing against Chesapeake Energy, but on the other hand I don’t care about their company. I don’t own any stock in them, I have no stake in their company in any way shape or form. So I don’t care if it costs a little bit extra to frack a well or how much profit they make off those wells,” Ott said. He did suggest that mineral owners who are connected to those wells might care, as higher drilling costs could mean lower royalties for mineral owners who have leased their rights to Chesapeake. He also stated that in some wells waterless fracking is less effective than traditional, but pointed out that some studies show that wells fracked by the waterless technique have increased gas production.
Moving on to a few of Chesapeake’s counter arguments, Ott said that they claim that by burning natural gas water vapor is formed and returned to the atmosphere. He said that was true, but that all combustible engines accomplish this and yet you don’t see anyone arguing in favor of everyone driving gas guzzling SUV’s in order to create water vapor.
Another Chesapeake argument that was mentioned is their claim that big area companies like Miller Brewing, Lockheed Martin, and Pepsi all use a lot more water than they do. Ott stated that this is probably true, but had strong words for the difference between those companies and Chesapeake.
“The difference is that those companies do not have to dispose of their waste water five miles deep in a disposal well. They just put it back into the sewer system and it’s reclaimed and reused,” Ott said. “Chesapeake has to dispose of the water, because it’s poison.”
Despite his strong desire to see the City force local drillers to use the waterless fracking method, Ott stated that he doesn’t think it’s in the City’s best interests to do that at this time. He highlighted potential pitfalls such as Chesapeake leaving the City and drilling elsewhere or of Chesapeake suing the City over this and potentially winning the lawsuit.
Following the meeting, Ott clarified that he still stands by the proposal made last week that the new City drilling ordinance require drilling companies to do a study into the feasibility of using waterless fracking when they apply for new drilling permits.
COUNCIL WAIVES FEES FOR HOTEL BUILDER
Mike Patel has built one hotel in White Settlement and is already underway on his second and Economic Director Jim Ryan addressed council about the possibility of waiving some fees as Patel prepares to start building a third hotel. The city’s Economic Development Corporation provided Patel with $275,000 of financial assistance on his first hotel and has budgeted $275,000 of financial assistance to give once the second hotel is completed. However, the proposed third hotel will fall under the deal with Hawaiian Falls where the hotel taxes from the next five hotels built go towards helping Hawaiian Falls pay off their construction costs.
Due to this, Ryan said the EDC could not offer financial assistance towards the third hotel. By waiving permitting fees, building permit fees, and some water and sewer infrastructure fees, Ryan said they could still give assistance to Patel. He also stated that if some easement situations can be sorted out, Patel plans to build a restaurant site by the new hotel.
Mayor Jerry Burns spoke highly of the work Patel has done on his other properties.
“Every one of them I’ve been in is first class,” Mayor Burns said.
A motion was made to waive the permitting fees that were discussed. That motion passed unanimously.
Gordon Vess, Steve Groomer, and John Pierce were all re-appointed to their current positions on the EDC board. Mike Arnold Jr was reappointed to his position on the Parks and Recreation Board and Pamela Kinney was appointed to a vacant position on that board. Having missed several meetings and not re-applying, Parks board member Paula Shockey was replaced by Justin Crites.
Council member Elzie Clements was absent from the meeting due to a death in the family.