On April 9, 2013, we reported (here) on allegations that Vintage Production California had improperly disposed of wastes from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, into a sump at a well near Shafter, California. Those allegations, which stemmed from a YouTube video, led to an order (pdf) from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board). That order required, among other things (see our prior report for additional details), that Vintage deliver to the Board a technical report describing the fracking stimulation process employed at the well, including information about the sump where wastes were discharged, the materials discharged to the sump (including its volume and composition), the volume and chemical characteristics of fresh water sources used for the fracking, volume and trade names of fracking chemicals, type and amount of proppant used, information about flowback fluids, and other details.
On May 6, 2013, Vintage delivered its technical report to the Board. We have obtained a copy of that report, as follows:
UPDATED (May 15, 2013): We have obtained a copy of the figures and maps that accompany the report. Those figures and maps had been withheld by the Board due to the need to redact precise locations of municipal water wells. They have now been revised and are available immediately above.
While we have not had an opportunity to review the report and appendices in their entirety, certain salient facts are contained in the main report. Most significantly, the report states that fracking operations on the well did not begin until October 7, 2012, one day after the YouTube was ostensibly shot, according to its own timestamp. Thus, the report concludes:
None of the fluid that is observed going into the sump in the internet video was associated with the hydraulic fracturing stimulation of the Sill 2-14H well. Instead, the fluids were associated with small amounts of trapped drilling fluids and purged hydrostatic pressure test water.
The report later adds that, during the subsequent fracking operations, all fluids that flowed back from the well “were directed into portable tanks and then were transported to the production fluids processing facility within the North Shafter field.” The ultimate conclusion of the report, contained in its introduction, is that “[t]he fluids being discharged into the sump in the internet video were not from, and predate all, hydraulic fracturing stimulation of the well.”
Curiously, however, the cover letter from Vintage to the Board adds the following:
After the information in the enclosed technical report was compiled following the April 29 meeting with Board staff, Vintage was informed by a vendor of the possibility that, between hydraulic fracturing stages, small quantities of fluids may have been discharged as a result of pressure relief procedures for surface equipment lines. Vintage is working diligently with the vendor to confirm the accuracy of this information. If it is determined that there were surface discharges not addressed in the report, Vintage will immediately notify the Board and supplement the report as appropriate.
Certainly, this is not the last we will hear of this incident. The Board is currently reviewing the report and may request additional information or seek clarification from Vintage. And Vintage may voluntarily provide information regarding the disclosure in its cover letter about the possible discharge of small amounts of fluids, whether they be fracking fluids or just more drilling fluids. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide further updates as warranted.