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SENATOR DORGAN'S REMARKS ON HYDRAULIC FRACTURING - July 27, 2009
July 28, 2009

Posted by Matt Dempsey matt_dempsey@epw.senate.gov

Senator Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered a floor speech yesterday, July 27, 2009, highlighting the nation's vast reserve of energy resources recoverable through hydraulic fracturing techniques and set the record straight on a number of falsehoods concerning hydraulic fracturing regulations.

"Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation imposing new federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing," Senator Inhofe said.  "Some of these members claim the allowing the practice is a loophole in federal law and that it is free from regulation. Mr. President, that is completely false. Through my leadership position on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I have a long history of working on environmental and energy issues, and I can tell you new federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing would be a disaster."

Immediately following Senator Inhofe's speech, Senator Dorgan (D-ND) commented: "My colleague was speaking as I came to the chamber and I agree with most all of that which he described with respect to hydraulic fracturing. He's describing something that that affects our ability to produce a domestic supply of energy." Sen. Dorgan added, "My colleague has said it correctly: decade after decade, no one has found any evidence that there is any contamination with hydraulic fracturing."

Below is a full transript from the Congressional Record of Senator Dorgan's remarks: 

 

OFFICIAL RECORD

SENATOR DORGAN'S REMARKS ON HYDRAULIC FRACTURING - July 27, 2009

 

My colleague from Oklahoma was speaking as I came to the Chamber. I agree with most of what he described with respect to hydraulic fracturing. He is describing something that affects our ability to continue to produce a domestic supply of oil and natural gas. My colleague should know we have had now from both the previous Presidents that we zero out the research and development in oil and gas development. The current President's budget seeks to cut the oil program. My colleague and I have restored the funding for that. One of the reasons we have done it is our country leads the world, for example, in unconventional and ultra deep water drilling. We need to retain program funding to keep that advantage.

We need to produce more here at home, and we have added the funding back. As I indicated, both the previous administration and this administration decided not to support the research and development funding for oil research and development.

The description of the shale formations that Senator Inhofe talked about earlier remind me that 5 to 10 years ago we could not drill in these formations. They are now delivering substantially new resources. That energy was not accessible to this country because we didn't have the technology and the capability. My colleague described the Bakken shale in North Dakota, which I want to describe in a moment. I think it is so important for us to have the research and development funding which current technology benefitted from in the past. With sustained investments, we might have future technology options available as well.

To go to the previous point, the Bakken shale is a formation 100 feet thick, and it is 10,000 feet underground. To drill through that 100-foot-thick seam, they have divided it into thirds--top third, middle third, and bottom third. They go down two miles with one drilling rig, 10,000 feet down, searching for the middle third of a seam of shale that is 100 feet thick. They do a big curve when they get down two miles, then they go out two miles. The same drilling rig, goes down two miles then makes a large curve and goes out two miles, following the middle third of a seam a hundred feet thick called the Bakken shale.

A few years ago I asked the U.S. Geological Survey to do an assessment of what is recoverable in the Bakken shale. They came back with their estimate after a 2-year study, saying there are 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil using today's technology. It is the largest assessment of recoverable oil in the lower 48 States ever made in the history of our country.

None of that was available to us a decade ago. It was there, but it was not available to us. How do we get that oil? When they drill down with a drilling rig, it takes about 35 days to drill that hole, then fracture it under high pressure--hydraulic fracture, they call it. After that, they tear down that rig and move it away a ways and drill another hole--every 35 days. The hydraulic fracture allows that rock formation to be fractured so that the oil drips and then is extracted from the well. They are pulling up oil out of those wells, in some cases 2,000 barrels a day. The key to that is, No. 1, have they carried out the research and development so that we lead the world in the ability to do that kind of very sophisticated exploration. We continue to put that funding in this bill and have always had it in this legislation. That is what has opened up this unbelievable opportunity.

The second half of it, as my colleague described, is not something we are doing in this bill, but the ability to continue hydraulic fracturing, decade after decade, I think for nearly 50 years, I am not aware of any evidence that there is any contamination of groundwater with hydraulic fracturing when companies have followed the appropriate guidelines and regulations.

I have been describing one small part of what Senator Bennett and I have done with respect to increasing our domestic energy needs in this bill.

 

 





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