North Texas Daily

Energy company plans gas drilling on edge of UNT campus

Energy company plans gas drilling on edge of UNT campus

Energy company plans gas drilling on edge of UNT campus
September 05
08:23 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

Eagle Ridge Energy plans to drill four natural gas wells that pass under the western edge of the UNT campus.

The city of Denton leased mineral rights to the company on Aug. 20 for the property and has not released a drilling schedule.

Eagle Ridge plans to convert a vertical rig located on Airport Road, just south of Interstate 35, into a horizontal drilling rig and then drill into mineral and gas deposits underneath Fouts Field, Traditions Hall, Santa Fe Square and the Murchison Performing Arts Center. The Railroad Commission approved three of the proposed wells in June, while the fourth is pending.

Executive vice president and chief operating officer of Eagle Ridge Energy Mark Grawe said the fracking part of the process takes only four to five days, but the company could be reaping energy benefits for 50 to 60 years.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of drilling into deep reservoirs of natural gas and breaking the earth with high-pressure water and sand. The wells then capture the gas for energy use.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that fracking used between 7 and 14 billion gallons of water for 35,000 wells. While chemical additives make up between .5 percent and 2 percent of the water, calculating the low end of those ranges leaves 10,000 gallons of chemical additives per well per year being pumped into the ground.

Eagle Ridge operates 61 rigs in Denton including two rigs next to Apogee Stadium and a rig that blew out last April, leaking 1,300 pounds of gas over 14 hours, said philosophy and religion assistant professor Adam Briggle’s story on the BlogSpot website “Denton Drilling.” Briggle has a doctorate and master’s degree in environmental studies, specializing in bioethics.

Briggle said fracking poses a wide variety of health threats, including chemicals being shot into the earth, chemicals escaping into the air, earthquakes, the chance of rig explosions and water contamination from the accidental spill of chemicals.

“My argument against fracking is multi-layered,” Briggle said. “For cities, or urban drilling, the case is simply that this is an industrial land use that is not compatible with surrounding uses – it is noisy, polluting, dangerous, increases truck traffic, etc. – does not comport with our comprehensive plan vision. And most importantly [fracking] threatens public health, safety, and welfare – the protection of which is the primary function of municipal government.”

Grawe said Eagle Ridge uses water, sand, chlorine and a polymer to reduce friction in their fracking mixture, and city of Denton gas well administrator Darren Groth said the danger of contamination is low because most of Denton’s municipal water supply is surface water.

Grawe said it hasn’t completely determined the cause of the April blowout yet, but is comfortable saying it won’t happen again.

“There was a tubing malfunction. Human error was probably involved,” he said. “We have taken additional safety steps to make sure it won’t happen again.”

Groth said that after a debrief with involved parties, he is also satisfied that the proper steps have been taken.

“You’re pointing to a blowout and saying things could improve, but we could always improve,” Groth said. “I think there are various ways to improve that have already been implemented.”

Feature photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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