In "For Openers," editor Greg Ettling shares his thoughts on current events affecting the industry.

Hydraulic Fracturing Cleared

Perhaps closer to not-bad news than good news:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a final report summarizing a study to evaluate the potential threat to underground sources of drinking water (USDWs) from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coalbed methane (CBM) production wells. As in its previous draft report in 2002, EPA has concluded that additional or further study is not warranted at this time. In making this decision, EPA reviewed more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, other research and public comments. The agency has concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into CBM wells poses minimal threat to USDWs.

In its review of incidents of drinking water well contamination believed to be associated with hydraulic fracturing, EPA found no confirmed cases that are linked to fracturing fluid injection into CBM wells or subsequent underground movement of fracturing fluids. Further, although thousands of CBM wells are fractured annually, EPA did not find confirmed evidence that drinking water wells have been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing fluid injection into CBM wells. Where fluids are injected, EPA believes that ground water production, combined with mitigating effects of dilution and dispersion, adsorption, and biodegradation, minimize the possibility that chemicals included in fracturing fluids would adversely affect USDWs.

In the course of conducting the study, EPA found that diesel fuel, which may pose some environmental concerns, was sometimes used in fluids for hydraulic fracturing within USDWs. To address any environmental concerns, EPA worked with the companies that perform 95 percent of the hydraulic fracturing projects in the United States to voluntarily remove diesel fuel from CBM fracturing fluids injected into USDWs. The companies agreed and signed a memorandum of agreement to that effect in December, 2003.

Coalbed methane is a gas contained in varying quantities within all coal. Hydraulic fracturing of production wells is technology that has been used for more than 50 years in conventional oil and gas production to enhance recovery by enlarging fractures through which oil and gas, including CBM, can be drawn to a well and pumped to the surface. Water-based fluids have become the predominant type of CBM fracturing fluids, although fluids can also be based on oil, methanol or a combination of water and methanol. After fluids are injected to expand fractures within a coal seam, large quantities of ground water and some of the injecting fracturing fluids are pumped out of the well to facilitate the production of CBM.

Marketing Opportunity

August is National Water Quality Month. There still is plenty of time to put together an inexpensive promotion to get the issue, your industry and your company, in particular, out there in people's minds. Make sure your local media - newspaper, radio station, television, Web site, etc. - know about the designation. Tell them you'd be happy to contribute your expertise in getting out the word.

And, as a public service, we'd like you to know that August also is National Golf Month, National Purposeful Parenting Month, Admit You're Happy Month, Baked Beans Month, National Blueberry Month, National Catfish Month, National Child Support Enforcement Month, National Parks Month, Romance Awareness Month, Foot Health Month, Family Eye Care Month and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month.

I-R Purchase Finalized

Atlas Copco AB has finalized its acquisition of Ingersoll-Rand Drilling Solutions, a business within the Ingersoll-Rand Infrastructure sector. The purchase price was $225 million, paid in cash.

Ingersoll-Rand Drilling Solutions has its head office is in Garland, Texas, and production sites in the United States, Japan and China. The transaction also includes Drilling Solutions assets in India, subject to approval by the shareholders of Ingersoll-Rand's Indian company, with this part of the transaction expected to close in the third quarter of 2004. The transaction does not include Ingersoll-Rand's France-based Montabert business unit.

Following the acquisition, a new division has been created within the Construction and Mining Technique business area, with the name Atlas Copco Drilling Solutions. Bob Fassl has been appointed president of this new division.