Sunday, November 18, 2007

Depleted Uranium and Oil Drilling in Santa Fe

On Thursday, November 15, the Santa Fe County Commission hosted a session at El Dorado Elementary School along with Reps. Peter Wirth and Rhonda King to talk about the arrival of oil and gas prospectors in Santa Fe. The panel members discussed the Surface Owners Protection Act and about the ongoing process to develop a new Oil & Gas Ordinance for Santa Fe County.

The crowd was quite large, and the energy in the room was very encouraging. Clearly, the threat of oil rigs and the associated consequences arriving in Santa Fe has stirred a powerful force among the population of the Galisteo Basin.

(Photo used with the permission of Tony Bonanno)

I spoke about three serious issues raised by the arrival of drilling operations:
  • The risk that fracturing operations will contaminate the Galisteo Basin Aquifer
  • The possibility that depleted uranium will be used to perforate the well bores
  • The fact that the Galisteo Basin (and all the people who live there) is entirely dependent on groundwater. Thus, contamination puts drinking water for thousands of people in serious jeopardy with very little possibility that replacement water can be found.
I want to briefly discuss the perforation process because it's been getting very little attention despite the serious effects it could have in Santa Fe.

Perforation is the phase of production in which high explosives are used to blast through the cemented casing that is put in place after the drilling phase is completed. The casing needs to be perforated so that the oil and gas in the reservoir can flow into the casing and back to the surface. Click HERE for a good overview of the process of drilling a well.

This is what a completed well looks like:
This is what the perforation process looks like:

This is what one type of a "perf gun" looks like:

The principle behind the perforation technology is the use of shaped charges, the same technology used to make IEDs in Iraq. The concept is that a shaped charged turns a hemisphere of metal into a molten projectile that travels into the rock surrounding the well bore to open it up and thereby allow the fracturing fluid to travel into the oil & gas bearing formation.

It works like this:

This is how the charge is put together:

The problem here is that in some applications, the perforation guns use depleted uranium as the metal that penetrates into the formation. You can see patent applications for such devices here:

Application No. 1 (by SCHLUMBERGER), Application No. 2 (by Owen Oil Tools LP). The extent to which depleted uranium is used in the United States is unclear, but the prospect should be taken seriously, and I hope that the County will address this urgent matter in its new ordinance.

Needless to say, the prospect that depleted uranium could be used to open up oil and gas reservoirs in Santa Fe County is a serious concern. This should be a main focus of the County's drafting of its new Oil & Gas ordinance.

I a future post, I will talk about the risk that the fracturing process may create vertical fractures that could contaminate the Galisteo Basin aquifer.


Linda Spier said...

Brian Egolf is a man of principle, substance, backbone and integrity.
Thank God for this good man willing to stand up and protect the
People and our land, and bring fresh energy to clean out the muck of
deception in the political barn.

Thank you, Brian, for alerting us to one more terrible danger from oil
and gas exploration and extraction.

another concerned citizen said...

I sure hope you don't intend to accept campaign contributions from oil and gas companies or anyone affiliated with them.

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