Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition
Hydraulic fracturing fluid is predominantly composed of water with proportionally small volumes of proppant and chemical additives. The water we use for the fluid is primarily from freshwater sources, though nonfreshwater sources may also be used. Proppant is a solid material used to hold the formation open and allow the oil and gas to flow into the well. Since 2016 we have used sand as proppant instead of ceramic materials. The chemical additives in fracturing fluids are used for specific purposes such as reducing friction, exterminating bacteria or inhibiting corrosion or scale deposits.
We know that some stakeholders are concerned about the chemical composition of hydraulic fracturing fluid. Hess does not use diesel or benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene or xylene (BTEX) in our hydraulic fracturing fluids. All of our downhole chemicals are disclosed on the FracFocus reporting website (www.fracfocus.org). While respecting laws that allow our service providers to preserve the confidentiality of their fracturing fluid formulations, we encourage transparency in chemical use and disclosure.
We also evaluate the additives we use and consider new products that become available. For example, Hess pioneered the use of high-concentration friction reducers (HCFRs). HCFRs have multiple benefits, including a reduction in pumping power requirements (which lowers fuel use and emissions) and a reduction in the overall number and volume of chemicals used per well (which reduces the number of vehicle deliveries and the occupational and environmental exposure risks associated with handling chemicals, as well as the potential for and consequences of spills). By the end of 2015, approximately 26 percent of our North Dakota wells had been completed with the reduced additive fluid composition containing HCFRs. By year-end 2016, Hess adopted the use of only two additives (a friction reducer and a surfactant), along with utilizing a more environmentally favorable version of the surfactant, for all new hydraulically fractured wells in North Dakota.
In our shale energy operations, regulated emissions occur during flowback and production operations. When technically feasible, these emissions are collected and directed to a pipeline for gathering and processing. Where pipeline availability is constrained, flaring may occur. See the Climate Change and Energy section of our sustainability report for more information on greenhouse gas emissions, and the Environment section for a discussion of non-greenhouse gas air emissions.
We seek to minimize land use and reduce the number of well sites needed to develop our acreage. In North Dakota this can be achieved by implementing multi-well pad drilling – that is, multiple wells (up to 18) on a single well pad with shared surface facilities. In both Ohio and North Dakota, we use geographic information systems when siting facilities to minimize the impact on the environment and local communities. In addition, we have implemented a detailed protocol to steer our development teams through a process to identify opportunities to minimize impacts to the environment, including those related to land utilization.
We are sensitive to stakeholder concerns about increased trucks on the road in areas of high drilling activity. In North Dakota we have participated in multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at minimizing impacts on public roads and traffic congestion. We have also collaborated with community partners and state officials in North Dakota to promote adequate infrastructure funding in an effort to improve traffic safety and support road maintenance. In 2017 we were able to remove more than 42,000 trucks from the road through infrastructure projects and oil gathering improvements. We also continued to use piping, rather than trucks, to transfer fresh water for completions at our North Dakota asset. During the year 100 percent of the water used for our well completions in North Dakota was transferred by piping – this amounted to approximately 7.4 million barrels, which offset more than 61,308 truck deliveries. We use temporary pipelines to supply fresh water to 100 percent of our well completions in Ohio.
In addition, the Hess completions team uses a “sandbox system” for delivering proppant sand to about half of the wells Hess is fracturing in North Dakota. During traditional truck unloading, blowers blast sand out of the truck, spreading dust. The sandbox system uses gravity to transfer sand from the container to the conveyor, eliminating the need for blowers. Importantly for road safety, the sandboxes can pre-staged for use, meaning that they can be delivered as convenient, reducing the need for nighttime and bad weather driving for deliveries.
Transporting crude oil by rail has become a particular issue of concern for many stakeholders in the U.S. and Canada. Improving crude-by-rail safety is a shared effort among railroads, tank car manufacturers and owners, regulators and shippers. At Hess, we are committed to doing our part to minimize the potential risks involved. Hess encourages the adoption of a holistic approach to rail safety that is science based and addresses accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response capability.
We continue to work with local, state and national governmental agencies, oil industry, tank car manufacturers and owners, and the railroads to facilitate the safe transportation of crude oil and other petroleum products. We are actively engaged with continuing industry efforts to further improve the safety of rail crude oil transport and our interests in this area are represented on the American Petroleum Institute’s Rail Policy Committee, Committee on Federal Relations and Midstream Strategies Subcommittee.
Effective July 1, 2015, Hess entered into a midstream energy joint venture in which Global Infrastructure Partners purchased a 50 percent ownership interest in Hess’ Bakken, North Dakota, midstream assets. The Tioga Rail Terminal and associated tank cars are included in the joint venture. However, Hess, through our affiliates and service agreements with the joint venture, continues to operate the assets. The midstream joint venture’s entire fleet of 550 crude oil tank cars were constructed to meet the most recent DOT-117 standards for newly constructed tank cars.