Gordy Oil and Monroe County Commissioners Share Gentlemans Agreement

by Dee Fulton on June 26, 2011

During a recent interview, Robbie Guinn, Vice President of Gordy Oil Company, explained the drilling, sealing and fracking processes Gordy plans to use in Monroe County.  Guinn said ” ‘Air drilling’ (Drilling without lubricating mud), using water-well drilling equipment if necessary” will be used down to seven hundred feet. This is done to prevent contamination of the limestone layer near the surface.

He said he had been learning about local karst* geology first hand.  In the Scott Hollow cave system, he observed prior water wells drilled through it and said Gordy’s techniques would be “exactly the same”, with no introduction of foreign fluids during the critical early stages.  He said a gas well bore cannot be properly sealed if it goes through a large void. The sealing concrete would spread out and fail to follow the well bore on down. Voids are detected two ways: The drill suddenly drops and/or the air flow used to blow drilling chips back to the surface shows no chips.

If the void is large (a cave for example) the bore will be plugged and abandoned.  As the drilling progresses, the well bore is cased with progressively smaller diameter, high-strength alloy pipe, with the space between the concentric pipes sealed with concrete. If a seal defect occurs, a cement bond log monitor detects it. It can sometimes be repaired by externally perforating the pipe and injecting pressurized concrete through the perforations.  If that fails, the pipe is pulled and the process must start anew.

Guinn characterized drilling’s effect on the ecology as “benign” and said “Most environmental damage associated with gas drilling occurs from accidents on the surface.”  As to the fracking process, he said this occurs in a single, relatively thin strata ( the Marcellus shale) located a mile or more down and overlain by many other strata, which serve to isolate the Marcellus.  He said “We are lucky to get a hundred feet of length in our frack tube”, which is applied in stages, starting at the far end of the final, horizontal bore. The pressure surges are applied one at a time, in short segments.

In addition to learning about karst here, Guinn has been proactively engaged with the Monroe County Commission, to try and minimize the impact of gas drilling on the County’s life and infrastructure. The result is a Memorandum of Understanding between Gordy Oil Company and the Monroe County Commission.

According to Commissioner Shane Ashley, After Gordy Oil Company filed an application to drill for gas in Monroe County, The memo “technique” was adopted because, early on, the Commission decided to act to address its citizen’s concerns. It had to use its authority under the West Virginia Code Chapter 8 to plan land use, because State law did not adequately regulate modern shale gas drilling and there was not sufficient time to develop and enact County law.

As part of its research, the Commission sent its Planning Commission on a fact-finding mission to Northern West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus shale is in play.  Monroe County Planning Commission Chairman Rodney Graves says “Local officials strongly urged us to establish communications with the drilling company and keep the dialog open”.  Graves said the officials he talked reported generally minimal problems and that they disappeared when the drilling was completed. The problems were usually not associated with drilling and/or fracking per se; most were associated with transportation i.e road damage from overweight trucks, fluid spills, etc.

The “Memorandum of Understanding” technique amounts to a “Gentlemen’s  agreement”.  It does not have the force and effect of law and depends upon the good faith of its participants for its execution.

State law is needed, if for no other reason than that the memo calls for Gordy Oil to incur additional expenses that its competitors are under no obligation to match.  Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has formed a study commission comprised of five members from the State House of Representatives and five from the Senate to review the failed legislation and produce a bill that is acceptable to both chambers.  Tomblin has said he will call a special session of the legislature to enact it, if the parties can come to terms.

Monroe County’s 26th District Representative Jerry Crosier said “They are supposed to consider everything. Karst geology will receive the special consideration it needs”.

*Karst is a geological formation characterized by cave systems and sinkholes which is found in Monroe County.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

RD Blakeslee June 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

The Wall Strreet Journal has published a comprehensive article: “The Facts About Fracking”.

It is by no means a whitewash of the energy drilling industry. Its shortcomings are documented, along with proposed remedies.


RD Blakeslee June 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

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