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The influence of oil and gas in our lives is inescapable. From the time we wake up until after we go to sleep, natural gases and petroleum-based products are used in the manufacture, delivery or consumption of nearly all the goods and services we come into contact with everyday. Considering that the price of crude oil is growing with our dependency on fossil fuels, it's no surprise oil discussions have changed from miles per gallon to barrels per acre.
While the search for oil and gas in Oakland County started in the 1930s, the number of lakes in the county made reaching reservoirs difficult and restricted access to more open, less populated areas. Technological advances in the industry, such as seismic exploration, horizontal drilling techniques and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have opened more areas to oil and gas development in recent years, and with it, potential risks to the environment and public health and safety.
Jack Lanigan, a geologist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), said most companies exploring and drilling in Oakland County are searching for oil, as natural gas reserves are high and prices are low.
"They are all looking for oil," said Lanigan, who monitors oil and gas operations in southeast Michigan for the MDEQ's office of oil, gas and minerals.
In Oakland County, there are at least 21 active oil wells in operation, which produced 49,716 barrels of oil in 2012 and 56,244 barrels in 2011. Oil production in Michigan, which is the fifteenth largest oil-producing state in the nation, increased more than 6 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the Michigan Oil and Gas News, based in Mount Pleasant. A barrel of oil is equal to about 42 gallons.
Major oil developments in the state's northern Lower Peninsula utilizing high-volume hydraulic fracturing are the main contributors to the state's increase in overall production.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a way of tapping a reservoir to allow oil or gas to flow back to the surface, or completing a well, after the initial wellhole has been drilled. The method uses high-pressured water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack the layers of rock surrounding the oil or gas reservoir. When the reservoir is fractured, sand remains in the cracked rock, holding it open and allowing gas or oil to pass through and reach the surface. More traditional "cased-hole" techniques complete the drilling process by drilling several small holes, or perforations, in the rock to allow the gas or oil to reach the surface. While fracking may produce more oil and economic reward, critics say the process poses a potential risk to a region's ground and surface water, as well as other environmental resources....continued on page 2