A Texas oil company is facing a $25,000 fine for performing a drilling technique consistent with fracking in central Collier County in Florida.
In addition to the fine, the company ended up barred from using the technique further until it completes a groundwater study, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller.
According to a consent order filed by the DEP, the Dan A. Hughes Co. performed the unpermitted technique for two days in December and January and defied a cease-and-desist order from DEP for one day. The well in question is at Hogan Island, just south of Lake Trafford, near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed lands.
Dan A. Hughes Co., “proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production,” according to the DEP statement.
The description given by the DEP is consistent with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which is in active use in part of Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota and Texas.
According the Environmental Protection Agency drillers frack by injecting a combination of water and chemicals into a geological formation at high pressure to fracture the rock. Once the rock is broken, the fluids expand the fracture and a propping agent pumps in to keep them open to allow drillers to extract the resource.
“That’s pretty heavy. That’s pretty serious, to introduce fracking to Southwest Florida without DEP approval,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Wildlands Association, which is a plaintiff in a permit challenge to another proposed Dan A. Hughes well.
DEP did not release more information about what Dan A. Hughes did. The technique qualifies as a “confidential trade secret” and ended up shielded from public disclosure under Florida law, according to the DEP order.
Under Florida law, a company does not need a separate permit to perform hydraulic fracturing, but it must notify DEP and obtain permission.