What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing (HF) is a well stimulation procedure which can enhance water production but is generally a method of last resort.    It allows property owners the opportunity to increase water production from wells which would not otherwise produce enough water for their needs.  State law requires a driller to obtain approval from the local health officer before HF a well.

HF was developed by the oil industry in the 1940's for opening up tight reservoir rocks to improve product recovery.  It consists of injecting fluid (usually water) into the well under such pressure that the formation is actually parted, or fractured.  The fractures produced are generally only a few millimeters wide, but may be either horizontal or vertical depending on the path of least resistance.

Some concerns with HF of water wells have been expressed by the environmental health sector.  While HF procedures in the oil industry are completed at greater depths, water wells are generally shallow and therefore are hydraulically fractured closer to the surface.  In areas where the bedrock is found with little or no overburden, hydraulic fracturing could create channels near or at the surface thus allowing contamination to enter the well.  There are also concerns of fracturing an obtaining water of aesthetically undesirable quality such as high chlorides, or of negatively impacting the water quality or quantity of neighboring wells.

The EH Division formed a committee to address the hydraulic fracturing of wells and develop guidelines for issuing HF approvals to drillers.  The policy was subsequently adopted by the State of Michigan.  An application and associated fee must be submitted to the EH Division for approval to hydraulically fracture a well.  An on-site inspection may be required before issuing the HF approval.

 

After conducting a hydraulic fracture, the licensed driller must submit a Hydro Frac Report Form to the Health Department for review.

For more information on the HF procedure, please call (906)-475-4195.