April 23, 2014

Originally produced and published by WWL TV News on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.


MANDEVILLE, La. -- Community members in St. Tammany Parish have started an online petition against a proposed fracking project, and several leaders are making moves to publicly object the drilling work, but many are still curious about the process, as well as its risk and benefits.

So Eyewitness News went to LSU to see if we could find some answers.

Dr. Arash Dahi-Taleghani has been teaching prospective petroleum engineering students for five years. His specialty is hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.

"First, perforating or putting, making some small holes in the rock and then pumping through it fracking fluid, which is essentially water-based fluid, into the subsurface and the pressurized water fluid will crack the rock and provide pathways for the hydrocarbon to the well-bore," he said.

Fracking is the way Helis Oil & Gas plans to search the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation, 13,000 feet below property along Hwy. 1088, north of I-12 in St. Tammany Parish.

That plan has many concerned about effects on the environment and the area's drinking water, but the professor, who has no knowledge of Helis’ plans, said location should be key when considering those kinds of concerns, in general.

"In cases like, for example, Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, I don't think that would be the case because it’s about 15,000, 16, 17,000 feet away, deep, so it cannot cause any problem for the water aquifer. But, having said that, we should always be really careful to make sure that the fracture height, I mean, the fracture is going in the controlled environment."

The start of a controlled fracking lab at LSU is underway, where professors are hoping to find a more environmentally safe and economically efficient way to perform fracking.

Dr. Juan Manuel Lorenzo, an associate professor with the Department of Geology and Geophysics, said companies “are able to reconstruct, from the amount of time it takes for the signal to go from the crack to here (the well head), they can work out where the crack is, what it's shape is, how it's growing, what its width, what its height and we're trying to recreate that in really simple conditions to improve our understanding of how these crack move through the rock."

The team is hoping this lab will not only help students and industry better understand the effects of fracking, but also help the public grasp the process more easily too.

The professors hope to have the lab fully functional in about three months.


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