By Scott Weeden, Senior Editor The misconception that hydraulic fracturing is part of drilling rather than completion and production adds greatly to the confusion the industry should address. Over and over again in article after article, blog after blog, documentary after documentary, the term hydraulic fracturing is inseparable from drilling. Even in press releases from companies and industry associations, the misconception persists that hydraulic fracturing and drilling are the same. These two operations are separate and distinct. The drilling operation uses a drilling rig, blowout preventer, drill pipe, casing, drill bits, etc., to make the hole through which oil and gas production flows. The drilling rig is used to set casing, cement it in place, and perforate the casing or set sliding sleeves to allow production. The BOP is removed and the wellhead set in place. The drilling rig is then moved. The rig can also be moved earlier and completion operations such as perforating and setting production tubing can be done by a coiled tubing unit through the wellhead. When the well is ready for hydraulic fracturing, the drilling rig is long gone and the operation is performed through the wellhead. It is interesting to watch some of the anti-fracing movies. Almost always, the narrator is droning on about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing with a drilling rig in the background. Separating the two operations is critical to educating the public on the safety of hydraulic fracturing versus drilling. When a well is being first drilled through aquifers, the aquifer can be contaminated by the drilling fluids. It is an open bore and drilling fluids can enter the aquifer. However, once the casing is set through the fresh-water zone and cemented in place, there is little likelihood any additional drilling fluid will enter the aquifer. It is also during drilling that pockets of biogenic gas could be released into an aquifer – again it is an open bore. That leads to people lighting the water in the kitchen sink. But, once the casing is cemented, the wellhead set in place, and the drilling rig moved, there is no likelihood that these aquifers can be contaminated by hydraulic fracturing fluids – if all of the drilling operations are conducted properly. Why is that so hard to distinguish? Do we assume that people not associated with the industry will already know this? If not, why do reporters and industry opponents continue to muddle the water, so to speak? Educating the public is one of the major tasks facing the industry. Being precise in our language would make a big difference in the education process. The other thing that scares people is the noise and truck traffic, as though those things continue forever. I grew up on a dairy farm in Oklahoma and at least four wells were drilled on the family farm when I was younger. Two of those wells in McClain County were producers. For years, I went to sleep with the sound of a “popping-Johnny” pump making a racket at the foot of the hill. I had no ill effects and did get used to the noise. The drilling, fracing, and producing operations do not last forever. The industry needs to be clear about how long each operation lasts. The drilling rig won’t be there forever. The frac trucks won’t be there forever. Production is the greatest time variable, but won’t be there forever. Let’s make this clear for people who don’t understand the industry. It is really important. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at