Idaho’s state geologist Ed Ratchford recently commented that the geology in southeastern Idaho might favor the oil and gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing-or fracking-if oil and gas were discovered in the region. This announcement is concerning because the Idaho Department of Lands recently issued three permits to drill in Bonneville County. But none of the permits stated that fracking would occur. So we are left to ponder-is fracking in Idaho’s future?
Differences in Idaho’s Geology
Southeastern Idaho’s geology consists of thick layers of sedimentary rocks that originally formed in an ocean environment. They have been folded and faulted over the past roughly 200 million years. This geology, called the Thrust Belt, extends into Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Oil and gas found in these neighboring states has required extraction via fracking due to the density of the rocks.
To date, oil and gas development in Idaho has been focused in the southwestern part of the state. This geology is much younger, composed of small, isolated lenses of sand formed in historic lake and river environments over the past 1 million years. These sand layers have moderate to high permeability, meaning that fluids can easily flow through the sand to a well. Because of this high permeability, resources can be extracted without fracturing the rock.
Proactive Measures Against Fracking in Idaho
According to Idaho’s rules governing oil and gas development, anyone wanting to frack in Idaho must receive a permit from the Idaho Department of Lands. All drilling applications and permits are available through IDL’s website. IDL must solicit comments from the public when these applications are submitted. Any public comment opportunities are also available on this website.
Hydraulic fracturing presents a serious threat to air and water quality. ICL is preparing for such a threat by engaging with affected communities and their representatives, monitoring oil and gas activity, and advocating that Idaho’s laws and regulations for oil and gas development provide the best protection possible to our air, water and public health.
If fracking does come to Idaho, it would mark a major shift in oil and gas development. We will continue to monitor how this issue progresses while championing clean and efficient forms of energy for Idaho. Stay tuned.