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June 6, 2014

Water worries bring local oil and gas operation under scrutiny

NORMAN — A hydraulic fracturing operation in rural Norman is using non-potable water from a local farm pond and Little River tributary, sources confirmed this week. Fracking started at the well site on Franklin Road recently.

The combination of hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and technological advances have invigorated the Oklahoma and national oil and gas markets. That means less dependence on foreign oil, said Clay O’Neil, operations manager of the Mid-continent Division of Finley Resources, the company that owns the land on Franklin Road and is overseeing the operation.

“Fracking is opening up a lot of plays here in Oklahoma and a lot of people are getting employed,” O’Neil said. “These guys work hard. They’re out here from what they call ‘can’t see to can’t see.’”

Once a well site is working, employees may work through weekends and holidays. Despite the long hours and days away from families, the jobs pay well. The average Oklahoma oil and gas worker makes more than $113,000 a year, according to the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.

North Dakota and Montana are really booming right now, O’Neil said, but fracking has kept Oklahoma in the oil and gas game.

“The oil business has always been boom or bust — right now it’s boom,” O’Neil said. “You just never know when the next bust is going to happen.”

Finley is a small, independent operator with about 90 full-time employees, and the company operates in several states where its operations create employment through local contractors.

“We serve a purpose. Everybody out here is proud of what we do,” O’Neil said.

One in six jobs in Oklahoma is directly or indirectly supported by the oil and natural gas industry, according to the OERB.

 

Drilling, fracking and production stages: During drilling, Finley purchased water from the city of Norman using a rented water meter. The company pays a deposit and a rental fee on the meter and slightly higher rates than other commercial customers. However, Norman residents were concerned about the industrial-sized use of drinking water.

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