Fredericksburg landowner catches drilling leak near Permian Highway Pipeline

Hill Country

Kinder Morgan says the 90-gallon fluid pileup a 'common' occurrence

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN)– On Saturday afternoon, Fredericksburg landowner Owen S. Parker says crews working on the Permian Highway Pipeline caused drilling fluid to pile up above-ground.

The next day, Parker sent a letter to railroad officials and the media.

Parker writes that he kept samples of the fluid for analysis and he and other landowners are keeping an eye out for possible well contamination.

KXAN reached out to pipeline company Kinder Morgan, where a spokesperson confirms crews were drilling at the Pedernales, but says the fluid buildup is normal and not considered a drilling accident.

At approximately 3:40 p.m. CT on Saturday, July 25, Permian Highway Pipeline’s contractor discovered three separate inadvertent returns while conducting the horizontal directional drill (HDD) at the Pedernales River. An inadvertent return is not a drilling accident or spill. Instead, it refers to the ponding of drilling fluids on the ground surface at a location between the HDD entry or exit location along an HDD alignment. They are common in the construction of all HDD operations, particularly at the start and end of a drill near the ground surface. As such, an inadvertent return plan was already prepared. The crew members were in place to respond quickly and implemented the plan. The inadvertent returns totaled approximately 90 gallons of drilling fluid for the three locations.

Upon discovery, the drilling fluid was fully contained and cleaned up and the appropriate regulatory agencies were notified. No waterbodies were impacted.

Katherine Hill, Kinder Morgan spokesperson

KXAN News also reached out to the Railroad Commission, which is the agency charged with overseeing pipeline construction.

A spokesperson there says they inspected the drilling site and so far, have not found any water pollution.

The RRC has rules in place to ensure the protection of public safety and the environment. Kinder Morgan notified us of inadvertent returns that occurred this weekend; preliminary inspection results indicate no pollution of surface or sub-surface waters.

R.J. DeSilva, Railroad Commission of Texas spokesperson

Kinder Morgan suspended drilling at a site in Blanco in March, after an accident led to about 38,000 gallons of spilled drilling fluid.

In a followup email to KXAN News, Parker said Jeremy Mazur, the Commission’s government relations director, told Parker that no violation would be issued to Kinder Morgan as a result of this incident unless water was found to be contaminated.

“We are cautiously monitoring our water wells and stand ready to immediately notify multiple agencies when there is evidence of water well pollution by the activities of Kinder Morgan and Michels Drilling,” Parker says.

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