Interview with a Fracker | Part II in our Series on Hydrofracture

This weekend, I had a chance to talk with Russel Ware of Mountain Hydrofracture. This is a follow-up to last week’s story about why we sometimes recommend hydrofracture to our customers.

Following is an abridged transcript of our interview. Edits are for clarity and are not substantive to content.

Russell and the Frack Rig he operates in N Ga/ WNC.

Russell and the Frack Rig he operates in N Ga/ WNC.

Rob Miller: You’re from Blue Ridge, right?
Russell Ware: Yes I am.

RM: How long have you lived there?

RW: I was born and raised here. I’ve been here 50 years now.

RM: So you’ve been working and living in the N Georgia/ Western NC region for that whole time?
RW: Other than about a year, year and a half when I got out of school. I stayed in Flordia and Atlanta for a little while, but other than that, I’ve been right here.

RM: So, what did you do for work before you were a fracker?
RW: [My] Family was in the sawmill business, cutting timber and then doing grading work and then 11 years ago I was introduced to hydrofracking and been doing it ever since.

RM: Ok, so is that when Mountain Hydrofracture started up, about 11 years ago?
RW: No, they’ve been in business 2 years prior to that.

RM: So was Mountain Hydrofracture the first fracker in this area?
RW: No sir, there was another company that had been here since the late 80’s, and my understanding is that we were the second one. Now I think maybe there are 3 here in the North Georgia area.

RM: OK so hydrofrackers have been operating in this region for around 30 years…
In the time you’ve been doing this, how many wells would you say you’ve fracked?
RW: I’d say we’re pushing 3500 total.
RM: That’s amazing.
You just recently moved up from being an employee of the company to- now you are the owner, right?
RW: The original owner of the company is Jeff Holloway, and he had a partner, and I bought the partner’s share. But he’s still the primary owner.
RM: But when the phone rings, you’re the guy who picks it up, right?
RW: Yes, yes, Jeff’s there to help when we have breakdowns and discussing jobs and stuff, but Jeff’s got an excavating business of his own so he’s got enough to do, so I take care of this part of it.

Jeff Holloway and Russel Ware with their Frack Rig

Jeff Holloway and Russel Ware with their Frack Rig

RM: I don’t know if you’ve seen the Vice documentary footage of the South Dakota fracker who works 10 weeks and is off four, spending most of that free time (and almost all of his 1/2 mill a year earnings) in LasVegas. It sounds like all those wells you’ve fracked should have you about ready to retire…
RW: Well, I sure don’t make that kind of money at it, and I sure don’t have the free time to go to Vegas and stuff… There’s not that kind of money to be made, doing water wells. He’s in gas, but doing water wells… we don’t make that kind of money and we sure wouldn’t be rubbing it in our customers’ faces if we were, because there’s a lot of customers who are just trying to [get enough water to] run their homes and live comfortably.
There’s just not that kind of money to be made in this business- that we’re in anyway.

RM: Ok, So the payout is not the same… Is the timing? His projects take 10 weeks. How long does it take to frack a water well?
RW: If everything goes well, 3 ½ to 4 hours. Then we always come back [in 3-4 days] and put a portable pump in the well to make we have brought the well up to a better production than it was previously. So, time you’ve done that, you usually wind up investing a day’s time in each well.

RM: Wow, so it sounds like the methods and equipment are a lot different between what you do and what oil and gas frackers use… I guess they are using millions of gallons of secret mixes of water and chemicals (slick water) to frack their wells. What are you pumping into the ground, and how are the pressures different? Can you go into some of that, and explain how all that works and what the differences are?
RW: Yes, well first of all, the equipment we use- there’s no comparison. They are running with 50,000 lb and I guess: above pressures, and like you say hundreds of thousands if not millions of gallons of water with solution. Our stuff we run with pressures of 2,000 or 2,500 or less- most of the time less- and we use nothing but water. The water we use comes out of our own personal well and if we need another load of water and we’re too far from out shop, we buy water from the city or town we’re working in. So our water is drinkable. There’s no solutions in it, and the depths, well, 600′ is typical.

RM: So it sounds like the money isn’t as good, and you don’t get to fly to Vegas 4 times a year… Can you tell me why you do what you do?
RW: Of course a man needs to make a living for one thing, but it just feels good- somebody has had a well drilled, and they’ve already got the investment of the well, but they need more water, and we’re in there to help them get the production they’re after. We’re there to make the customer happy.

RM: Wow, thanks, Russell, for taking the time with me today. Is there anything you’d like to add or say before we let you go?
RW: Well other than we appreciate y’all getting out there educating the public on the difference between gas and oil and water well fracking. There’s no comparison.

RM: That kind of does go to one more thing I wanted to cover with you: this debate in Western North Carolina is really getting heated. If you could look everyone who is passionate about this issue in the eye and tell them one thing, what would it be?
RW: Well, get educated, for one… There is a difference.
Take into consideration: if they’d have drilled a well to run their home and they didn’t get ample water to take care of their home, and they allow us to hydrofrack their well. If we were able to get the water they need to run their home, I think they’d be very pleased to have that water than to lose the investment of the well. It’s not going to affect anything in the ground. We’re putting nothing in the ground to contaminate water sources.
When we are able to get in there and get somebody the water they need it makes their day and it makes our day too.

RM: I really feel like if water well hydrofracture got lumped into the same category as slick oil, a lot of folks would be disenfranchised and unable to get access to clean water. I think it’s really an important distinction, and I really appreciate what you do and how much you’ve helped us and our customers and their water wells. Thanks again Russell. I really appreciate the time, and wish you the best, and I’m sure if folks have any more questions about what you do, they can contact you directly.
RW: Thank you, too, Rob. Yes, I’d be happy to talk to whoever about it.

Go to Mountain Hydrofracture to find out more about Russell’s business and to contact him about his services.

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About the Author

Rob Miller

Rob's background in Environmental Horticulture and the green industry, as well as time working as a Legislative Aide and Private Property Rights Advocate at the Georgia General Assembly, informs his unique perspective on metro Atlanta water issues, as well as water and its management as a global issue.