Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Search Results

Hydraulic Fracturing Has Great Potential, Some Dangers

without comments

Let’s be clear: There is great potential for fracking to improve our domestic energy security. It’s also important to note that there are ways to do it that are unsafe.

For more articles about hydraulic fracturing (fracking), click here.

JANUARY 31, 2011, 11:50 P.M. ET

By RYAN TRACY

WASHINGTON—Data submitted to Congress by 12 oil and gas companies indicates they pumped hydraulic-fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel into wells in 19 states without proper permits, three House Democrats wrote in a letter released Monday.

The letter from Reps. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), Edward Markey (D., Mass.) and Diana Degette (D., Colo.) calls on Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to investigate whether the companies violated the Safe Drinking Water act.

The letter is the latest salvo in a battle over the safety of hydraulic-fracturing, a practice central to the expansion of U.S. natural gas production in recent years. Industry officials say hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressures deep underground to extract oil and gas trapped in rock formations, is safe. Environmentalists and their allies in Congress are concerned that increased use of the practice is putting drinking water supplies at risk.

Read the entire article here.

Regulating gas drilling & fracturing

without comments

Internalize the externalities. That’s the job of government in this situation. If there are external or indirect costs from drilling for natural gas, particularly with technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that involve greater risk, the companies performing the drilling, and people like us who then buy the finished product by lighting our homes, pay those costs.

For example, if the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing leak into drinking water and make people sick, the economic costs such as hospital bills and lost work are paid by the company who was doing the drilling involved with the leak. Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems caused when people get sick from bad water, but it motivates the companies to prevent such accidents, as opposed to setting up government funds to fix them, which motivates neither prevention nor the guilty parties taking responsibility for their actions. Then, as these costs are passed along to we the consumers, we’re motivated to pay more attention to the companies that provide our electricity, further enforcing the cycle.

Yes, it may seem shallow or even vulgar to think about issues of human health only in monetary terms, but it presents a set of very efficient tools for solving so many of the problems that go much deeper than money.

PA senator says US should regulate gas drilling

August 20, 2010, 8:13AM ET

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM

SCRANTON, Pa.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday that Pennsylvania’s emerging natural gas industry has the potential to create jobs and wealth, but also carries environmental risks that must be addressed.

The Pennsylvania Democrat told a forum in Scranton that the “gas rush” taking place in the vast Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania “can create a great economic boost” in a state where nearly 600,000 people are unemployed. But he added: “We must not fail to protect our people, our land, our water and our future.”

Read the entire article here.

House Energy Panel Investigating Hydraulic Fracturing

without comments

Bloomberg

February 18, 2010, 08:32 PM EST

By Daniel Whitten

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) — Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd. are among eight companies asked by lawmakers for data on chemicals used to get natural gas from shale in an inquiry into effects of the hydraulic fracturing process on the environment.

Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters to the chief executive officers of the companies seeking information on the number of wells and amount of chemicals used. The panel announced the investigation in a statement today.

Written by Jason

February 19th, 2010 at 8:24 am

New Study Finds that Fracking is Safe

without comments

I agree wholeheartedly that it is entirely possible to conduct fracking safely, but also think the scientist from Duke makes a very important point:

‘This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.’

There’s no doubt that hydraulic fracturing can be and generally is done without harming water supplies. The problem is that, as we continue to demand the lowest possible prices for electricity, there is considerable incentive for some, less scrupulous companies to cut corners in their safety and compliance efforts. I am not a proponent of larger government that stifles the free market, but believe there is a place for simple, transparent regulation that ensures future generations have clean water, air, and other natural resources. Citizens must also remain vigilant to keep companies honest, and an effective media is also essential to provide accurate, objective information to keep everyone honest.

Study finds fracking chemicals didn’t pollute water: AP

July 19, 2013, 5:41 AM

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012.

 

PITTSBURGH A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Read the entire article here.

Efficiency, Innovation, Natural Gas are Keys to Energy Security

without comments

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton are walking a fine line, balancing between taking advantage of the cost effective resources we have now, such as oil and gas, and the need to protect our energy security and natural environment for generations to come.

Two former presidents share many energy views

By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY and TOM FOWLER
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

March 12, 2011, 2:28AM

Oil will be essential for fueling the U.S. for decades to come, but low-emission natural gas and improved efficiency will bridge the transition to cleaner alternative fuels, business leaders, two former presidents and energy analysts said Friday.

Former President George W. Bush told a packed ballroom of energy executives at the CERAWeek conference that while the U.S. has a vision of new technologies to power our homes and propel our cars, the nation needs to be prosperous to afford them. And that prosperity, Bush said, is tied to oil and natural gas.

Although they have been political adversaries, Bush and former President Bill Clinton agreed that the U.S. should do more to harness the promise of natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal and oil.

[…]

But he cautioned that the nation needs to make sure that the hydraulic fracturing process, used to unlock vast stores of gas in shale formations, doesn’t contaminate drinking water supplies or create an accident that shuts down the industry the way last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill stopped most offshore drilling.

[…]

‘We’ve got to take action’

Big energy consumers said they are scrambling to offset spikes in crude prices and eke out more per barrel by boosting efficiency.

Read the entire article here.

Confusion on the Future of Energy

without comments

Well this article is puzzling. The first paragraph is tongue in cheek (I hope), and yet it has some important and accurate points, as well as some dubious ones.

Gilbert seems to be making some sort of a comment on the proceedings in Davos, but it’s not clear what his comment is, or even if he knows very much about the energy issues he’s discussing. Bloomberg is a trusted media channel, but there appears to be little to trust in Mr. Gilbert’s article.

No, oil disasters are not good. I get the point that when one happens we tend to pay more attention to safety, but it shouldn’t take that. I also get the sarcasm, but would appreciate some clarity.

Yes, our appetite for energy does threaten to compete with food and water. Biofuels can compete with food not only when we divert corn or sugar from food to fuel, but also when we divert land used for food to produce non-food crops such as grasses for cellulosic ethanol, though there are definitely ways to avoid having to make this Hobson’s choice. I’ve written about the validity and exaggeration of the competition between these two at other times, so will leave it for now, but you can read more here if you like.

Traditional fuels such as natural gas and petroleum can also stress our water supplies. Read more about water used in the tar sands for petroleum here, or about natural gas and the potential impacts of fracking on water here.

So it’s tough to know from that first paragraph what Gilbert’s take is on the developments n Davos.

He continues to obfuscate the situation further in the paragraphs that follow.

He goes on to talk about China and their use of coal, proposing they use more hydro power (see paragraph excerpted below). I wonder if Mr. Gilbert is familiar with the Three Gorges Dam. It’s not a small project.

Yes, China will use a lot of coal as they grow their economy in the coming decades, but they are also doing an admirable job of investing in and implementing renewable energy. Read more about that here.

Next is nuclear energy.  Gilbert seems to deride it, but, again, it’s unclear. He mentions the possible security concern, which is a very credible threat, since the technology used for plants such as breeder reactors brings more use and awareness of  the technology used in nuclear weapons. Risky, but potentially worth it since nuclear power can bring energy to disenfranchised people who are at risk of being wooed by terrorist organizations. We can put political or religious faces on the fights, but they are most often between the haves and the have-nots, and helping more people to be haves reduces the motivation to attack. It’s also a nice thing to do, reducing the number of have-nots, just on moral grounds.

Back to energy, Gilbert moves on to biofuels, grossly over-simplifying the issue I touched on above. Yes, the competition with energy can raise food prices, but if energy supplies are constricted, because of dwindling supplies of non-renewable energy resources or geopolitical events in the Middle East or any number of other issues, food prices will rise as well. In fact, the rise in food prices we saw in 2008 had less to do with biofuels than it did with petroleum prices (See Abbot, Hurt, and Tyner, 2009).

It takes energy to fertilize, irrigate, process, package, and transport our food, so if we resign ourselves to the current, non-renewable energy matrix, those ever-decreasing supplies will continue leading to ever-increasing food prices. Diversifying our energy matrix, prudently over time, will help to mitigate if not eliminate this threat. Bread wars could come much more easily from rising energy prices than rising energy prices could be caused by biofuels.

So, thank you, Mr. Gilbert, for giving us all of this food for thought.

Green-Energy Future Looks Black as Recession Bites: Davos Diary

By Mark Gilbert – Jan 26, 2011 6:07 AM MT
Gilbert

The future is black, not green. Get used to oil trading at $100 a barrel. Drilling disasters are good because they focus the oil industry’s attention on safety. Oh, and our insatiable thirst for yet more energy sources threatens to deplete the world’s food and water supplies.

That’s the bleak message from the World Economic Forum’s opening discussion on global energy at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, led a panel that delivered a somber outlook for renewable energy.

[…]

Hydropower, for example, would be a great way to meet China’s future needs, especially during demand peaks in the morning and early evening, because you can switch on water- generated supply in eight minutes, whereas coal takes 32 hours to come on line, while a nuclear power reactor takes 56 hours. The problem is the huge capital-expenditure cost because the hydropower plants are typically far away from where the electricity is needed, demanding transmission networks.

[…]

The gloomiest aspect of the energy debate is the impact on agriculture. As governments champion the use of biofuels, diverting agricultural resources to producing energy raises food prices. That’s a worrying trend for those of us who reckon food and water security will be the world’s most pressing issue in the coming years.

Read the entire article here.

Water among victims of gas drilling process

without comments

Here is another article on what is to me an interesting and very important subject: hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Not only is it a human health concern, or even just a matter for energy, trying to balance the advantages of the free market with the need for some sort of safety regulation is an effort that spans so many aspects of life in a capitalist society.
Published: August 22, 2010

Fracking. It’s a word you probably hadn’t heard a year or two ago. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to postpone a public hearing on the subject in Syracuse, N.Y., because of concerns the venue might not be able to accommodate the 8,000 or more people expected to show up and speak about the subject.

Both New York and Pennsylvania residents are getting to know “fracking,” an issue that’s of increasing concern to people in these states and the others that sit on what’s known as the Marcellus Shale – a geological formation that stretches north from West Virginia. In total, this shale contains what may be the biggest natural-gas deposit in the world.

To extract the fossil fuel, companies first drill deep wells and then use a technique called hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” for short. It’s a process that injects, under high pressure, huge amounts of water laced with sand and more than a hundred chemicals into rock formations deep under the ground.

[…]

Chemicals and water – there’s your first clue to why people are alarmed. A report released by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association this month showed that there have been 1,435 violations of the state oil and gas laws in the past 2.5 years – at least 952 of which affect the environment. That’s more than one a day, the Sierra Club notes.

Read the entire article here.

The Hope and Peril of Shale Gas

without comments

Here’s yet another perspective in the ongoing discussion over shale gas and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking, spelled (“fracing” below by Samuelson).

I agree that natural gas provides great promise for the next several decades, especially as it diminishes our reliance on dirtier coal and dirtier and imported oil. But let’s look at that new estimate 90 years worth of gas coming from these new, deeper sources previously locked within shale.

If we move to more vehicles powered by LNG and swap out coal for gas in electricity generation, that 90 years must shrink as estimates on availability are projected according to current use. This means that gas is very helpful to me and maybe to any kids I may one day have, but even within those kids’ lifetimes, and definitely within the lives of the next generation, we’re going to have some serious problems.

As Samuelson says, natural gas is not a panacea. Yes, we should use it, as well as planning on using every drop of petroleum and every last chunk of coal. Continued innovation on other, renewable forms of energy now, not 20 years from now, will ensure that we sill have available gas, coal, and oil 500 to 1000 years from, rather than only 50 to 100 years from now.

This also ties in with the environmental threats posed by shale gas, only briefly mentioned by Samuelson. He says that fracking has been occurring decades “without polluting water supplies,” but the movie he cites, HBO’s “Gasland,” illustrates that this is not accurate.

Developing other energy technologies means that we can hold off on drilling for the supplies that are tougher to access until safer technologies have been developed.

Increasing supply of a diverse suite of energy options while diminishing our demand makes prudent decisions much more likely than if, 30-50 years from now, we are scrambling for any energy sources that are available.

Shale gas: Hope for our energy future

By Robert J. Samuelson
Monday, August 2, 2010

You probably have never heard of oilman George Mitchell, but more than anyone else, he has changed the global energy outlook. In 1981, Mitchell’s small petroleum company faced dwindling natural gas reserves. He proposed a radical idea: drill deeper in the company’s Texas fields to reach gas-bearing shale rock more than a mile down. Because the gas was tightly packed, most engineers believed it was too costly to extract profitably. But after nearly two decades of trying, Mitchell proved doubters wrong. The result: The world has far more available natural gas than anyone suspected.

[…]

How much shale gas exists is unknown, but estimates are huge. The Potential Gas Committee is a group of geologists who regularly estimate future U.S. gas supplies. In 2000, the group’s estimate equaled about 54 years of present annual consumption; by 2008, it was almost 90 years. “This isn’t the end,” says Colorado School of Mines geologist John Curtis. Globally, one study estimated the recoverable supply at 16,200 trillion cubic feet, more than 150 times today’s annual world gas use.

Some standard drilling techniques, applied imaginatively, liberated shale gas. The first was “fracturing” (also called “fracing”): injecting liquids into reservoirs to create openings that allow the gas to flow up the drill pipe. For years, Mitchell’s engineers experimented with different “fracing fluids.” All were expensive, and the resulting gas flows weren’t profitable. In 1997, engineers tried a less costly mix of sand and water. The economics of shale gas improved dramatically, says Dan Steward, a former geologist for Mitchell.

[…]

Shale gas has many virtues, but gains will come at the margin. It isn’t a panacea for every energy ailment.
Consider the impact on oil imports. In theory, natural gas — compressed or converted into a liquid — could replace oil in some vehicles. But natural gas now fuels only about 120,000 of roughly 250 million U.S. cars, vans, trucks and buses. At today’s prices, natural gas is competitive with oil, but there’s a chicken-and-egg problem: Drivers won’t use it without filling stations; companies won’t build stations without drivers.
[…]
The second threat to shale gas is over-regulation. Environmentalists are split. Some favor shale gas as a desirable “bridge fuel” until use of non-carbon energy expands. Others argue gas drilling will threaten drinking water supplies; that was a theme of “Gasland,” a film shown this year on HBO. The charges seem overblown. As the BP spill reaffirmed, all drilling requires regulation. There are environmental issues, especially the safe disposal of “fracing fluids.” But onshore drilling, including “fracing,” has proceeded for decades without polluting water supplies. In shale gas, thousands of feet typically separate shale deposits from water tables.

Read the entire article here.

A Special Report on Water

without comments

Many have pointed out the inextricable links between water and energy. Beyond the similarities in demand and scarcity mentioned in the first line of the article below, “Water, it is said, is the new oil,” there is also the need for water to produce biofuels, many forms of solar power, hydroelectricity, and water used for oil and gas extraction processes such as hydraulic fracturing.

Before I focused on bioenergy and agriculture, I was initially interested in the economics of water. While it’s important to focus in order to understand the intricate details of any of these essential areas, it is equally important to consider the others, the entire context, when examining any of them.

A special report on water

For want of a drink

Finite, vital, much wanted, little understood, water looks unmanageable. But it needn’t be, argues John Grimond (interviewed here)

May 20th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

.

WHEN the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

[…]

Soaked, parched, poached

Many of these conceptual difficulties arise from other unusual aspects of water. It is a commodity whose value varies according to locality, purpose and circumstance. Take locality first. Water is not evenly distributed—just nine countries account for 60% of all available fresh supplies—and among them only Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia and Russia have an abundance. America is relatively well off, but China and India, with over a third of the world’s population between them, have less than 10% of its water.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 21st, 2010 at 12:56 pm

The Promise of Shale Gas

without comments

This important subject has been addressed on this site before, and as I said then, if we can manage our demand for natural gas, we can give these companies time to develop this fracturing technology so that it can be done in more cost effective and environmentally responsible ways.

February 19, 2010

Ken Silverstein, EnergyBiz Insider
Editor-in-Chief

Advanced drilling and completion techniques are the critical means by which natural gas developers now hope to probe vast amounts of shale gas, considered by many to be able to fuel much of the country’s electric generation for decades to come. But before that aspiration can be achieved, producers must solve the environmental complexities.

At issue is how to retrieve such vast resources without harming water quality. The problem is that the shale is a sedimentary rock that holds natural gas 2,000-12,000 feet deep in the earth. To get it out, developers use a process known as hydraulic fracturing whereby millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped into the ground, allowing the natural gas to flow to the wellbore.

Read the entire article here.