Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for the ‘Hydraulic Fracturing’ tag

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.

Fracking in Colorado

with 2 comments

Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

[…]

Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

[…]

“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

[…]

But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
[…]
“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

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.

Projections for U.S. Shale Gas Continue to Rise

without comments

This is potentially excellent news, so long as the companies that explore for and extract this gas are willing to cover the costs for any damage to human health or the environment.

Read more about shale gas here.

Shale-Gas Output May Double by 2035, Reducing Energy Imports, U.S. Says

By Simon Lomax – Dec 16, 2010 3:41 PM MT

Production forecasts for natural gas locked in shale have doubled, which will help the U.S. become less reliant on imported energy, according to a federal agency.

[…]

The Annual Energy Outlook predicts imports will meet 18 percent of U.S. demand by 2035, down from 24 percent last year. Higher prices will spur fuel production, including natural gas, oil and coal, the agency said. Tougher energy-saving rules, such as fuel-economy mandates for new cars, and a boost in biofuel production from crops such as corn also will make the U.S. less reliant on imports by 2035, according to the forecast.

Overall U.S. energy consumption will jump 21 percent by 2035. Coal will remain the “dominant energy source for electricity generation,” although more natural-gas fired plants will be built because of higher supplies of the cleaner-burning fuel, according to the outlook.

The agency forecasts construction of five nuclear plants by 2035, contributing to a 10 percent increase in electricity generated from atomic power. The share of electricity from renewable sources such as hydroelectric dams and solar panels will rise to 14 percent in 2035 from 11 percent last year, according to the outlook.

Read the entire article here.

Positives as well as Overlooked Negatives of Shale Gas

without comments

The article below is absolutely correct in explaining that energy endeavors that produce jobs and other forms of prosperity for Americans ought to be pursued. Our society needs energy to flourish just as people need work that is safe and pays decent wages.

My concern is that some shale gas operations may come with such risk, given today’s technology, that their potential costs outweigh their benefits. These costs are realized in terms of aspects such as lost work and health care, as well as un-monetized costs in potential ecological damage.

Tough choices. It’s a fascinating time to be alive. I’d happy to go in to more specifics on how we make these choices if anyone is still reading and sufficiently interested to ask.

Marcellus Shale Gas Boom: Energy, Cash and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

August 29, 2010

By Mondoreb

Energy boom in SW Pennsylvania, Northern WV

There’s a lot of drilling for natural gas going on in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia: the rush to tap the huge natural gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale fields. The drilling and building of pipelines has meant an oasis of prosperity during a time of dreary economic news nationwide.

[Click images to enlarge; click again to super-size them]


JOBS, CONSTRUCTION & ENERGY IN THEM THAR HILLS

While most of the nation has been suffering through high unemployment, defaults, foreclosures and other Recovery Summer worries, one section of the country has quietly been prospering.

The southwestern Pennsylvania-norther West Virginia area has seen a boomlet of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale field. Construction, jobs, drilling and trucks hauling equipment have been common sights along the roads of this mostly rural area during the last 18 months.

Marcellus Shale Jobs. What Kinds Are There and Where?

The Marcellus shale will turn out to be the largest job creator in Appalachia and other parts of the Northeast United States in recent history.

This massive domestic reserve of natural gas, which some experts believe holds up to 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, will provide good paying jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers.

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.

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.

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.