Dec 11 2011

Frack You Very Much!

middle_finger_flameA Profile in Fracking: How One Tiny Hamlet Could Be Devastated by Gas

By Molly Oswaks, The Atlantic

Dec 7 2011, 10:02 AM ET

Hancock is home to four bait-and-tackle shops, three beauty salons, six churches, ever more vacant and dilapidated-looking homes, one video rental thrift store hyphenate, and one funeral parlor. The stateliest establishment in this otherwise decidedly unstately community is the Hancock House Hotel; here you will find Honest Eddie’s Tap Room, a dimly lighted wood-paneled bar named for the major league baseball player John Edward “Honest Eddie” Murphy, who was born in Hancock in 1891. The food menu at Honest Eddie’s includes items like “They’re Smothered!” (thick-cut fries blanketed in a melty cheese sauce) and “The Deep-fried Pickle” (which is exactly what it sounds like). There is also an off-menu rice pudding, which they serve in a tall bevelled glass sundae cup and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream. The pudding has no spice.

Here, some 9,000 feet below traversable ground, lies a particularly profitable piece of the Marcellus Shale, a 400-million year old formation of marine sedimentary rock rich with reserves of untapped natural gas. Shale gas reserves are extracted by means of a multi-step process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Chemical fracking fluid is pumped into a targeted borehole drilled deep into the ground; sand is then introduced into the fluid to maintain the integrity of the fracture. The pressure and depth at which this is executed produces a subterranean climate porous and permeable enough for shale gas to be recovered profitably: this is a “frack job.”

For a cash-strapped community like Hancock, fracking would seem a high-yield stimulus plan millennia in the making: there is, of course, the economic appeal of home-sourced natural gas, but there are also land royalties to be reaped by residents and money to be made from all the supplies and sandwiches sold in town to the fracking crew itself. Not to mention jobs.

It’s difficult to predict whether Hancock’s soil and water will, in fact, be poisoned once the drilling begins. Various assessments of the environmental impact of fracking have been conducted, at both state and national levels. The second-hand damage is much easier to forecast.

The roads and highways that run through town will experience a significant surge in traffic, with large trucks and heavy machinery traveling to and from the drill sites, and all the accompanying noise pollution. The bucolic natural landscape, which has long drawn lucrative hunting and camping tourism at peak season, will be cut up and and cordoned off for pipes and drills and gas collection.

It’s a paradox: The town needs money to survive, but the money being offered comes at the expense of the town itself. It would seem, then, however ironic, that capitalism is killing the company town.

Actually, it’s not at all difficult to predict that “Hancock’s soil and water will, in fact, be poisoned once the drilling begins.”

EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water in Wyoming

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Friday December 9, 2011 6:23 am

Independent reports have previously shown contaminants in water due to fracking, but this is the first time the EPA has come out and said so. And while they cite Pavillion as a special case, it calls into question the surge in fracking across the country. From the Marcellus Shale to the Rocky Mountains, thousands of natural gas drilling sites have sprung up, and questions about air and water quality have persisted. Multiple examples of residents lighting the water out of their faucets on fire, and incidents of sickness in areas around the natural gas wells (many of which are in the backyards of people paid handsomely by the fracking companies for the privilege), abound.

The samples in Wyoming came from two deep water monitoring wells, as well as private and public wells in the area. EPA found synthetic chemicals consistent with fracking fluids, as well as high levels of benzene and methane. They said that the chemicals could move through the aquifer over time and only worsen the water quality. The chemicals in the private and public water wells showed evidence of migration from drilling sites.

Independent reports?  Oh my, yes.  Tons of them.

Chemicals Were Injected Into Wells, Report Says

By IAN URBINA, The New York Times

Published: April 16, 2011

WASHINGTON – Oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009, according to an investigation by Congressional Democrats.

Companies injected large amounts of other hazardous chemicals, including 11.4 million gallons of fluids containing at least one of the toxic or carcinogenic B.T.E.X. chemicals – benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. The companies used the highest volume of fluids containing one or more carcinogens in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

The report comes two and a half months after an initial report by the same three lawmakers that found that 32.2 millions of gallons of fluids containing diesel, considered an especially hazardous pollutant because it contains benzene, were injected into the ground during hydrofracking by a dozen companies from 2005 to 2009, in possible violation of the drinking water act.

A 2010 report by Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, found that benzene levels in other hydrofracking ingredients were as much as 93 times higher than those found in diesel.

The use of these chemicals has been a source of concern to regulators and environmentalists who worry that some of them could find their way out of a well bore – because of above-ground spills, underground failures of well casing or migration through layers of rock – and into nearby sources of drinking water.

These contaminants also remain in the fluid that returns to the surface after a well is hydrofracked. A recent investigation by The New York Times found high levels of contaminants, including benzene and radioactive materials, in wastewater that is being sent to treatment plants not designed to fully treat the waste before it is discharged into rivers. At one plant in Pennsylvania, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency revealed levels of benzene roughly 28 times the federal drinking water standard in wastewater as it was discharged, after treatment, into the Allegheny River in May 2008.

If you’re looking for Oil Company compassion, look somewhere else.

Driller to stop water to families in Dimock, Pa.

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press

Nov 30, 2011

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Families in a northeastern Pennsylvania village with tainted water wells will have to procure their own water for the first time in nearly three years as a natural-gas driller blamed for polluting the aquifer moves ahead with its plan to stop paying for daily deliveries.

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. ended delivery of bulk and bottled water to 11 families in Dimock on Wednesday. Cabot asserts Dimock’s water is safe to drink and won permission from state environmental regulators last month to stop paying for water for the residents.

(h/t dday)

And, you know, it’s a proven, predictable, fact that it also causes earthquakes.

Method predicts size of fracking earthquakes

Scientists develop way to forecast worst-case tremor scenario.

Zoƫ Corbyn, Nature

09 December 2011

Small earthquakes are a recognized risk of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, a procedure in which companies unlock energy reserves by pumping millions of litres of water underground to fracture shale rock and release the natural gas trapped inside. Researchers now say that they can calculate the highest magnitude earthquake that such an operation could induce – though it won’t determine the likelihood of a quake occurring.

McGarr and his team studied seven cases of quakes induced by fluid injection. They included the Oklahoma fracking site where 8,900 cubic metres were injected; a scientific bore hole in Germany, where an injection of 200 cubic metres of salt water caused a magnitude 1.4 earthquake; a geothermal-energy project on the outskirts of Basel, Switzerland, that was terminated after an injection of 11,600 cubic metres of water triggered a series of quakes of magnitude up to 3.4; another in Cooper Basin, Australia, where a 20,000-cubic-metre injection resulted in a magnitude 3.7 quake; and a liquid-waste-disposal project in Colorado in the 1960s, where an injection of 631,000 cubic metres triggered earthquakes of magnitude up to 5, the largest yet seen as a result of fluid injection.

The researchers found a proportional relationship between the volume of fluid injected and the magnitude of the earthquake.

“If you inject about 10,000 cubic metres, then the maximum sized earthquake would be about a magnitude 3.3,” says McGarr. Every time the volume of water doubles, the maximum magnitude of any quake rises by roughly 0.4. “The earthquakes may end up being much smaller, but you want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” says McGarr. The relationship is straightforward, but it is the first time that anyone has quantified it, he adds.

Shale Pioneers Plan Next English Wells After Fracking Causes Earthquake

By Kari Lundgren, Bloomberg News

Dec 2, 2011 9:17 AM ET

The sound that woke Caroline Murphy after midnight on April 1 was so loud she thought a car had crashed into her house. She doesn’t feel any better knowing it was the U.K.’s first recorded earthquake caused by natural-gas exploration.

Murphy’s home is within three miles of a drill site belonging to Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., an explorer that says it’s found more natural gas trapped in the local shale rock than Iraq has in its entire reserves. The magnitude 2.3 tremor that shook Murphy, and a second weaker quake on May 27, forced Cuadrilla to suspend hydraulic fracturing, the process of blasting sand, water and chemicals into shale that’s made the U.S. the world’s largest natural-gas producer.

“They say they’ve been fracking for years and years and it hasn’t caused any problems,” Murphy, an artist and designer, said in an interview. “I say: ‘You caused an earthquake. To me, that’s a big issue.'”

And for what?  For money of course-

Supporters of shale gas say the U.K. can’t afford to overlook the potential. The North Sea fields discovered in the 1970s that made the U.K. self-sufficient are running dry and the country will import more than half its gas supplies this year. The prospect of plentiful, cheap gas — prices have fallen about 75 percent since shale drilling took off in the U.S. — could help the economy, said Tim Yeo, who chairs parliament’s energy and climate change committee.

“It is likely the U.K. has quite substantial shale gas reserves and there may be sufficient resources to replace a significant amount of reserves,” Yeo, a member of the governing Conservative Party, said in a telephone interview. “Shale is good from a security point of view. It gives us some degree of protection from international gas prices.”

Cuadrilla, backed by Riverstone Holdings LLC, a private equity investor that includes former BP Plc Chief Executive Officer John Browne among its directors, wants to start fracking again. The company said its first wells showed the shale rock it’s exploring may hold 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. While only a fraction will ever get drilled, 10 percent of that amount is enough to supply the U.K. for about six years.

Protection from international gas prices?  Folks, there’s a glut of natural gas and the prices are falling through the floor.

Fracking for Gas in a Field of Cabbages

By Kari Lundgren, Bloomberg News

Dec 6, 2011 10:18 AM ET

Earthquakes aside, shale may struggle to get a foothold in Europe, according to Deutsche Bank AG analysts. It’s more expensive to drill in Europe, where a well may cost between $6.5 million and $14 million, compared with $4 million for a Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania. Then there’s the issue of mineral rights. In the U.K., the government owns the nation’s oil and gas resources, so there are few prospects to entice landowners to become “shale-ionaires.”

If Cuadrilla’s shale-gas dream doesn’t pan out, the site will go back to being a world-class cabbage field.

It won’t be the first natural gas well in the neighborhood that’s been left to fade away. There’s one that belonged to BG Group just a few miles down the road.

EPA: ‘Fracking’ likely polluted town’s water



Development of the new shale deposits over the last few years has provided the United States with a century’s worth of natural gas supply.

At the last hearing last month, protesters gathered in downtown Manhattan to express concern about the safety of water supplies, holding signs saying “Governor Cuomo, don’t frack it up” and “Don’t frack with New York.”

“We have to be literally insane to contemplate fracking,” state Sen. Tony Avella told reporters outside the hearings. “Wake up Governor Cuomo, this is not going to provide jobs or revenue, but what it will do is poison the water supply for 17 million New Yorkers.”

In fact it’s so fracking cheap that Oil Companies are desperately seeking export markets.

Shale gas opens door to U.S. LNG exports

Energy companies step up effort to ship surplus gas overseas

By Steve Gelsi, MarketWatch

Dec. 5, 2011, 6:52 p.m. EST

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — A decade ago, a global glut of clean, cheap natural gas bred big plans to import liquefied natural gas to the energy-hungry United States.

That’s all changed.

Nowadays, energy companies are tapping into previously untouched North American gas reserves, prompting them to take a hard look at ways to sell their new-found gas to the rest of the world.

This sudden shift from gas importer to possible exporter is the result of innovative drilling technology that frees gas trapped in vast shale rock formations that until recently had been dismissed as non-commercial.

For the U.S. to become a serious natural gas exporter requires building a costly infrastructure, which will only happen if the right market conditions exist in coming years. Read about the booming U.S. shale gas sector.

Nevertheless, several companies already have plans to build liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export terminals while others are well into the evaluation process, raising the prospects of a billion-dollar construction boom for these highly specialized facilities.

This is quickly boosting output at home. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s short-term energy outlook sees a 6.1% increase in domestic natural gas production in 2011, rising another 2% in 2012. All of the gains are from onshore drilling operations in the lower 48 states.

“The projected U.S. demand is not sufficient to absorb the supply from these fields,” Gordon said in an interview.

That leaves producers two obvious outlets to absorb future production: transportation fuel and LNG exports, he said.

And the US and the UK are not the only games in town, it’s a world-wide glut.

The Southern Gas Corridor Gets a Kick-Start

Author: Robert M. Cutler, EconoMonitor

December 8th, 2011

Azerbaijan and Turkey have announced plans to construct a pipeline from the South Caucasus across Turkey to carry natural gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore Shah Deniz Two deposit to Southeastern Europe. At first glance, this would seem to leave Nabucco and two other candidate pipeline projects that have already submitted bids, out in the cold. However, what is involved is the creation of a format for bargaining where Azerbaijan can assert its strategic interests more convincingly against the pipeline consortia, which by their project-oriented nature have not been inclined to take a broader view.

The announcement of the SEEP and TAGP projects thus signifies Azerbaijan’s growing autonomy in the setting of its natural gas export policy. The outcome of the current process will point the way towards methods for the disposition of future quantities of natural gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore. Two wholly undeveloped deposits, Absheron and Umid, have been undergoing exploration and are credibly estimated to contain 350 bcm of natural gas each. Azerbaijan expects to produce just over 25 bcm of natural gas this year from existing deposits and looks for that figure to increase to 50 bcm/y by 2025.

Why all the hurry to drill into shale? It’s not going anywhere

This is an open letter to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Dr. Cate Matisi

Wednesday, December 7,2011

I live in southeastern Ohio and have been watching with alarm as fracking has been marching toward my home over the past several years. I have major concerns about how quickly people have convinced themselves that this will be a viable solution for both the financial difficulties we are facing in Ohio and the energy shortages we face as a nation, while ignoring potentially devastating environmental consequences. The industry touts the patriotic theme of U.S. energy independence, even though a number of these oil and gas companies have partnerships with Korean, Chinese, British and Norwegian companies that certainly don’t have our energy or economic interests forefront in their minds.

The oil and gas industry is calling natural gas a cleaner energy alternative on the face, without including the climate cost of diesel fuel-powered equipment transporting, setting up and developing the site, the amount of methane, a much dirtier pollutant that is accidentally leaked during well construction, production and transport, during processing and storage of this natural gas and that’s often intentionally “flared off.” If there were no environmental issues negatively impacted by horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, why doesn’t the industry insist on following the provisions of the Clean Air, the Clean Water Act and the Superfund mandate.

The oil and gas industry has also used employment statistics in an industry-sponsored study in Pennsylvania that gives industry employment figures almost 10 times higher than the Pennsylvania state employment bureau has noted.

There are alternative, sustainable sources of energy that could see incredible growth in development if they were to receive the tax exemptions and grants that the oil and gas industry now receives.

I am not a fringe environmentalist. I am a responsible Ohio landowner who realizes that the fresh air we breathe, the water we need for ourselves, our children and our land are not limitless, and should not be jeopardized by this practice, which has not been in use for the past 60 years, but in reality, less than eight years. The natural gas has been in the Marcellus/Utica shale formations for 4 billion years. Waiting until regulations can be developed to ensure the safest, most environmentally practical policies to handle and manage natural gas production makes the most sense all the way around.

That’s a very good question.  Could it be because Wall Street speculators and banksters are demanding double digit growth even though the Main Street economy is in a severe Depression?

New York fracking proposal roundly condemned at public hearing

Karen McVeigh, The Guardian

Wednesday 30 November 2011 19.25 EST

At the first of two public hearings in New York City over the plan to end the ban on fracking, the state authorities were left in little doubt about the scale of the opposition. Speakers at the packed and often unruly meeting in the 900-seat Tribeca performing arts centre were overwhelmingly against the technique, which involves blasting chemical-laden water and sand into shale rock to release gas.

Many of the speakers condemned the hearings themselves as a sham, because they said they were set up to allow public comment about draft regulations, before any environmental assessment had been carried out.

Addressing a crowd of residents, activists and others outside the hearing, Senator Tony Avella, the Democrat author of a bill which would prohibit fracking in New York state, said: “I urge the Department of Conservation and the governor to pause in their deliberations and take full measure of the risks versus the ‘gold rush industry’ and make the right decision for this state for generations to come.”

He added: “The risk of catastrophic danger to the environment, the health of New York residents and adverse economic impacts that result from hydraulic fracturing far outweigh the potential for job creation and promotion of a natural gas alternative for oil.”

Mark Ruffalo, the actor, said: “The more we learn about fracking the more we see that natural gas is not a clean transition fuel, but a bridge to nowhere. The future of New York state depends on the action and resolve of the citizens of today – to reject this dangerous process and build a sustainable future for our children.”

Opponents of the drilling method criticised the Cuomo administration for exaggerating the economic benefits. They questioned the number of jobs that would be created, and said the administration had failed to consider the negative impacts on agriculture, tourism and other industries.

I couldn’t put it better myself-

There are alternative, sustainable sources of energy that could see incredible growth in development if they were to receive the tax exemptions and grants that the oil and gas industry now receives.

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