Archive for the 'natural gas drilling' Category

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Fracking’s Methane Trail: A Detective Story

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“Petron saw high levels of methane in readings from a NOAA observation tower north of Denver. And through painstaking, on-the-ground detective work, she tied that pollution to the sprawling oil and gas fields in northeastern Colorado.

The story she stumbled into suggests that government may be far underestimating air pollution from natural gas production. Her measurements, which were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking at at least twice the rate reported by the industry.

Coal Vs. Natural Gas: Which Is Cleaner?

Her paper was the latest volley in an intense estimate war under way in the scientific community about whether natural gas really is cleaner than the coal it’s already starting to replace on the electric grid.

A lot of research shows power plants pump out fewer greenhouse gases when they run on gas instead of coal. But no one really knows how much natural gas leaks out when companies are drilling for gas and getting it to power plants. Natural gas is primarily methane.”

Read more: NPR


Energy industry works to recycle hydro-fracking waste water

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“Energy executives fear that without addressing environmental concerns, fracking could be headed for a rapid demise. “France and Belgium have permanently banned it,” says Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil & Gas, an independent exploration and production company located in Irving, Texas. “And it has everything to do with water.”

Two major water issues concern critics. “One is the chemicals that go down the well and the fear that they will contaminate ground water,” said Faulkner. “The other is the water that comes back up.” To address the first, companies like Breitling are trying to come up with new formulations of fracking chemicals that won’t pose the risk of harming the environment. Companies that treat water from fracking operations to make it reusable are now seeing their own boom, as energy producers try to reduce the costs and environmental impact of existing ways of handling water generated from fracking.

Recycling water from fracked wells makes sense on several levels, according to Warren Sumner, CEO of Omni Water Solutions, an Austin, Texas, company that has developed a system to recycle the water.” “Today the practice of disposing of water typically involves trucking it to a disposal well,” Sumner said. “There’s a lot of cost and collateral damage from that trucking process.”

Read more: American Recycler


ALEC and ExxonMobil Push Loopholes in Fracking Chemical Disclosure Rules


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“One of the key controversies about fracking is the chemical makeup of the fluid that is pumped deep into the ground to break apart rock and release natural gas. Some companies have been reluctant to disclose what’s in their fracking fluid. Scientists and environmental advocates argue that, without knowing its precise composition, they can’t thoroughly investigate complaints of contamination.

Disclosure requirements vary considerably from state to state, asProPublica recently charted. In many cases, the rules have been limited by a “trade secrets” provision under which companies can claim that a proprietary chemical doesn’t have to be disclosed to regulators or the public.”

Read more: AlterNet


Shocking Conflict of Interest: Private Water Companies Partner With Fracking Lobby


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“The water companies – American Water and Aqua America — are leading drinking water suppliers in Pennsylvania, where drilling is booming. They also sell water to gas companies — which use a drilling technique that requires massive amounts of water — and have expressed interest in treating drilling wastewater, a potentially lucrative opportunity.

These investor-owned, publicly traded water utility companies are also dues-paying “associate members” of the gas industry’s powerful Marcellus Shale Coalition, a fact confirmed by coalition spokesman Travis Windle, who says associate members pay $15,000 annually in dues. “Our associate members are really the backbone of the industry,” adds Windle.

Both water companies serve millions of people across the country — Aqua America operates in 11 states and American Water in more than 30.”

Read more: Alternet


Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?


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“But the second one is a little more complicated. Though fracking does cause tiny tremors, the USGS scientists found no links between the process of fracking itself and the larger earthquakes that have been occurring more frequently. They did, however, notice that earthquakes have clustered around wastewater wells in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and neighboring states. Disposing of wastewater by pumping it deep into the ground is standard practice in many industries, including mining, chemical manufacturing, and oil and gas extraction, and the oil and gas industry alone operates tens of thousands of wastewater disposal wells. But the recent surge of fracking activity, which uses millions of gallons of water to crack rock deep in the ground and release natural gas, has boosted the volume of wastewater being injected into the ground.

Stresses are everywhere in the earth’s crust, Ellsworth explains, and drilling activity can affect them. Many wastewater wells actually go deeper than gas drilling wells, reaching an older layer of rock known as basement rock, where stresses and faults are more common. The high pressure used to pump water into waste wells can cause those faults to shift, and the water itself can lubricate already-stressed faults, easing their movement and making an earthquake-causing slip more likely.”

Read more: Mother Jones


Oil and Gas Boom in Indian Country! Tribal Leaders and EPA Meet in Denver

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“Protecting the Environment

With so much money pouring onto tribal lands, “it’s like trying to stop a freight train,” Stockbridge said, and “the environment may be steamrolled” without early planning. At Fort Berthold, they can’t get enough rigs in to drill rapidly enough, and the operations require “a phenomenal amount of water,” he said.

Environmental concerns will have to “get ahead of the game” because of the “astronomical” amounts of money involved, he said.

Gerald Wagner, Blackfeet Nation environmental service director and vice-chairperson of the ROC, said his tribe is looking for the “environmental protection component” although the tribe does have protection ordinance. Nevertheless, the tribe is looking for the “best protection of our resource” and said he is concerned about effects to the aquifer, which may be only 10 feet from drilling activity.”

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Unregulated Fracking for Decades? Why California May Be a Disaster Waiting to Happen

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“The situation became less clear after a recent investigative report from DC-based nonprofit Environmental Working Group explained that California has experienced 60 unregulated years of widespread fracking, whose technical methods and geographical locations in the seismically active state exist outside of the public purview. It got darker after Governor Jerry Brown’s administration wiped the state government’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) Web site of fracking fact-sheets and documents. Good luck finding anything about fracking on the governor’s official site either.”

“Since our report came out, the Brown administration hasn’t been happy with it,” Bill Allayaud, EWG‘s California director of government affairs, told AlterNet by phone. “They said we quoted their meetings but left out important quotes. But I don’t know what we left out, or how we could shine a better light on the situation. We’ve been trying to work with them now for over a year.”

Read more: AlterNet

The Costs of Fracking

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“As regulators weigh the benefits of drilling 40,000 gas wells across New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s scant analysis of fracking’s potential costs overstates job benefits and omits state Transportation Department estimates of road maintenance costs exceeding $375 million.

Numerous studies show that drill-friendly communities underperform their neighbors in income, employment, education and investment. The D.E.C. now admits that its review was inadequate. Worse, the department completely ignores fracking’s health effects despite compelling evidence from Texas of asthma levels three times higher in areas affected by fracking.

Pennsylvanians are sick from arsenic, benzene and toluene from nearby fracking wells. Two hundred fifty medical professionals petitioned New York State last year for a health assessment and received no response. The director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christopher Portier, recently urged, ““More research is needed for us to understand public health impacts from natural gas drilling and new gas drilling technologies.”

Read more: The New York Times


For Pennsylvania’s Doctors, a Gag Order on Fracking Chemicals

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“Pennsylvania is at the forefront in the debate over “fracking,” the process by which a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, sand, and water are blasted into rock to tap into the gas. Recent discoveries of great reserves in the Marcellus Shale region of the state prompted a rush to development, as have advancements in fracking technologies. But with those changes have come a number of concerns from citizens about potential environmental and health impacts from natural gas drilling.

There is good reason to be curious about exactly what’s in those fluids. A 2010 congressional investigation revealed that Halliburton and other fracking companies had used 32 million gallons of diesel products, which include toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, in the fluids they inject into the ground. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger acute effects like headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, while higher levels of exposure can cause cancer.”

Read more: Mother Jones

Fracking Could Cause a New Global Water Crisis

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“Numerous communities where fracking has occurred in the U.S. have had their public water resources contaminated as a result of fracking. One community the report highlights is Dimock, Pennsylvania:

In 2009, Pennsylvania regulators ordered the Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease all fracking in Susquehanna County after three spills at one well within a week polluted a wetland and caused a fishkill in a local creek. The spills leaked 8,420 gallons of fracking fluid containing a Halliburton-manufactured lubricant that is a potential carcinogen. Fracking had so polluted water wells that some families could no longer drink from their taps. Pennsylvania fined Cabot more than $240,000, but it cost more than $10 million to transport safe water to the affected homeowners. In December 2010, Cabot paid $4.1 million to 19 families that contended that Cabot’s fracking had contaminated their groundwater with methane. In 2012, the U.S. EPA began providing clean drinking water to these families after Cabot had been released of its obligation to do so by the state of Pennsylvania.”

Read more: Common Dreams