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August 4, 2011 Energy in Depth

NATIONAL/EID

A Tainted Water Well, and Concern There May Be More. New York Times. For decades, oil and gas industry executives as well as regulators have maintained that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used for most natural gas wells has never contaminated underground drinking water. The claim is based in part on a simple fact: fracking, in which water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the ground to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there, occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers. Because of that distance, the drilling chemicals pose no risk, industry officials have argued. NOTE: EWG release HERE. The Post-Gazette and Charleston Gazette report. API blogs under the headline “What We Know.”

 

 

24-year-old EPA fracking report surfaces. Politico. “I think it says an awful lot about fracturing’s record of safety that the best these guys could come up with after studying the issue for an entire year is a single, disputed case from 30 years ago that state regulators at the time believe had nothing to do with fracturing,” said a statement from Lee Fuller, executive director of the industry group Energy in Depth. Fuller added: “Despite the Times’ best efforts, this story does not prove that hydraulic fracturing had anything to do with the contamination of a water well 30 years ago.”


EPA petition heralds escalation of gas 'fracking' battle. The Hill. Lee Fuller, president of the oil-and-gas industry group Energy in Depth, slammed the EWG report and the Times account. “We’re talking about a technology that’s been deployed more than 1.2 million times in more than 25 states over the course of more than 60 years. I think it says an awful lot about fracturing’s record of safety that the best these guys could come up with after studying the issue for an entire year is a single, disputed case from 30 years ago that state regulators at the time believe had nothing to do with fracturing,” he said in a statement.


The Utica shale: the next US oil surprise? Reuters, Op-Ed. One of the big surprises in recent years for the oil market has been the reversion of the steady decline in U.S. crude output and the emergence of its shale sector as a nontrivial source of global supply growth. New unconventional shale oil plays, such as the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, have transformed within a few short years from highly speculative exploration projects to potentially major oil producers.

Analysis: Cash-rich shale drillers boost output, cap prices. Reuters. Until recently, the nascent U.S. shale gas industry faced a major constraint on its growth, one that was bigger than environmental risk, more vexing than technology, and more challenging than the scrum for new acreage: capital. After some $40 billion of foreign investment in the sector in the last two years, including BHP Billiton's record $15.1 billion plunge last month, that limitation is no longer a factor, analysts say.

Natural Gas Flip-Flop: Big environmental groups were for fracking before they were against it. Reason Magazine, Ronald Bailey. The world’s projected natural gas supplies jumped 40 percent last year. Until a decade ago, experts believed it would be technically infeasible to exploit the natural gas locked in 48 shale basins in 32 countries around the world. Then horizontal drilling, combined with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, was introduced. The shale gas rush was on, and last year EIA dramatically raised its estimate of available natural gas. NOTE: Steven Hayward posts on AEI’s blog: Energy Fact of the Week: A Profile of Electricity from Natural Gas.

Hydraulic fracturing: protecting against legal and regulatory risk. Oil & Gas Journal, Op-Ed. Newspaper articles and television reports make hydraulic fracturing appear to be a new technology that pollutes drinking water, causes flames to leap from kitchen faucets, and constitutes the next great threat to freedom and democracy. The truth differs from the media reports. … For the US, heavy-handed regulation or outright prohibition of the technique would foreclose development of an energy supply that grows as the industry gains experience with unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs such as shales, coalbeds, and tight sands.

Study: U.S. Natural Gas Boom Has Weakened Foreign Influence on Energy Markets. Pelican Institute for Public Policy. The American natural gas boom will cause the U.S. to dethrone Russia as the world’s leading supplier of natural gas, and will continue to bring jobs to Louisiana, according to a new study. The Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University study, titled “Shale Gas and U.S. National Security,” claims that Russia’s share of western Europe’s gas market will fall from 27 percent in 2009 to 13 percent by 2040 as a result of rising U.S. shale-gas production, specifically from increased activity at the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana and the Mercellus Shale in Pennsylvania, creating an opportunity for the U.S. to increase exports of natural gas to European and Asian markets.

US electric utilities still wary of embracing natural gas: Xcel official. Platts. The US electric utility sector remains cautious about committing to natural gas-fired generation because of the fuel's volatile price history and sees concerns over the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing as a potential regulatory risk, Xcel Energy's top fuel buyer told a gas industry meeting in Denver. … She added that concerns about hydraulic fracturing are adding an element of regulatory risk for utility buyers to consider. "Questions are getting asked and they are coming from the headlines" in The New York Times and because of the movie "Gasland," Arigoni said. "We're relying on you to solve the problem."

INTERNATIONAL

Fracking is Not New to Underground Exploration. Times and Transcript (Can.), LTE. Controversies of such emotional nature always stir some reflection on my part. Not being an engineering expert, I did research as best I could to try and square the facts with the rising rhetoric. What I discovered astounded me. First, I was quite surprised to discover that fracking is by no means a new development. It's been around for some 60 years, without one documented case of environmental damage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A Gazprom Renaissance. Moscow Times, Op-Ed. Six months ago, things were looking pretty bad for Gazprom. Gas prices were in the doldrums. European utilities wanted to move toward fangled spot market contracts and away from oil-indexed links. U.S. shale gas was placing downward pressures on liquefied natural gas, while Europe entertained developing its own unconventional reserves.

CALIFORNIA

County to explore possible ban on 'fracking'. Santa Maria Times. In an attempt to regulate hydraulic fracturing, “or fracking,” as much as possible at the local level, Santa Barbara County is studying the possibility of a local moratorium on the common but controversial oil-recovery process. The decision came after the county Board of Supervisors heard from at least 16 people at Tuesday’s meeting — a number of them advocating for the safety of the process, but many expressing concerns.

COLORADO


Anadarko honored for environmental and water protection in annual COGCC awards. Greeley Tribune. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. earned awards for environmental and water quality protection in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s outstanding operator awards. The 15th annual selections were announced today at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. … Anadarko Petroleum Corp. — developed a mechanical integrity and leak prevention program. Increased the reuse and recycling of hydraulic fracturing fluids that are saving water, energy and truck traffic.

Public disclosure of fracking fluids. Denver Post, Editorial. Gov. John Hickenlooper intends to defuse one of the most high-profile and longstanding controversies regarding the use of hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling — namely, what the heck is going into the ground? Good for the governor, although the precise form of the new rules won't be clear for a few months. They'll be written by the COGCC after consultation with a wide range of interests. We hope that when the rules are finally released, they require the public posting of all chemicals — no exceptions — injected into each new well. … The truth is that the identity of the chemicals is no great mystery, given the "material safety data sheets" posted at each well and the lists compiled by regulators and at such websites as FracFocus.

LOUISIANA

DeSoto schools get early start. Shreveport Times. DeSoto is the only school system in the state to have TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement in each school. The goal of the accountability program is to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement. The district's implementation of the program has earned national recognition. … Price tag: an estimated $20 million. All paid in cash because of increased sales and property taxes related to the Haynesville Shale exploration and development.

NORTH DAKOTA

Report: Bakken boom highlights U.S. potential of oil shales. Fuel Fix/Houston Chronicle. Oil production in North Dakota, which accounts for about 75 percent of Bakken output, has more than doubled since 2008 and now hovers around 350,000 barrels per day. The increase has made North Dakota the nation’s fourth-largest oil-producing state, representing about 6 percent of U.S. oil output, the report by the non-profit Energy Policy Research Foundation said. With investment and drilling rising, Bakken production could surpass 700,000 barrels per day within a few years and top 10 percent of domestic crude output, the report said.

Bakken buoys North Dakota. Upstream Online. The industry activity surrounding the formation has contributed to the state unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation at 3.2 percent, according to the document from the Washington, DC based Energy Policy Research Foundation.  North Dakota also brought in more than $750 million in oil and gas extraction taxes in 2010, and associated companies made $1.49 billion in taxable purchases.

NORTHEAST


Onorato questions drilling referendum's legality. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said Wednesday he has "serious concerns" about the legality of Pittsburgh City Council's proposed ballot referendum banning natural gas drilling within city limits. Council on Monday approved legislation that would ask voters to decide in November whether to add the ban to the city's Home Rule Charter. Council banned Marcellus shale gas drilling within city limits in November. Councilman Doug Shields proposed the bill, saying a charter amendment would make the ban harder to overturn. NOTE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reports.

Feds seek to dismiss NY fracking lawsuit. Gannett. The U.S. government will ask a federal judge to throw out state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's attempt to force a study of natural gas drilling's impact in the Delaware River basin, according to a letter filed in court this week. In the letter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Levy cites "well-settled principles of sovereign immunity" in making the government's case to have the suit dismissed. The federal government is protected under sovereign immunity, which means it cannot be sued unless it consents in most situations.

Pros and cons weighed on natural gas drilling in western Maryland. ABC News 2. A state panel charged with studying the pros and cons of natural gas drilling in western Maryland is beginning its work. The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission is set to hold its first meeting Thursday at Rocky Gap State Park. Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed the panel last month to study short- and long-term effects of using hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale. The rock formation underlies parts of the Appalachian Mountains from New York to West Virginia.

New Martinsville (WV) Likely to Overturn Natural Gas Drilling Ban. Wheeling News-Register. Natural gas drilling activity may not be considered a public nuisance in New Martinsville for much longer because City Council is holding a special meeting to overturn its recently passed ordinance. The special session - set for 3 p.m. Friday in the council conference room of the City Building, 191 Main St. - comes after council took public comments about the law members passed in July that declares drilling and its associated activities a public nuisance. "I really took exception to having our industry called a nuisance," Michael McCown, president of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia, said.

Throop meeting focused on shale waste concerns. Scranton Times-Tribune. Borough officials and the public packed the Throop Civic Center on Wednesday night to discuss concerns about Keystone Sanitary Landfill accepting Marcellus Shale drilling waste - and to begin laying the groundwork for community action against it. "We have a journey to begin," said council President Thomas Lukasewicz, who is spearheading the opposition movement. "We need to be unified. ... We can not lose this battle."

Dryden confirms ban on hydraulic fracturing. Ithaca Journal. Applause erupted from most of the 50 or so residents in attendance when the town board unanimously voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in Dryden. "I'm overjoyed (by the decision)," said resident Hilary Lambert, a member of the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition, the group that gathered 1,700 residents' signatures asking the board to ban hydraulic fracturing in town. "I'm hoping that the example set by the Town of Dryden will be paid attention to by other towns state-wide."

Clash at billboard unveiling. Citizens Voice. A public gathering near a billboard that depicts a pitcher of contaminated water became contentious Wednesday as pro- and anti-Marcellus Shale gas groups clashed. Craig and Julie Sautner, of Carter Road in Dimock Township, have received threats since the sign was erected earlier this week, Sautner said. The pitcher of water depicted on the sign was drawn from the Sautners's well.

New 'fracking' methods much more impactful than traditional drilling. Athens News, LTE. This is in response to Greg Springer's letter to the editor of July 28. First, a question: are you in any way associated with the gas and oil industry, Mr Springer? Your letter has the ring of "vested interest" to it. Do you, a geologist, really not see much difference between old-fashioned vertical gas wells and modern horizontal "frack" wells? We have an old gas well here on our farm in Bern Township.

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