Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fracking, Oil & Gas News from rjs, August 3, 2014

>>>> not a whole lot of news this week; probably the major story was that the British government is offering up half the country, including parklands and preserves, to the highest bidders among the fracking gas & oil companies...after the administration opened up the Atlantic seaboard to the oil companies last week, it seems like the Brits are engaging the US to see which country can be the first to be drained of its fossil fuels...

>>>> also this week , the Government Accountability Office released a report highly critical of the EPA for not protecting the nation's drinking water from the risks entailed in injecting 2 billion gallons of toxic fracking wastewater underground each and every day...there are several articles below detailing their findings...

>>>> the Plain Dealer seems to be stepping up it's coverage of local fracking issues; these two articles here crossed my news feed early this week; there may have been others..

Gates Mills residents circulate petition to ban more oil and gas wells - The Plain Dealer — Gates Mills residents could decide in November whether they want to ban oil and gas companies from drilling more wells in the village. But it's unclear whether the law could refute the state, which has the ultimate authority to regulate drilling. The Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills, which formed when Mayor Shawn Riley introduced plans earlier this year to form a land trust to deal with large-scale fracking sites, has been petitioning to have a bill of rights placed on the ballot. Villagers worry the process poses environmental and health risks, could decrease property values and expose property owners to legal liabilities. Gates Mills borders the Utica Shale region, where gas production has grown rapidly in recent years and boosted the economy in southeast Ohio. The village is already home to more than 40 vertical wells, and Riley expects large-scale horizontal drilling to happen in the village within the next 10 years. The state has exclusive rights to regulate oil and gas drilling, so Riley believes local legislation — like a bill of rights — would have little to no effect. With mandatory pooling, a drilling company can force property owners to contribute land toward a well if it cannot secure enough land from willing property owners.

The fracking debate: How communities are trying to control drilling - The Plain Dealer  — Gates Mills residents are joining what's become a nationwide movement and petitioning to have a bill of rights placed on the November ballot that would attempt to ban more oil and gas wells. The state has exclusive rights to regulate oil and gas drilling, so Mayor Shawn Riley believes local legislation — like a bill of rights — would have little to no effect.Instead, Riley wants property owners to pool their land, decide if and where hydraulic fracturing will be located in the village, and split the royalties.The Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills worries Riley's initiative sets the table for oil and gas companies.Here's how other communities are trying to control drilling in their towns:

  • Broadview Heights: The city is facing a lawsuit from Bass Energy Co. Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy after voters passed a bill of rights in November 2012 banning oil and gas drilling there.In May 2013, two residents sued Bass as it made plans to drill near their street. The city of Broadview Heights backed the residents, while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued permits to the company anyway.The companies sued the city in June and said the Community Bill of Rights denies them use of property and violates the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions. Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods (MADION), the organization that initiated the Broadview Heights bill of rights, filed a motion in July to intervene in the case.
  • Munroe Falls: The Ohio Supreme Court is deciding whether state drilling laws supersede Munroe Falls' and other local zoning rules that could prohibit oil and gas companies from drilling in those communities. Munroe Falls filed the suit against Beck Energy and a local property owner who leased their drilling rights to the company and is asking the court to uphold its zoning laws so the city can control where the drilling occurs. 
  • (more)

>>>> since much of the discussion within the group this week revolved around old wells and attempts to seal them, we'll start this week's batch with an article on five wells in Pennsylvania from this week that is illustrative of the fact that some wells defy capping no matter what; even after several attempts, all 5 of the wells continue to leak gas at combustible levels...

Leaky Gas Well ? Good Fracking Luck -- Once a shale gas well starts to leak, there’s nothing much you can do about it. Although the frackers may pretend otherwise. Because sooner or later most of them are going to leak outside of the steel casing (before it rusts away) and outside of the cement sheathing, which will shrink away from the well wall, then crack. The gas will just go around whatever you pump down the hole – leaking between the cement and the well wall. Make the well wall bigger, pump more cement down, gas goes around it. Bigger hole, more cement. Repeat.  As they are finding out the hard way in Fracksylvania:  Shale Gas Wells Leaking Methane for Years. Five natural gas wells in Bradford County have leaked methane for years because of persistent casing and cement problems, according to state Department of Environmental Protection records.  For four of the wells, EOG reported its violations to the DEP after its safety inspector measured gas venting from the wells’ annuli in 2011. The company blamed “defective, insufficient or improperly cemented casing.” The DEP also inspected the Oberkamper 1H well on May 22 after a July 2013 inspection found EOG piped the vents in a way that prevented accurate measurement. The inspector found methane outside the surface casing The annulus is the space between layers of pipe. Operators fill these layers with cement in part to prevent gas and other fluids from migrating outside the wells. Each well has four layers of steel pipe. EOG’s inspector found gas flowing from two to three annuli per well, ranging from 709.5 to 1,134 cubic feet per day, cumulatively. Nothing prevents this methane from flowing into the atmosphere, where it acts as a greenhouse gas. Methane has a global warming potential 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Natural gas injection season continues on pace for record refill - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)-- Nearly midway through the summer storage injection season, working natural gas in storage is on pace to meet EIA's expectations for a record overall build. The current Short-Term Energy Outlook projects a record build of close to 2,600 billion cubic feet (Bcf) from the beginning of April through the end of October, which would put inventories at 3,431 Bcf at the end of October.  Following an extremely cold winter, storage inventories at the end of the heating season were only 857 Bcf, the lowest level since 2003. Inventories were around 1,000 Bcf less than the five-year (2009-13) average. While the refill season began slowly in April, injections quickly ramped up in May and have substantially exceeded five-year average levels each week since then. For eight straight weeks, the weekly net injection was greater than 100 Bcf. In the 10 weeks between the week ending April 25 and the week ending July 4, net injections into storage inventories totaled 1.04 trillion cubic feet; this was the quickest trillion cubic foot increase since 2003. As a result, the gap between current storage and the five-year average narrowed substantially; currently, inventories are 683 Bcf below the five-year average.  In the Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA expects that demand from the electric power sector from April through October will remain flat compared with last year, while natural gas production is about 3 Bcf per day greater this summer compared to last summer. EIA forecasts that the gap between current and five-year average inventory levels will continue to narrow over the rest of the injection season.  Strength of supply is also reflected in lower natural gas prices; as inventories have increased at a record pace, prices have fallen to six-month lows.

EPA Is Failing To Stop Methane Leaks From Pipelines, Inspector General Says - The Environmental Protection Agency isn’t doing enough to prevent methane from escaping from natural gas pipelines, according to a new report from the agency’s internal watchdog. The report, published Friday by the EPA’s Inspector General, stated that in 2011, more than $192 million worth of natural gas was lost due to leaks in pipelines. The report said that the agency, which until now has “placed little focus and attention on reducing methane emissions from pipelines in the natural gas distribution center,” needs to take steps to better prevent methane from escaping. It recommended that the EPA work with the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to try to fix the problem, a partnership President Barack Obama has also called for. Up until now, however, the EPA has only implemented a program that encourages natural gas companies to reduce their methane emissions voluntarily, but doesn’t require them to do so. So far, that program hasn’t done enough, the report states.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps 86 times more heat as CO2 does over a 20-year period. Scientists have warned that methane emissions from the natural gas industry are a significant contributor to climate change,  The EPA has agreed to take the Inspector General’s recommendations to partner with PHMSA and create a plan to deal with the financial losses of methane leaks, but it has not yet agreed to other recommendations in the report, including setting performance goals for leak reduction and tracking methane emissions from natural gas pipelines.

Obama To Issue Series Of Executive Actions Tackling Methane Leaks From Pipelines -- President Obama will announce a series of executive actions on Tuesday designed to tackle the increasing problem of methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, which are significantly contributing to global warming, according to a White House press call. White House Director of Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech told reporters on Monday that the actions would be part of President Obama’s strategy to cut methane emissions, a key directive under his Climate Action Plan announced last summer. Under the plan, Obama vowed to combat climate change despite inaction from Congress by using his executive powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Utech said the executive actions would consist of newly announced partnerships with natural gas producers, a $30 million Department of Energy program supporting technology to decrease methane leaks, and a series of white papers from the Environmental Protection Agency to help identify “potentially significant” sources of methane beyond pipeline leaks.

Sorry, the shale revolution won’t save the US economy - Even with an unexpectedly strong second-quarter GDP report, the current economic recovery is the weakest since World War II. Even worse, many long-term forecasts — including those from the Congressional Budget Office, Federal Reserve, and White House — see future growth far slower than the postwar average. But the economy would be even weaker, and those forecasts gloomier, if not for the shale revolution. Here is Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius:… we estimate that the overall impact from the increase in US energy supply on real GDP growth is currently in the range of 0.2-0.3pp per year. Most of this is due to the direct effects from increased energy output and drilling activity, while the spillovers to other industries or via lower household energy bills have been more modest. So, lots of energy industry investment and output. But a sector story rather than a macro story.
  • 1. Hatzius goes on to note that lower energy prices have not given a significant boost to energy-intensive industries: ” … output in the most energy-intensive manufacturing industries has in fact grown more slowly than in less energy-intensive ones.”
  • 2. Nor have US energy intensive industries outperformed energy-intensive industries in other countries. And Goldman hasn’t been able to find much evidence for a significant increase in capital spending in energy-intensive industries” other than chemical manufacturing.
  • 3. As for the potential boost to consumer spending from lower household energy costs, Hatzius points out that energy outlays as a share of disposable income have finally flattened the past few years. Assuming that the shale revolution get full credit, the bank economist guesstimates “the impact on US GDP growth through this channel may have been in the range of 0.05-0.1 percentage point per year.”
Here is Hatzius’s bottom line on the shale revolution’s total economic impact:Whether this is a large effect or a small effect is probably in the eye of the beholder. Our view is that it is quite sizable when cumulated over a longer period, even if the spillover effects remain limited and more so if they grow. But it is probably not a first-order issue from the perspective of business cycle forecasters or macro investors who are primarily focused on the quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year fluctuations in business activity.

Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels -- Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel -- even a “green” fuel.Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth. That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50% less compared with coal, and 20% to 30% less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil.  So if someone asks: “Is gas better than oil or coal?” the short answer seems to be yes.  And when it comes to complicated issues that have science at their core, often the short answer is the (basically) correct one. In the case of gas, however, the short answer may not be the correct one. Replacing coal with gas in electricity generation is still probably a good idea — at least in the near term — but gas isn’t just used to generate electricity.  It’s also used in transportation, to heat homes and make hot water, and in gas appliances like stoves, driers, and fireplaces.  Here the situation is seriously worrisome. It’s extremely difficult to estimate GHG emissions in these sectors because many of the variables are poorly measured. One important emission source is gas leakage from distribution and storage systems, which is hard to measure because it happens in so many different ways in so many different places.  Such leaks are sometimes called “downstream emissions,” because they occur after the gas has been drilled.

Fracking Makes California’s Drought Worse -- California is in the middle of an epic water shortage, with nearly 80 percent  of the state experiencing “extreme or exceptional” drought conditions. Check out this animated map to get a sense of how extensively the drought has impacted the Golden State. Given the situation, anti-fracking activists say it’s time for Governor Jerry Brown to put a stop to water-intensive fracking, claiming that the controversial oil and gas production method is exacerbating the problem.“We’re talking about a triple threat to our water from fracking,” says Adam Scow, the California director for Food & Water Watch.The first threat: The fracking process requires a lot of water, which then becomes unsuitable for any other use: “In the middle of the worst drought in 50 years, they’re taking 140,000 to 150,000 gallons of water out of the water cycle per frack job. They’re destroying that amount of water on a daily basis.”   It’s also possible that fracking fluid could leach into underground aquifers, and of course the toxic wastewater left over from fracking has to be disposed of somehow—and therein lies the second threat to California’s water supply. The third threat to California’s water supply, according to Scow, is that all of the oil and gas we’ve produced via fracking will eventually get burned and thus contribute to global warming, “which leads to more droughts.”

Fracking Waste Puts Americans’ Drinking Water at Risk |- Yesterday the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an eagerly awaited report on the state of something called the Underground Injection Control program. This program, aka “UIC,” is designed to protect underground sources of drinking water from the underground injection of fluids, under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Extensive investigations by ProPublica and complaints from communities in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas have made clear that the UIC program is completely unprepared to safely regulate the huge amount of dangerous oil and gas wastewater. That is why Natural Resources Defense Council has called for, among other things, federal regulations that would ensure this waste is subject to hazardous waste safeguards. This new GAO report confirms what communities across the country have known for years: drinking water is at risk. Here are some of GAO’s key findings:
  • At least 2 billion gallons of oil and gas wastewater are injected underground in the U.S. every day.
  • More than 90 percent of produced water in the U.S. is injected into Class II wells.
  • Regulations for Class II wells have remained largely the same since 1980. While EPA reviews in 1988 and 1992 recommended changes, they were never made.
  • Of the six states reviewed, four had less than ten Class II inspectors. There are more than 170,000 Class II wells nationwide.
  • EPA has identified six major pathways by which UIC wells can lead to ground water contamination, including faulty casing, an inadequate confining layer, and the presence of nearby wells that were not properly plugged.
GAO Report: Drinking Water at Risk from Underground Fracking Waste Injection -- The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released its report today finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “not consistently conducting two key oversight and enforcement activities for class II programs” for underground fluid injection wells associated with oil and gas production. The report shows that the EPA’s program to protect drinking water sources from underground injection of fracking waste needs improvement.  According to the report, “The U.S. EPA does not consistently conduct annual on-site state program evaluations as directed in guidance because, according to some EPA officials, the agency does not have the resources to do so.” The report also found that “to enforce state class II requirements, under current agency regulations, EPA must approve and incorporate state program requirements and any changes to them into federal regulations through a rulemaking.” “The federal government’s watchdog is saying what communities across the country have known for years: fracking is putting Americans at risk,” said Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ”From drinking water contamination to man-made earthquakes, the reckless way oil and gas companies deal with their waste is a big problem. Outdated rules and insufficient enforcement are largely to blame. EPA needs to rein in this industry run amok.”

GAO: Fracking Could Threaten Clean Drinking Water -- A new report from the Government Accountability Office suggests the federal Environmental Protection Agency has fallen somewhat short in its duties to ensure that  gas production in Pennsylvania — using the “fracking” process, particularly — leaves behinds safe, clean drinking water. StateImpact Pennsylvania reports: The GAO faults the EPA for inconsistent on-site inspections and guidance that dates back to the 1980s. Of the more than 1,800 class II wells in Pennsylvania, the GAO reports only 33 percent were inspected in 2012. Some states, including California, Colorado and North Dakota, require monthly reporting on injection pressure, volume and content of the fluid. The GAO also faulted the EPA for poor data collection. StateImpact adds: “Much of Pennsylvania’s fracking waste water gets shipped to Ohio, since the Keystone state has just seven operating oil and gas waste disposal wells. Since January, the EPA has issued permits for three more waste water injection wells in Clearfield, Elk and Indiana Counties. All are being challenged by local communities. A fourth permit for an injection well in Venango County has received final approval, but is not yet active.” The GAO report can be found here.

Pennsylvania AG Looking Into Claims That State Willfully Ignores Fracking-Related Health Complaints -- Are employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Health really being told to ignore complaints from citizens who complain they’re being sickened by hydraulic fracturing and natural gas drilling? If they are, is it criminal? That’s the question that the state Attorney General’s office will attempt to answer in the coming weeks, as officials contact and interview multiple residents who say they reached out to state health officials about symptoms they think could be related to drilling, and received no response. In an e-mail to the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, seen by ThinkProgress, a special agent from the attorney general’s environmental crime unit confirmed that they would look into residents’ complaints. “Please forward me the list of PA residents… along with their addresses and phone numbers,” the agent’s e-mail to the group reads. “I will contact them for an interview as schedules permit.” Food & Water Watch, a consumer rights group focusing on food, water, and fishing issues, had asked Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office to investigate claims that health concerns over drilling were ignored — claims like those of Pam Judy, a resident of Greene County. Judy says her family began getting sick in 2008 after a natural gas compressor station was built 780 feet from their home. “The first place I contacted seeking information and assistance was the DOH,” she said. “They were unable to direct me to anyone who may be able to help us.” An influx of similar stories sparked concern that the DOH may have been willfully ignoring the complaints. Those concerns were magnified when two former DOH employees told StateImpact Pennsylvania that they were instructed not to return phone calls from citizens who said they may be experiencing sickness from fracking and other natural gas development.

ExxonMobil, Chevron Locked In Bidding War To Acquire Lucrative Pennsylvania Senator -- HARRISBURG, PA—With both sides increasing their initial offers for the prized asset, multinational energy companies ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation are currently locked in a fierce bidding war to obtain a lucrative Pennsylvania senator, sources confirmed Monday. “This legislator represents an incredibly valuable commodity in the energy world, and both ExxonMobil and Chevron appear to be willing to pay whatever is necessary to acquire him,” said oil and gas industry analyst John Blakey of the ongoing, back-and-forth bidding process for U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), noting that both of the politician’s potential owners are enthusiastic about the prospect of utilizing the treasured beltway resource for multiple terms. “Granted, securing such a highly profitable elected official won’t be cheap—it never is. Both of these companies know that if they are fortunate enough to gain possession of this senator, the acquisition will pay dividends for years to come.” At press time, sources confirmed that ExxonMobil and Chevron had entered talks with Pacific Gas and Electric, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Duke Energy to share claims in the senator for the foreseeable future.

Safe Water in Unfracked New York  -- There is no better way to contaminate thousands of square miles of groundwater than via fracking. Horizontal shale wells are more than 4 (four) times as likely to vent methane into groundwater than conventional vertical wells, as the chart from this report shows. (In Canada, where this report is from, horizontal wells are referred to as “deviated” wells. Drilled by deviants, which is what frackers are called in Canada.)  A new report by a team of researchers has found that water in the proposed Frack Zone in New York is safe. Probably because it’s unfracked. . . 

Groundwater Safe in Potential New York Frack Zone   Two Cornell hydrologists have completed a thorough groundwater examination of drinking water in a potential hydraulic fracturing area in New York’s Southern Tier. They determined that drinking water in potable wells near conventional natural gas wells in Chenango County is safe to drink and within federal guidelines. The researchers report their findings in July’s Journal of Hydrology – Regional Studies. “In Pennsylvania, reports of natural gas in the groundwater started to occur after the state began to allow hydraulic fracturing. Nobody had thought to test the well water there beforehand, and no one had a sense of the water quality prior to fracking. We’ve conducted a comprehensive baseline study of the water,” said Todd Walter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering, the paper’s senior author.

Fracking Takings Publicity Stunt - After two strikes, Shale Shyster Scott Frackoski is going for a complete fracking strike out- as soon as he can milk some legal fees out of some clueless dairy farmers.  To Scott Kurkoski, the problem is obvious. New Yorkers expected to reap a profit on natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale. Government officials got in the way, and now landowners want compensation. “It’s a basic property rights issue,” Kurkoski said. “Here we have people who are prepared to develop their oil and gas, and the government is telling them they can’t do it. That’s a basic constitutional protection in the United States.” Kurkoski is an upstate New York lawyer who for years has represented landowners who want the state to lift its six-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. If state and local regulators don’t budge, the landowners say the restrictions amount to a regulatory taking, and the government must pay for their lost economic opportunity. “Other people had their chance to make millions, now it’s my chance,” said Jon Kark, a client of Kurkoski’s who owns 380 acres near Binghamton. “I have gas under my property. Definitely it would make my life a lot easier if I could pump it.”

Frackers Spill Olympic Pool’s Worth Of Hydrochloric Acid In Oklahoma - An acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman. Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.  Skinner told ThinkProgress this is the largest frack-related spill he is aware of in the state’s history. He was unable to comment on the cause of the spill because it is currently under investigation, but said they “think they know the cause.” “Our main concern is to get the area back to the way it was before the spill happened,” said Skinner. While there are no water wells in the immediate vicinity, there were concerns if not properly taken care of the acid could taint the nearby town of Hennessey’s water supply. A nearby creek flows into the town’s water system and a a rainstorm could result in contamination. However, Skinner said the area was bermed off and the remediation company was able to contain the chemicals through any rain so far.

In 2014, Colorado Oil And Gas Spills Are Happening Twice A Day - The more they drill, the more they spill. And the part about telling residents about it, not so much. A Denver Post analysis of Colorado oil and gas spills so far in 2014 reveals that they are happening twice a day “and usually without anyone telling residents.” That rate, 467 spills for the first 7 months of this year, suggests that the state will surpass last year’s record of 575, the paper reported, due to a surge in oil and gas development and more stringent reporting rules. The state oil and gas commission said that tougher enforcement is also a factor. Colorado now has about 52,000 active oil and gas wells, with much of the recent growth occurring along the populous Front Range north and northeast of Denver. The rapid pace of drilling and its proximity to many communities has sparked a simmering revolt, with the prospect looming of an epic election season battle over ballot proposals to allow more local control of oil and gas development. A drive to obtain enough signatures to place those measures on the ballot will conclude on August 4.  Since 2010, the paper reported, about 21 percent of the nearly 2,500 reported spills have contaminated either ground or surface water.

Investigating Earthquakes in Fracking Regions: The idea that recent sequential earthquake activity, particularly in Ohio and Oklahoma, is related to hydraulic fracking and water disposal operations is gaining traction in some key drilling states. While there is no hard data to conclusively support the theory, action on the part of regulatory agencies will potentially present oil and gas companies with a fresh set of challenges – and opportunities. In April, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources put new seismic-related requirements in place for fracking, and Oklahoma recently put restrictions and reporting requirements in place for disposal wells. The Texas oil and gas regulatory agency hired a full time seismologist.  The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association established a working group on seismic activity with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and Ground Water Protection Council also joined with regulators and geological surveys. “Suspicions about a link of disposal wells to earthquakes go back at least to 2010.”  “Until recently in Ohio, these incidents could be rationalized as using too high an injection pressure on a disposal well. If it was corrected, the earthquakes would go away.” Then, in Ohio, state regulators for the first time apparently were convinced that fracking, not water disposal, was the cause of a quake. “This is leapfrogging into a whole new territory in terms of how you manage, explain and somehow reconcile it going forward. So it is pretty significant.”

Got Science? Ohio Wake-up Call on Fracking Disclosure Laws - At a Halliburton fracking site in Clarington, Ohio, in the southeastern part of the state, a fire broke out on a recent Saturday morning. What happened next should be a wake-up call to every U.S. citizen, especially the millions of Americans who live in communities where fracking is planned or underway.  Ohio firefighters battled the blaze for an entire week. Before they managed to fully extinguish it, the fire caused some 30 explosions that rained shrapnel over the surrounding area; 20 trucks on the site caught fire; and tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals -- including a toxic soup of diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, and ethylene glycol -- mixed with runoff into the nearby creek, killing an estimated 70,000 fish as far as five miles downstream. State officials physically removed the decomposing remains of more than 11,000 fish and other aquatic life in their efforts to reduce the damage to the waterway.  If the severe damage to a local creek weren't troubling enough, this particular waterway feeds into the Ohio River roughly five miles away where, just another 1.7 miles downstream, a public water intake on the West Virginia side of the river serves local residents.  But here's the most disgraceful thing of all about the accident: despite the fish kill and potential contamination of drinking water, the public still doesn't know the full list of chemicals that polluted the air and water supply. In fact, the fire raged and runoff occurred for five full days before Halliburton provided state and federal EPA officials with a full list of the proprietary fracking chemicals the company used at the site.

Kasich Joins Push To Give Fracking Ingredients To First Responders » WOSU News: Big changes could be coming to Ohio’s fracking regulations in terms of chemical disclosure. It’s a transparency issue environmental groups have been pushing to advance for years, and it appears another step is in the works following a major chemical spill. Late last month a large fire broke out at a hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—pad in Monroe County. According to a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—fire crews doused the site with more than 300,000 gallons of water—forcing nearly a dozen drilling-related chemicals to runoff the site. Several of those chemicals were then discovered in a nearby creek where, as the report explains, more than 70,000 fish were killed along a five-mile stretch of the creek. In responding to the fire in Monroe County—Gov. John Kasich says it might be time to change laws again to make sure all first-responders have more access to all the chemical information. “Cause we do have—I’m told—the most transparent of all the fracking liquid in the country. But if it’s not getting to enough people then we need to widen it. Because I don’t want to have people walking around saying ‘well I don’t know what was there,’” Kasich said late last week. Companies are already required to provide a list of the chemicals used at the site. The only chemicals not on the list are those protected by trade rights, which are reported to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Prosecutors seek 3-year sentence in fracking case - (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking a three-year sentence and a $250,000 fine for the owner of a northeast Ohio oil and gas drilling company accused of dumping large amounts of toxic brine down a storm sewer and into a creek that feeds the Mahoning River. Sixty-four-year-old Ben Lupo of Poland, Ohio, pleaded guilty in March to one count of unpermitted discharge into U.S. waters. His sentencing is Tuesday in Cleveland.

The fracking-rule changes that North Carolinians must demand - N.C. DENR and the Mining and Energy Commission have repeatedly promised North Carolina the “safest hydraulic fracturing rules in the country.” The current draft rules are actually some of the worst rules in the 31 states that have fracking.DENR has an obligation to keep its promise to North Carolina and to revise the draft guidelines before it is too late. The state must listen to the public at scheduled hearings in August. Up until now, DENR has demonstrated disregard for the public’s comments, both written and verbal. DENR is supposed to work for us, not the big oil and gas companies. It has already caved in to pressure from Halliburton on the nondisclosure of toxic fracking fluids to public. We can live without shale gas, but we cannot live without clean air and clean water.To come close to having the best rules in the country, the following changes must be made to DENR’s draft rules:
  • Toxic fracking fluids should not be stored in open pits – currently planned for only 200 feet from bodies of water. They must be stored in closed tanks. Any open pit with the distance from the top of the fracking fluid to the top of the pit of only 2 feet is inadequate.
  • Fracking wells, fracking fluid storage tanks and underground fracking pipes must be at least 2,000 feet (not a mere 200 feet) from all bodies of water – rivers, tributaries and reservoirs, lakes ponds – as elsewhere in the United States
  • Fracking wells must be at least five miles from Lake Harris and the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant. These are, respectively, two to four miles from the Jonesboro fault line. Allowing fracking and its associated induced earthquakes anywhere near Lake Harris (the largest repository of spent control rods in the country) and Shearon Harris nuclear power plant is unacceptable.
  • Fracking wells must be at least 1,000 feet (not a mere 650 feet) from dwellings as in other states. Spilt toxic fracking fluid, very heavy trucks and excessive noise are dangerous to the public.
Why Forced Pooling Should Not Apply to Fracking - Forced pooling – the compulsory integration of mineral rights owners into a well – does not technically or legally apply to shale gas wells – and therefore should not be applied to them by the state.  Trying to apply compulsory pooling to shale gas wells can only mean one thing: the privatization of eminent domain by the state on behalf of the frackers – who have paid for the privilege via bribes to the legislature and regulators. Forced pooling is intended to consolidate multiple vertical wells that drain a common pool of oil or gas into one shared well. This assumes that the pool is contained in rock that is porous and permeable enough (think an open cell  sponge or foam) to allow the gas or oil to move towards the well bores that drain it. Forced pooling is intended to combine multiple vertical wells into one shared well that can drain the shared reservoir more cost-effectively than drilling multiple wells on smaller spacings.  Forced pooling does not apply to shale gas horizontal laterals for the simple reason that shale gas is not a “pool” – a shale gas does not “drain” a porous, permeable reservoir of oil or gas, it tunnels thru impermeable rock. A shale gas lateral only taps the rock it can fracture – via the frack. Beyond the end of the lateral it does not “drain” any oil or gas.  Therefore, horizontal shale gas laterals should not be illegally lengthened by forced pooling. As this video explains.

Oilprice Intelligence Report: The Shale Revolutions Next Winner: The Permian Basin: While North Dakota and South Texas garner much of the attention by energy investors, West Texas is fast becoming the backbone of the shale story in the United States. West Texas is home to the Permian basin, which was originally discovered nearly a century ago. It was home to much of Texas’ oil production for decades, but peaked in the 1970’s – along with many other American oil fields – and entered into a period of gradual decline. That all reversed course over the last few years, with the familiar story involving hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling unfolding on the dusty plains of West Texas. And although other regions across the U.S. have nearly a decade of fracking under their belt, the surge in production (or resurgence, as the case may be) in the Permian basin has really only ramped up over the last two years. Between 2007 and mid-2014, oil production in the Permian jumped from 850,000 barrels per day (bpd) to over 1.6 million bpd. Last year, the region accounted for about one-fifth of total U.S. oil production. That is enough to make the Permian basin home to the most productive oil basin in the United States in 2014. More notable shale plays got an earlier start than the Permian, but that also means they may peak and plateau earlier. Some analystsexpect the Bakken and the Eagle Ford to peak before 2020. Meanwhile the Permian could continue to rise through the middle of the next decade, perhaps hitting 3.5 million bpd

How Fracking Is Blowing Up Balance Sheets of Oil and Gas Companies - Wolf Richter - Fracking has caused an uproar in local communities and split some in two. It has brought environmentalists to a boil. It allegedly caused tap water to go up in flames. A documentary was made in its honor. It caused earthquakes in Oklahoma and other places. It caused Wall Street to froth at the mouth. And now it is causing the balance sheets of oil and gas companies to blow up. It always starts with a toxic mix. Now even the Energy Department’s EIA has checked into it and after crunching some numbers found: Based on data compiled from quarterly reports, for the year ending March 31, 2014, cash from operations for 127 major oil and natural gas companies totaled $568 billion, and major uses of cash totaled $677 billion, a difference of almost $110 billion. To fill this $110 billion hole that they’d dug in just one year, these 127 oil and gas companies went out and increased their net debt by $106 billion. But that wasn’t enough. To raise more cash, they also sold $73 billion in assets. It left them with more cash (borrowed cash, that is) on the balance sheet than before, which pleased analysts, and it left them with a pile of additional debt and fewer assets to generate revenues with in order to service this debt. It has been going on for years. In 2010, the hole left behind by fracking was only $18 billion. During each of the last three years, the gap was over $100 billion. This is the chart of an industry with apparently steep and permanent negative free cash-flows:  And those shortages in each year forced the companies to raise more debt and sell assets to fund more drilling, other capital expenditures, operational costs, dividends, and stock buybacks. Of the three sources of cash – operations, net increase in debt, and asset sales – during the first quarters going back six years, net increases in debt accounted for over 20% of the incoming cash since 2012.

Gourmand Claims that Gas Wells Don’t Leak in Canada -  Presumably because they’re so well behaved, eh ?  Au contraire, ma graisse frackier. Not only do they leak as much as gas wells south of the border, but the horizontal ones leak four times more than the vertical ones. As this study from Canada shows. Gas Minister Claims Canadian Gas Wells Don’t Leak :  Cornell engineer takes issue with Coleman’s claim that BC is leak-free. Leaky wells happen everywhere,’ retorts scientist in response to Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman’s claims. One of North America’s top experts on well oil integrity and the mechanics of hydraulic fracturing says recent comments by Rich Coleman, British Columbia’s minister of natural gas development, are not only ignorant but delusional. In May, Coleman told the Vancouver Sun that oil and gas wells in British Columbia don’t leak. He also hinted that scientists who made such statements just wanted more money for unnecessary studies. The deputy premier made the comments in response to a scientific report that recommended a go-slow approach to fracking unconventional shale resources due to large science gaps, leaky wellbores and increasing climate liabilities.

Fracking licences to be granted by government – BBC - The bidding process for UK licences to explore for shale gas will begin later, the government has announced. Applications are expected for areas that have yet to be explored. Companies that are then granted a licence to begin test drilling will still need to gain planning permission and environmental permits. The coalition sees shale gas - which is extracted by the process fracking - as an important potential energy source for the UK. In announcing the so-called 14th onshore licensing round, Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: "Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth. "We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy." He added that shale gas was a "key part" of the the government's plans to tackle climate change and "bridge to a much greener future."

Half of Britain to be opened up to fracking - Ministers are this week expected to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking in an attempt to lure energy companies to explore shale oil and gas reserves. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is expected to launch the so-called “14th onshore licensing round,” which will invite companies to bid for the rights to explore in as-yet untouched parts of the country. The move is expected to be hugely controversial because it could potentially result in fracking taking place across more than half of Britain. Industry sources said the plans could be announced at a press conference tomorrow. The Government is a big proponent of fracking and last year revealed that it would “step up the search” for shale gas and oil. Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast.Michael Fallon, the former energy minister, has previously described shale as “an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security.” A previous government-commissioned report said as many as 2,880 wells could be drilled in the new licence areas, generating up to a fifth of the country’s annual gas demand at peak and creating as many as 32,000 jobs. However, the report warned that communities close to drilling sites could see a large increase in traffic. Residents could face as many as 51 lorry journeys each day for three years, the study said.

Nearly Half Of U.K. Opens To Fracking Exploration, Including Protected Areas - On Monday, the United Kingdom’s government opened its 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round, the first in six years, giving fossil fuel companies the chance to bid for licenses across nearly half the region. It is also the first round of licensing since the initial exploratory shale gas wells were drilled in the U.K. around four years ago. This latest round was delayed three years after seismic tremors caused by prior exploration pushed back the process.  The announcement doesn’t actually grant permission for companies to start fracking, but paves the way for exploratory licenses to move forward. The government published a roadmap of other permissions that are required before actual drilling can take place. For the next two months until October 28th, the firms will be bidding for exclusive rights to search for oil and gas beneath 6.2 by 6.2 square mile blocks. The total available land for bidding is about 37,000 square miles. The total area of Great Britain — England, Scotland, and Wales — is 88,745 square miles, meaning the bidding area covers just over two-fifths of the country. The licenses will cover exploration for shale gas as well as conventional gas and oil. This includes parts of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and World Heritage Sites. However, applications will only be accepted for these areas in “exceptional circumstances and in the public interest,” according to the government. Firms that want to frack in or near European projected areas will also have to pass through additional requirements. The outcome of this decision is not yet known, with the U.K.-based Carbon Brief reporting that “the precise impact of this wording will remain unclear until tested during the planning process and ultimately in the courts.”

The U.S. Can Export Putin To His Knees - President Obama, are you listening? Even though Russian missiles shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, no one in the international community wants to use military force or even meaningful sanctions to counteract Russia. But the United States has another weapon at our disposal, liquid natural gas exports. Increasing our exports of liquid natural gas would help Ukraine and our other allies who are dependent on Russia for energy. It would hit Russia where it hurts, in the wallet. It would help the American economy by providing buyers for our natural gas, some of which is just being flared, or wasted.   Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Gulag: A History, described how oil and gas drives Russia's influence. Russia's population is smaller than that of Nigeria or Pakistan, and its economy is the size of Italy's, but it controls European oil and gas companies. Applebaum explains, "Russia has political influence in Europe because of the nature of Moscow's European business counterparts and partners: very large companies, usually connected to oil and gas, that make very large donations to political parties..." Of the 18.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas consumed by Europe in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration, Russia supplied 30%. About 50-60% of Russian natural gas exports go through Ukraine.  The Energy Department is delaying approval of two dozen applications to export natural gas, some from 2011 and 2012. In total, potential exports of 29 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas are being held up by slow reviews from the Department of Energy. This amount highlights the strength of both domestic supply and international demand for natural gas. Undoubtedly, if the export process were not so onerous, there would be even more companies willing to invest in natural gas exports and apply for export permits.

Big Oil's New Pitch: Fracking Means Never Having To Fear Putin -- As Ukraine sinks deeper into crisis, the oil and gas industry is pressing the United States to deploy its abundant natural gas supply as a weapon against Russia—and lawmakers of both parties are lining up behind the proposal. "We have this natural-gas boom," Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) said last week, "We can use this newfound energy as a diplomatic tool to give the European leaders some backbone in standing up to the Russians."  Roughly half the natural gas Russia ships to Europe flows through Ukraine. During past disputes, Russia has clamped down on the nation's gas supply, creating turmoil in European energy markets. Many US politicians fear this dynamic could dampen Europe's response to the Ukraine crisis and have begun looking to the bounty of natural gas from the domestic fracking boom to counter Russia's energy dominance. As House Speaker John Boehner put it in a March Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, "The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy." Washington has also seen a flurry of proposals to speed up natural gas exports. Last month, following a lobbying blitz by oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Halliburton, and Chevron, the House passed a bill requiring the Department of Energy (DOE) to rule on proposed natural gas export terminals within 90 days. The Senate has weighed similar bills and amendments. While they haven't managed to bypass the prevailing Senate gridlock, these measures have considerable bipartisan support, and backers are determined to push them through.  As Congress prepares to adjourn for its August recess, opponents of expanding exports are bracing for a new onslaught. 

 Russia And Germany Allegedly Working On Secret "Gas For Land" Deal -- While many were amused by this photo of Putin and Merkel during the world cup final showing Europe's two most important leaders siding side by side, some were more curious by just what the two were scheming: Thanks to The Independent, we may know the answer, and it is a doozy, because according to some it is nothing shy of a sequel to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: allegedly Germany and Russia have been working on a secret plan to broker a peaceful solution to end international tensions over the Ukraine, one which would negotiate to trade Crimea's sovereignty for guarantees on energy security and trade. The Independent reveals that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, "hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies." 

Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling - Gaius Publius: More and more it’s looking like Obama’s global warming and climate change “initiative” is just a legacy play. He says the right words, then does the wrong deeds.  First the fine words. Here’s Obama speaking to the bright-eyed grads at UC-Irvine just this summer:[S]ince this is a very educated group, you already know the science.  Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide traps heat.  Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years. … So the question is not whether we need to act.  The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.  For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place.  On the deeds side of the ledger, Obama has just opened millions of acres of Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration. Here’s Steve Horn writing at the invaluable DeSmogBlogPresident Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reservesIt is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Superdome. On July 17, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)  announced the lease in the name of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy. "the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,”proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press releaseThe release says this equates to upwards of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas and falls under the banner of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement.  [...]

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