By Kevin Roeten:
Originally Thought To Be Out Of Gas
A decade ago, many were upset the US was in danger of running out of natural gas. No more. Over the past several years, vast caches of natural gas trapped in deeply buried rock have been made accessible by advances in two ways. First, horizontal drilling, which allows vertical wells to snake more than a mile sideways through the earth, and secondly, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Now over 60 years old, fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water into deep shale formations at pressures of 9000 psi or more. This fluid cracks the shale, freeing hydrocarbons to flow toward the well.
Advanced Techniques Of Oil Drilling
These advanced techniques of oil drilling have given an eightfold increase in shale gas production over the past decade. Per the Energy Information Administration, EIA, shale gas will result in half of the natural gas produced in the US by 2035. But this bonanza has caused controversy. For some strange reason, this dispute over fracking has grown very heated in the vicinity of Marcellus Shale.
Per Terry Engelder, Geosciences Professor, Penn State, the vast formation contained beneath West Virginia, Pennsylvania and NY, could produce an estimated 493 trillion cubic feet of gas over its 50-100yr life span. It’s enough to power every natural gas device in the country for more than 20 years. “We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas”, exclaimed Senator John Kerry, D/Mass in 2010.
The debate over the Marcellus Shale will likely shape national energy policy.
David McGowan, with the North Carolina Petroleum Council, said the rules have been carefully crafted over three years and says they likely amount to the strictest in the country. “There’s 33 states that have gone before us,” per McGowan. “It’s not like we’re recreating the wheel here in North Carolina. We’re always adjusting and improving our rules to make sure this is done safely and responsibly.”
Environmental Professor Jeanne Van Briesen says water withdrawals of this industry are taking the place of water once used by steel manufacturing, already gone. Hydrogeologist David Yoxtheimer of the Marcellus Center for Outreach gives the withdrawals more context: Of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania, natural gas development consumes 1.9 million gallons a day (mgd). Barely a trickle in the pond, compared to livestock using 62 mgd; mining, 96 mgd; and industry, 770 mgd.
Chemicals serve many functions in hydraulic fracturing. From limiting the growth of bacteria, to preventing corrosion of the well casing, chemicals are needed for fracture efficiency. Usually, the predominant fluids for fracture treatments are water‐based fracturing fluids mixed with friction‐reducing additives, called slick-water.
Per the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, more than 90% of U.S. oil and natural gas wells use hydraulic fracturing. Tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of more wells are planned across the country over the next decade.
The scary part of fracking seems to be the number of liberal groups attempting to derail this endeavor. In NC alone, the number of activist groups tracked from 140 to over 170, with individuals serving on the boards of these groups has grown from 1,800 to 2,788. Fortunately, theNC Capitol Connection has followed the radical Left in NC. Susan Myrick [NC Capital Connection] has incorporated [mappingtheleft.com],which has continued to watch the relentless march of NC’s progressive left.
What about those terrible messages we have all seen about fracking. It’s an iconic image, captured in the 2010 Academy Award of the nominated documentary GasLand. A Colorado man holds a flame to his kitchen faucet and turns on the water. The pipes rattle and hiss, and suddenly a ball of fire erupts. It appears a damning indictment of the gas drilling nearby. But Colorado officials determined the gas wells weren’t to blame; instead, the homeowner’s own water well had been drilled into a naturally occurring pocket of methane.
One can see in the Marcellus Shale and Barnett Shale deposits show a large distance between the top of the tallest frac and the location of the deepest drinking water aquifers as reported in USGS data. However, it may be quite comforting in providing evidence of a very good physical separation between hydraulic fracture tops and water aquifers.
© Copyright by Kevin Roeten, 2015. All rights reserved.