No More Fracking – Is It Time?

fracking - Nick GrealyNick Grealy Administrator of NaturalGas2.0NoHotAir and ShaleGasInfo Blogs  

Given the enormous success of natural gas, is it time to stop wasting time debating with minorities only important to themselves and scrap the word “fracking” from our vocabulary?

Language is important. Many industry people have objected to the term “fracking” for example, on grounds that the corruption of the original “fracing” or fraccing” has been twisted by shale gas opponents. My view has been that having lost control of the word, we’re stuck with it, but I may have to change my mind. When the facts change, I change my mind.

The original bad word of shale was “unconventional” gas. Despite the UK being the home of the “eccentric”,  “unconventional” is a kiss of death to most things in English society, and indeed in many communities world-wide as well. In the UK, it transmogrified into something even worse: “controversial” shale gas as it was invariably described by the media. Controversial denotes fear, debate, uncertainty or worst of all to some, change.

Terms That Have Run the Course: “Fracking” and “Unconventional”

One of the most depressing things I’ve ever heard is a quotation that allegedly appeared in Jeremy Paxman’s book “The English.”  He said “To the true Englishman, any change at all is a change for the worst.” I can’t find it anywhere else, and the one time I met Paxman in 2012,  I had to ask him about it. He said he couldn’t remember writing it, but he’d be happy to have said it. Nothing denotes change, or controversy more than being “unconventional.”

Conventional natural gas and oil is the technique of drilling and finding gas in conventional reservoirs that has been around for years.  Conventional gas is hard to find, but easy to extract from discrete “pools” (even if it isn’t that simple) found relatively close to the surface where the permeability is fairly high.

fracking unconventional

Unconventional comes out of widely distributed but ultra low permeability rocks, almost taking gas and oil out on a molecular scale. It’s very hard to do, or at least was until the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling was used to produce far more gas and led to the death of the “dry hole” once the basin itself was proved. Today, the techniques are becoming more and more mundane. In short, unconventional is now an out of date term, as we see from this amazing news from the Energy Information Administration (EIA):

The shale gas boom, spurred by fracking and horizontal drilling, is bigger than anyone thought it would be. According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas derived from shale now makes up a full half of U.S. natural gas production, says Scientific American. Shale gas wasn’t supposed to make up such a large portion of our gas supply for another ten to twenty years.

Let’s face it. Shale gas was never supposed to work at all. But, it does. How can we possibly describe what is now the dominant, new normal method of natural gas production as “unconventional”? It’s like describing computers as “unconventional” typewriters, or an iPhone as an “unconventional” Nokia.

The IEA recently pointed out that in 2013 18% of global natural gas came from “unconventional” gas

“We are entering the age of much more efficient natural gas markets, with additional benefits for energy security,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven

Ms van der Hoeven was hyper-cautious when I saw her at Shale World Warsaw in 2011. Production has changed her mind, as it has even enthusiasts. In 2008, Statoil paid $3.8 billion to link with Chesapeake in the Marcellus. Everyone in Norway thought they were mad as Rune Bjornson once told me.They recently told Shale Daily how that has turned out:

Statoil Natural Gas LLC President Jan Rune Schopp told the Boston audience Monday that production in the Marcellus has “gone beyond our wildest expectation, and it’s increasing by the day.”

Goldman Sachs said this about US natural gas prices recently:

Rising U.S. shale gas production is driving fear out of the futures market, says Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and will constrain prices for the next two decades.

Gone will be the near tripling of costs to $15.78 as in 2005 as traders remain confident the fuel will be there when needed. Natural gas will trade “largely” at $4 to $5 per million British thermal units for the next 20 years, says Goldman Sachs. Societe Generale SA sees prices at $5 through 2019. Bank of America Corp. forecasts $5.50 for 2017, while BlackRock Inc. projects $4 to $5 for the next decade.

“The market is rightfully not that worried because you have so much supply that is coming online,”

“People no longer have this fear of the future.”

Fear of Fracking Is Fading Fast – Time to Stop Debating the Self-Important?

Fear is what the debate in the has been built upon. The drumbeat of excessive caution continues in the groups demanding further study. Shale is “unknown”. The “precautionary principle” allows no experimentation with the unconventional or the controversial.

fracking precautionary principle

At a conference in London this week, in a speech that was very optimistic on shale’s potential in industry and in energy security, Labour shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex took deliberate pains or was that pleasure, in counseling against expecting too much from UK shale gas. Perhaps that’s simply some attempt to differentiate Labour from the coalition support for shale and give a bit of hope to the green elements of Labour. Some English like to talk success down. Success in England is meant to be effortless – or reserved for those born into it as posh Oxford types like Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, prefer.

At the same conference, Matt Lambert of Cuadrilla predicted that one day everyone would ask what the fuss was about. Andrew Quarles, also of Cuadrilla recently said we need to make shale gas boring.

That moves us to two discussions. Not only do we need to allay fears about natural gas, we need to raise hopes. Natural gas can solve both climate and energy security fears and moderate energy poverty. On the last point, natural gas was expensive in Europe for a variety of reasons, chief among them the impact of oil-linked prices from Russia and the Asian LNG premium. Both are dying, as this from Japan points out:

In clinching a $400 billion deal last month to buy Russian gas, China may end up helping out its old political and economic rival in a way that matters hugely for Japan – energy security.

There are hopes that piping Russian gas to China will create a new price benchmark that could cut prices for Asian LNG buyers as well as providing new gas sources.

“This will surely put downward pressure on gas prices and some say it is the beginning of the end of the Asia premium,” Masumi Kimura, a researcher at Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC), said in a note, referring to the higher price paid for gas in Asia compared to other parts of the world.

The world now has huge supplies of natural gas that can replace, at a minimum, older and dirtier coal plants. The technology is scalable, affordable and achievable. We need to start telling that story about natural gas, instead of debating fracking with a noisy minority who don’t like any fuels other than sunlight and pixie dust.

no frackingOne day, and one day sooner than anyone thought, we won’t need to waste time with minorities only important to themselves. We do need to talk natural gas. Perhaps we can make the fracking word go the way of controversial and unconventional after all.

Editor’s Note: Nick makes a great point. The industry avoided the word “fracking” for too long in an attempt to steer people to proper terms and science. That allowed the anti-gas zealots to have the word to themselves. We needed to jump into that debate just to get alternative views to pop up in Google searches, if nothing else. But, perhaps the “fracking” phrase has now run its course.

The “fracking” cause certainly seems to have faded in many quarters. Perhaps we do, indeed, spend too much time debating the self-important on their terms when the world is moving on. Is it time to put an end to “fracking” and move the debate (there will always be one on the subjects of practices, taxes and impacts) to our battleground where rising natural gas production is already a given? Tell us what you think, please.

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33 thoughts on “No More Fracking – Is It Time?

  1. Yes – someday we won’t need to waste time with minorities only important to themselves, such as you, Nick Grealy.

    • Ahhh – Nothing like a cup of fresh hot snark to start your day eh Jenni?
      Was there something meaningful that you wanted to add or did you just want to sit in the back of the room and hurl spitballs?

      Like our boy king says – “Climate Change is settled science and we need to get on board” – Translation = Bend over and embrace the change of what this PSEUDO science dictates

      SInce (Un)Conventional Gas really is settled science – In use for 60 years, and not the 5 years since the NIMBYS woke up – WE need to be carrying the flag of – “Embrace the change”
      Clean affordable energy… LOCAL – LEED Regional Material 😉 coming to a town near you!

      • Caveman, Grealy said the fracking industry was “debating with minorities.” It’s not true and Grealy knows it. The majority of Americans are opposed to the careless practice and value clean water and health far more than short-term cheap gas.

        If you know anything about fracking you’d know there is a huge difference in the practices now compared to 60 years ago, including where, the types of formations, the toxic chemicals used, and the overall sloppy practices.

  2. Wow – just heard the great news for all of us self important minorities in New York. We get to ban fracking (or should I say horizontal gas drilling?) if we want! Hooray!

    • Well, you haven’t been able to do it yet in any community seriously being contemplated for Marcellus Shale development and several moratoriums have expired, so good luck with that.

  3. Yes please – can we call it hydraulic fracturing. If the “precautionary principle was used in all cases, we would be living in caves and would probably have not harnessed fire. We have survived as a species by taking either managed risk, charging after a large family to feed the clan, reviewing the cause and effect for actions, and then changing. Precautionary principle – see animal with big teeth – debate about running, taking a shoot, or trying to debate. You lose you are tiger poop. I am not saying not to use this principle- but can we use it for the assumption that man is the solve cause and solution for climate change. I think this clearly appeals to to climate change mitigation approach –

    “The precautionary principle is the concept that establishes it is better to avoid or mitigate an action or policy that has the plausible potential, based on scientific analysis, to result in major or irreversible negative consequences to the environment or public even if the consequences of that activity are not conclusively known, with the burden of proof that it is not harmful falling on those proposing the action”

    How does this apply to hydraulic fracturing ? It has been done many times throughout the world. Solid evidence that suggest no problem, problems manageable, or some place not suitable, but climate change mitigation no proven case study at all and models not working??? Which one is more unknown? Which could do more harm (CO2 as a pollutant – economic killer)? Climate change mitigation – very expensive. PS – I am ok with climate change adaptation.

    • Brian, how is the contamination of groundwater with toxic chemicals not a “plausible potential” and how would that not be a “major or irreversible negative consequence?”

      How is the contamination of deep aquifers with toxic chemicals not a “plausible potential” and how would that not be a “major or irreversible negative consequence?”

      How is the high rate of fugitive methane emissions not a “plausible potential” and how would that not be a “major or irreversible negative consequence” to the heat balance of the Earth?

      If there has been no damage, then why are the monitoring results of fracking activities not made public? When independent studies show there is a problem, the fracking industry dismisses them. Sorry, but the burden of proof is on you.

      Let’s be clear. The profits of one industry sector in unimportant. What matters is how decisions today impact consequences tomorrow. You are on the wrong side of this debate and will likely never realize it.

    • What you know about climate change you either got from FOX News or the Koch Brothers. Not worth debating, your mind is already made up and I don’t want to confuse you with any facts.

      • Ok, tell me the single most convincing fact that, to your mind, makes this a closed argument; that is to say we have a climate change problem (which, of course, natural gas helps remedy, assuming there is one).

  4. Nick, you are delusional if you think the only problem with fracking is the name. You may call it what you want but the problems with hydraulic fracturing relate to the unintended consequences which include the contamination of groundwater and deep aquifers, the high levels of fugitive methane emissions, the amount of flaring when production gets too far ahead of distribution, and the fact that it is merely prolonging the fossil-fuel age, something we need to end sooner rather than later. Or are you are also in denial of the consequence of burning natural gas and the role of methane as a greenhouse gas?

  5. I agree that the regulated “safe” extraction of NG is of itself not a bad thing. However, NG should be looked at as a cleaner way to wean ourselves from fossil fuel and not the ultimate answer. Until the NG industry shares that perspective, they will be seen as a denier of climate change and not an industry that should be trusted. Deny climate change and what other aspects of your industry are you in denial of – – safety?

    • The fact of the matter is that all of the opponents of hydrofacturing are not landowners and are by far, the biggest consumers of natural gas. Environmentalists my but!

      • Phil, You nailed it! Never had the sense or means to buy property and take pride in it. Then NG came to town, and we got things like Hillbilly Lotto and what ever else have. But what it comes down to is them kicking and screaming like children! The word Jealousy comes to mind.

  6. Still no response to the to the question “just where has this groundwater contamination taken place”.

  7. We were told earlier by the moderator that “Cliff”…the wave runner, and “Jennifer” are possibly one in the same, or are attached to each other in some fashion! They have the exact same IP address and are 100% CHARLATANS! Cliff sees gas as a threat to his wave energy research dollars and he, more than likely created this alter ego person named “Jennifer” who comments in compliance, and the same Utopian progressive agenda with his stated beliefs. He tries to make everyone else here believe that the anti drill gang is more well rounded than it actually is and tried to sound like a “local” here in PA or NY & from a farm family. The IP address comes out of a UCSF (University of California San Francisco) building from the same computer in most of the Google IP searches. It also came back with a Brooklyn NY address on a single Google hit, but both again from the same computer!. Believe none of what you read & 1/2 of what you see . They are both all about “story” over science & “community” over property rights. For more detail look at the comment section from Jane Varcoe’s NGN blog post 2 days ago. There’s much more posted from them there and all refuted.

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