Good Shale Gas News All Around

Shale gas news - MarkindDaniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP

Good shale gas news: with the coming of fall came two major developments in the shale gas world, one two weeks ago and one this week.

The first came on September 15 when the Department of Energy issued its long-awaited study on  the effect of hydraulic fracturing on water supplies.  The report found no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process causes contamination in the drinking water supply.  This report is significant because the DOE worked with the industry and used tracers to look for any evidence of migration.  It found none.

The DOE’s Good Shale Gas News

Shale Gas NewsOver a two-year period, the DOE researchers collected samples from 130 drinking water wells in Pennsylvania and Texas.  They found contamination is eight clusters of wells.  The researchers then used a combination of noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers to trace the source of the methane.  As reported in USA Today, “(t)hese results appear to rule out the possibility that methane has migrated up into drinking water aquifers because of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing…”

The report stated that …  “fracture growth ceased more than 5,000 feet below drinking water aquifers and there was no detectable upward migration of gas or fluids from the hydraulically-fractured Marcellus Shale.”  In other words, hydraulic fracturing takes place thousands of feet below drinking water tables, and there is no evidence that the chemicals or other materials used in the process can migrate up to contaminate the water.

However, and this is a big caveat, the DOE study also found that while hydraulic fracturing is not contaminating water supplies, poor well construction might be.  Co-author Thomas Darrah of Ohio State University stated that “our data clearly shows that the contamination …stems from well-integrity problems such as poor casing and cementing.”  As discussed many times in these updates, while the process itself appears safe, the well itself must be constructed properly.  If not, stray chemicals and other materials can leak.  That is where and how the drinking water gets polluted.  This is extremely good news for the industry, but comes with a warning.   If you cut corners you can cause damage.  Should that happen, the political winds will shift.

FERC’s Good Shale Gas News

The second major development happened Monday when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ended a two year review of Dominion Energy’s Cove Point facility in Maryland and gave the company approval to begin a $3.8B retrofit of an existing structure for LNG exports.  Cove Point thus becomes the fourth LNG export terminal to receive government approval, but the first outside of the Gulf of Mexico.

Shale gas News Cove Point

Cove Point LNG Terminal Plan

This ruling will not end the story.  Many environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Earthjustice are on record as planning to challenge the decision if Dominion proceeds.  The ruling clearly shows, however, which way the political winds are blowing.  Despite all the concerns (legitimate or not) raised about environmental issues and the potential for increased domestic prices upon the export of American gas, FERC now has given one company a foothold in the Mid-Atlantic Region to export LNG.  It could be only a matter of time before others receive approval in this area.  Given its closer proximity to Europe and the shale gas fields, the Mid-Atlantic Region could be an enormous beneficiary of the shale gas bounty.

American natural gas export can have an enormous impact on the world energy market.  While hydraulic fracturing remains controversial throughout Europe, enough countries are moving forward that, combined with American exports, could entirely reshape the energy market.  Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta announced on television this weekend that his nation is working on structures and regulations to move forward with shale development.  One idea floated was that royalties would be split 50/50 between the landowner and the state.  This would be a marked change in the legal system throughout most of the world, in which the state owns all subsurface mineral rights.

The energy market will not be the only one affected.  As reported yesterday in FuelFix, the American resurgence in petrochemicals is being closely watched in Europe, where “companies are wondering whether the deluge of North American shale gas will sap away their competitive advantage.”  European companies are worried that they are heading for extinction, given the cheaper price of American raw materials and energy and substantial EU regulations.

Finally, there is this.  Methane emissions from fracking fell 73% from 2011 according to the EPA.  This is the main contributor to an overall 12% reduction since 2011 in methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems sector.

Overall, the news has been very good for the shale industry in September, with one very important warning.   It appears only the industry itself can kill the industry.  Let’s hope and work together to make sure that does not happen.

Check out what else is new at NaturalGasNow today!


While you’re at it, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Linked-In!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

16 thoughts on “Good Shale Gas News All Around

  1. Pingback: Good Shale Gas News All Around | ShaleNOW

  2. You wrote, “The report found no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process causes contamination in the drinking water supply.” It’s not clear how you can spin those finding into good news for fracking. Regardless of the detailed mechanism for the groundwater contamination, these were fracked wells. Why can’t you own up?

  3. “while hydraulic fracturing is not contaminating water supplies, poor well construction might be”

    Tom, you just love to indiscriminately use Tony Ingraffia as your whipping boy, but to the best of my knowledge, Tony says that while water contamination may indeed result from fracking itself in certain geological formations under certain conditions, the overwhelming number of water contamination cases from the totality of operations used to extract gas from shale formations that include horizontal hydraulic fracturing will come from well construction as currently practiced by the industry.

    • Just like Cliff, you want to pretend drilling and fracking are the same things and use very sly language to link them when you know they are wholly different. The fracking process has never contaminated a water supply in this country but you want folks to believe it has, because it sounds so new, mysterious and untested. The reality is exactly the opposite. Methane migration can come from almost anything and especially from drilling water wells. Fracking has nothing to do it but you want to maintain the “firewater” from fracking myth. Admitting it can happen from drilling a water well destroys your entire narrative so you use language like “the totality of operations used to extract gas from shale formations that include horizontal hydraulic fracturing” to paper over the distinction that make all the difference. Your words are weasel words intended to blur.

      • No Tom, your reading skills are betraying you this morning. I specifically did not agree with Cliff. Read what I said, it is not what you say I said. I wrote it very carefully. “the totality of operations used to extract gas from shale formations that include horizontal hydraulic fracturing” is not weasel wording, it is exactly on point. If the industry is able to maintain control over the totality of their operations, with a .00001% failure rate, like the what is expected of big pharma, these discussions would not be occurring, you would have consensus support for fracking in excess of 85%, instead of only 44%.

        • You’re still blurring the issue and the well failure rate vis-a-vis methane is very tiny indeed. It’s people who suggest methane migration is contamination and is caused by fracking (e.g. Josh Fox) who have distorted the picture. The support is also much higher than 44% everywhere but NY, by the way and that’s for obvious reasons having nothing to do with science but rather political correctness in a state obsessed with it.

          • Well, Tom, many have said that you have been parsing the issue. At the end of the day, if my water was good for 40 years, and then I get up one morning and it’s bad and by coincidence there is a gas well within a mile of my water well, and also by coincidence, that it is happening to others, I’m not gonna care if the problem is by the frac per se or by some other failure in the industrial chain, I still got bad water. And, as is said, “correlation is not causation”, so as Phil Ochs also said in regard to what some of you say*: “Thank God for coincidence”.

            *anecdotal evidence

      • Sorry, Tom, but you are the one attempting the sly language. We all know what is going on and what has enabled your so-called shale revolution. Were it not for the practice of fracking, the rigs would all head back to Texas. I really don’t care when in the sequence of events the contamination is occurring – just own up to the damage and let others decide whether it’s worth the price.

  4. This is not a good thing for us .It is a bad thing !Only those that either don’t care about what goes on or are to dumb to realize what will go on like it !!Remember this !!

  5. I wonder what water contamination would be like when all the polar bears are dead, the planet is devoid of ice and Penn State is underwater according to that vice president who invented the internet. All because Cliff wants intermittent renenwables backed up by Coal

  6. Polar bears look so cute and cudly. Maybe all the green minded earth savers can get a adopt a polar bear program going? If for no other reason the entertainment value for the rest of us should be very rewarding? Maybe NY will throw a billion bucks at it like they did for solar. For that billion they hope to install a million solar panels within ten years. I realize you can not feed a bear for very long on a thousand dollars like they are paying for pv panels but it will likely be more productive? The bear scat would give their veggi gardens a big heapin helpin of manure to match the lines of crap they have been heapin on this site? A thousand bucks a panel that needs a utility to sell it to? How about a stand alone system that works on it,s own? And just to be clear, i find it very hard to believe that solar power being sold to utilities is really worth anything to them! So in that light it makes the whole program a farce. Like i have said time and time again, pv better hope NG gets a green light soon in NY. Once solar gets a good look over by NY taxpayers it will be hard to justify. Pipes? Who needs pipes? We need permits first! All NY and Pa. or none!!

  7. Great article by Daniel B. Markind that obviously sent the antis into a tail spin. Many thanks to Daniel. Very well done!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *