Deep Frack Dilemma
Natural gas, say energy industry executives and policy makers in a number of states, could be the fuel of the 21st century. Natural gas, they assert, burns much more cleanly than coal or oil, yielding half the carbon emissions of competing fossil fuels. And new drilling technology enables developers to tap deep gas-bearing shales in the U.S. and globally. A single prodigious gas well prompted a record-setting state lease sale in May that put Michigan at the frontline of deep shale development.
That's not to say that the new gas play is without risks. One facet in Michigan and other states is pumping millions of gallons of water and thousands of pounds of chemicals into the wells under intense pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas. The rock-punishing practice has produced evidence of serious water contamination in several states, according to ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization.
New York has instituted a moratorium on drilling pending research by state authorities on the risk to water resources and public health. The EPA is conducting an assessment of safety. The public concern is emblematic of the choke point that the U.S. is experiencing as rising energy demand comes into conflict with global climate change and declining reserves of clean fresh water. That collision is now blocking the nation's path to energy security and the low-carbon economy.
A look at how states across America are facing deep frack dilemmas.
“Fracking” is the injection of water and chemicals to rupture deep shale and release natural gas.
Unprecedented mineral leasing could be big for energy production and hydraulic fracturing.
American Rivers’ annual tally of threatened rivers highlights effects of drilling for natural gas.
Who owns the land that could feed the United States’ natural gas needs?
The documentary “Gasland” has shown at film festivals and on HBO.
In Michigan, $178 million for nearly 120,000 acres of state-owned minerals in 20 counties.
Several layers of steel casing typically enclose a well bore and the empty spaces between can be sealed with cement.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States.
Methane migration is critical to discussions of underground contamination risks from fracking.
An expensive federal study to be done on how hydrofracking may affect drinking water quality.
Is the injection of chemicals and water underground contaminating the environment in pursuit of natural gas?
Large natural gas companies pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground.
It takes brute force and millions of gallons of chemical-laden watery sand to wrestle natural gas from the earth.
- Environment America Research & Policy Center Toxic Chemicals on Tap: How Natural Gas Drilling Threatens Drinking Water (November 2009)
- Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Successes in Shale to be Shared (September 2010)
- Natural Gas Supply Association and ICF International U.S. Natural Gas Production and Supply Outlook for Winter 2010-2011 (September 2010)
- Oil and Gas Accountability Project Our Drinking Water at Risk: What EPA and the Oil and Gas Industry Don’t Want Us to know About Hydraulic Fracturing (2005)
- Pacific Institute Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction (2012)
- Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Marcellus Shale Drillers in Pennsylvania Amass 1435 Violations in 2.5 Years (August 2010)
- Worldwatch Institute: Natural Gas and Sustainable Energy Initiative Addressing the Environmental Risks from Shale Gas Development (Briefing Paper: July 2010)
Natural Gas Stories
After denying EPA disclosure request, Halliburton promises safer fracking fluid and more disclosure.
Earlier auction that set state records prompted projections of a new natural gas boom.
Freshwater wells deemed unsafe because of hydrocarbons.
States have begun implementing stricter standards for the controversial natural gas drilling process.
Test wells produce the first significant volumes of gas, confirming speculation about gas reserves in the region.
Pennsylvania’s latest budget proposal includes a tax on energy firms that tap the state’s shale gas reserves.
Fracking could contaminate New York’s unfiltered water supply and require costly filtration, report says.
Injecting water, chemicals, and sand to “frack” the gas from shale rock formations.
Water and fire don’t mix, but in Colorado such idioms may soon explode.
A recent inquiry suggests the brew used during natural gas drilling may be poisoning water nationwide.
- Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Final Report: Water Management Technologies Used by Marcellus Shale Gas Producers (July 2010)
- Argonne National Laboratory: prepared for U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) A White Paper Describing Water from Production of Crude oil, Natural Gas, and Coal Bed Methane (January 2004)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Demands on Water Resources: Report to Congress on the Interdependency of Energy and Water (December 2006)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – Office of Fossil Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer (April 2009)
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Statistics and Analysis on Natural Gas
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2010
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Office of Oil and Gas Natural Gas Year-In-Review 2006 (March 2007)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Underground Injection Control Program: List of Resources and PDFs
- Environmental Health Perspectives, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences EPA Tackles Fracking (Volume 118, No. 5, May 2010)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative (MIT EI) The Future of Natural Gas: An Interdiscipinary MIT Study (2010)
- Texas A&M University, Global Petroleum Institute, Texas Water Resources Institute – David B. Burnett Potential for Beneficial Use of Oil and Gas Produced Water
- Bury Coal (Blog) Hydraulic Fracturing and Unconventional Gas (April 19, 2010)
- Oil & Gas Drilling News from the Oil & Gas Journal Oil & Gas Drilling News from the Oil & Gas Journal
- Reuters New York Senate Passes Gas Drilling Moratorium (August 4, 2010)
- Scientific American With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces Flood of Wastewater (October 5, 2009)
- The New York Times Where Water Trumps Energy (Editorial: October 15, 2008)
- Yale Environment 360 Natural Gas as Panacea: Dubious Path To Green Future (June 28, 2010)