Environmental Groups Have Lost the War Against Fracking

Fracking Protest, Matt Rourke AP Article CaptionGuest essay by Steve Goreham

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique to remove natural gas and oil from shale formations, has been under withering assault from environmental groups for much of the last decade. Fracking has been blamed for contamination of drinking water, air pollution, earthquakes, water shortages, global warming, radiation discharge, and even cancer. But it appears that environmentalists have lost the battle against fracking.

Environmental groups have been almost unanimously opposed to hydraulic fracturing. Greenpeace and the Sierra Club favor outright bans, and other organizations call for tight controls on the process. According to the Sierra Club website, “‘Fracking,’ a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.”

But the case against hydraulic fracturing is weak. Shale is typically fractured at depths greater than 5,000 feet, with thousands of feet of rock between the fractured area and the water table, which is located near the surface. When properly designed, fracking wells are lined with multiple layers of steel and cement casing to prevent leakage of water and natural gas into the local water supply. Approximately one million wells have been hydraulically fractured over the last six decades without cases of water contamination. During Congressional testimony in 2011, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.”

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing appear to be minimal. Only a handful of micro quakes have been linked to fractured wells. None of these quakes have caused damage and most are too weak to feel. Nor is there evidence to show that fracking poses greater air pollution, radiation discharge, or cancer impact than agriculture, other mining, or other common industrial processes.

Burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide, like any other combustion. Climate activists oppose natural gas as a planet-warming fossil fuel and therefore oppose fracking. But gas combustion releases about half the carbon dioxide of coal combustion. The majority of the decline in US carbon dioxide emissions over the last ten years is due to the switch of electric utilities from coal to natural gas fuel, not from the growth of renewables.

Arguments about pollution of drinking water, earthquakes, water usage, radiation, and cancer appear to be a smoke screen to protect renewable energy, the sacred cow of the environmental movement. Natural gas from hydraulic fracturing is a direct threat to the growth of wind and solar energy.

Gas-fueled power plants are low-cost and dispatchable. In contrast, wind and solar electricity is two to three times the price and plagued by intermittent output, unable to respond to varying electrical demand. With hundreds of years of natural gas available from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, why build another wind turbine?

Fracking opposition has been strong in isolated locations across the world. Bans or moratoriums are in place in Bulgaria, France, Germany, and South Africa. Protesters are blocking fracking operations in England and Poland. Selected US counties and communities have imposed fracking bans. The state of New York established a fracking moratorium in 2008 and has delayed approval of fracking for more than five years. Ironically, natural gas provides a growing majority of New York’s energy consumption.

US Gas Growth EIA Projections Article

Despite the opposition, it appears that environmental groups have lost the battle against fracking. In 2012, 40 percent of US natural gas production was shale gas, using fracking technology, up from less than one percent in 2000. Shale gas is projected to exceed 50 percent of production by 2040. US crude oil production is also surging due to oil recovered from shale fields, up more than 50 percent since 2005.

In Europe, concerns about energy dependency on Russia have triggered a turnaround of government opposition to fracking. Germany is preparing a framework for tapping oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing and planning to lift its ban. The British government is proposing policies to remove roadblocks from fracking efforts.

The Obama administration, despite its campaign to fight climate change, publically supports hydraulic fracturing and liquefied natural gas exports. Climate hawks, such as Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, also support the expansion of natural gas, to the dismay of green organizations. Governor Jerry Brown of California presses for action on climate change, but has not opposed hydraulic fracturing.

Today, hydraulic fracturing is underway in 21 states. Several more states are developing supporting regulations. Despite a number of local bans, fracking is now a frequently used industrial process across the nation.

Shale gas and oil are here to stay. Weak environmental arguments to ban fracking are being overwhelmed by the irresistible economic bonanza of low-cost energy.

Originally published in Communities Digital News, republished here by submission from the author.


 

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism:  Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
MikeUK

The word fracking was a PR disaster, it sounds so unpleasant. Can anybody think of a better name?

Sweet Old Bob

I like the sound of “fracking ” the green nutjobs…

ZoeyPointFive

“Anthropocentric Bedrock Change”

otsar

The actual name for Fracking is well stimulation. This of course could stimulate some minds. Aditionally, water wells are also stimulated. Anytime the formation permeability is low, the stimulation will improve the flow. See what I mean.

Common Sense is winning the battle against the Earth worshipers.

Joe Public

The most effective means of long-term CO2 reduction for those who really believe it’s a problem, is self-sterilisation.

Twobob

To frack not to frack.
Face the green slings and arrows aspersions.
Or to feed warm family.

Patrick

Well, everything gives you cancer…

What is needed is education. Hydraulic fracturing has been going on for almost 70 years – like since I was born. From Wikipedia: “The first, experimental use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, and the first, commercially successful applications of fracking were in 1949. Worldwide, as of 2012, 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells; more than one million jobs were performed in the U.S.[3][4]”
And if you don’t like here is a note from Alberta Environment:
environment.alberta.ca/04131.html
Alberta has used hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas recovery since the 1950s. Since then, … Baseline Water Well Testing for Coalbed Methane Development;
The concern seems to be related to fracturing shallow formations and somehow some environmentalists and news media decided they had a story. Probably there has been an incident or two. Just like with water wells that hit gas or people falling asleep at the wheel.
It just seem like the soup de jour to me since its been done almost since we first started producing oil in Alberta. We have even done it is water wells to improve production.
I learned about “fracturing” in hydrology classes 50 years ago so I don’t understand the media attention. I guess it has to do with the combination of horizontal drilling and fracturing, particularly in coal bed methane and that somehow has evolved to “all fracturing is bad”.
The words “stimulating production” used to be used but that applies to many things besides fracturing. Perhaps we should go back to that.

Latitude

“‘Fracking,’ a violent process…………… ROTFL

Nigel Harris

Fracking looks particularly attractive if you compare it with coal mining. It is astonishing that anyone (apart perhaps from a coal miner) could simultaneously campaign against fracking and for continued or increased coal extraction.
Everything that is supposedly bad about fracking (groundwater contamination, fugitive methane emissions, seismic events, CO2 emissions when the fuel is burned) is worse with coal. In addition, the coal industry kills dozens of people a month directly in industrial accidents, not to consider the wider health impacts of the sulfur, nitrogen and other emissions from coal burning.
And the quickest way to stop the coal industry death toll is of course to make gas more economically attractive, through promotion of fracking.

Pamela Gray

Poor little protestors have lost their teddies and blankies. I bet they still have their binkies and are at the teat of somebody’s tax dollars.

Nigel Harris

At a big gas conference in Europe the other week it was suggested that the industry should get around the naming issue by talking about drilling for gas using “horizontal drilling” rather than “fracking”. Of course the two techniques go hand in hand when extracting hydrocarbons from shale.

Erny72

Mike, the correct nomenclature is ‘Hydraulic Stimulation’.
The next step in the ongoing development of hydraulic stimulation techniques is employing entirely re-used fluid which sidesteps two oft-quoted objections to hydraulic stimulation, namely the high water demand required during a well stimulation today in addition to disposal of used fluid and the traces of nasty chemicals contained there-in.
Next will probably be the use of gas (eevil CO2 maybe) in lieu of water as the carrier fluid.
Does the aversion to’fracking’ indicate a childhood exposure to Battlestar Galactica?

hunter

MikeUK,
“Hydraulic Well Stimulation” is an accurate way to describe the process.
“Fracking” is a derivative of “Fracturing” which is what the George Mitchell, the genius developr of the process, knew would increase production from ‘tight’ geological formations where low porosity restricted the amount fo hydrocarbons that could be economically recovered from a well. the greens, in their reactionary and fact-free hatred of fracking are really telling more about themselves than the process.
But today’s greens are not about a commitment to accuracy and truth. They are after imposition of an agenda at any cost.

Erny72

NIgel, talking about exploiting shale gas by ‘horizontal drilling’ would be pretty ambiguous given the number of conventional oil and gas wells drilled around the world each year that involve a horizontal drain section in the reservoir or a horizontal (or highly deviated) tangent section to reach a reservoir that is distant from a fixed drilling platform.
Are you sure the quamby who made the suggestion wasn’t a politician or PR consultant?

I believe there’s still a moratorium on fracking in the National Socialist Democratic Peoples Republic of Maryland.

mkelly

Nigel Harris says:
June 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm
“In addition, the coal industry kills dozens of people a month…”
======
Oh horse hooey. The industry does not kill people. Accidents kill people. This is a silly argument against coal. I bet most of the deaths are in places like China where they don’t care all that much about works anyway.

Nigel Harris

@ mkelly
I’d say the argument that the coal extractive industry has a dreadful safety record is a pretty strong argument against it provided there are other energy sources that have dramatically better safety records. Which there are. And fracking is one of them.

otsar

Well stimulation has been done with many things. Nuclear explosives were used in the swords to plowshares program, such as the Rio Blanco shot. Unfortunately or fortunately it did not pan out because the shock wave decreased the permeability of the formation. Solid rocket propellants have been used to drive fluids at a high rate into tight (low permeability) formations. Rapid drive produces a star shape of shorter fractures around the well. Nitrogen at ahigh rate of injection has also been used. The most common is a spearhead of 10k gallons of HF acid or some other material that will facilitate stress corrosion fracture, followed by a million or more pounds of high quatz “sand.” The grains are about the size of a small pea. The sand is suspended in a common food thickener additive with some friction reducing compunds added. As the fluid is being injected a polymer breaker is added to facilitate the flowback of the fluids. The fluids are injected at about 10K 15K psi. and 5 to 30 barrels per minute using large positive displacement pumps. The pressures and flows will change with the depth of the formation and the stimulation design. Above about 2500 ft the fractures become horizontal as it is easier to lift the overburden. below 2500 ft the fracures will be mostly vertical in the direction parallel to the regional stress. In shale the fractures will go mostly in the plane of the shale.

John West

“When properly designed, fracking wells”
I’d say when properly designed and installed, fracking wells …
One can have a perfect plan/design but if executed/installed poorly the results can still come up short in the performance department.

The 6 year recession that we have been in is what killed their cause. The fact there was no recovery from the last recession before hitting the next one meant people would not pay attention. Add to that the Obama policies that restricted oil extraction by limiting leases, driving up the cost, meant people did not have the money to worry about fracking.
You can only heap misery on people for so long and so much before they retreat to a bunker mentality. Where they seek to assure their own survival, not some mythic catastrophe from a Hollywood movie set.

otsar

The states that do not allow well stimulation should also be ecouraged to pass legislation to not allow any hydrocarbon that was produced by well stimulation to be consumed in their state or city. These hydrocarbons were produced by evil means and will only bring evil with them or some such nonsense. I remember that in Germany some scammers were selling radiation shield covers to put over the electrical wall plugs to keep the radiation from coming out. The logic was that the electricity came from nuclear reactors.

“Can anybody think of a better name?”
Cohabitating with the rocks?

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Gas-fueled power plants are low-cost and dispatchable.
More proof the current UK couldn’t pull off a one horse parade without a right royal cock-up.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/10/uk_preps_ww2style_energy_rationing/

Gas plants have closed because they’re not economical to run when ticking along; when demand is under 57 per cent, the operator may as well close it. The government’s complex measures include a new “Capacity Market”, which encourages mothballed gas and coal plants to be pressed into action.

TonyK

If Greenpeace had been around in the 1700’s, would we even have had an Industrial Revolution?

The fact that the Greenies lost isn’t as surprising as the fact that it took so long
before the majority came to realize how stupid their arguments were.

otsar

John Weat Says: …
I was present at a frac job when the christmas tree lifted about 4 ft in the air. I was not enough to trigger the BOP, but it was enough to shut down the pumps and make a few people outrun jackrabbits.

“If Greenpeace had been around in the 1700′s, would we even have had an Industrial Revolution?”
They were around, although back then they were called the Luddites.

Gunga Din

“Can anybody think of a better name?”
=============================================================
Permeability enhancement?
Hydraulic freeing?
Fracking Rocks!!

joelobryan

What Obama says publicly about supporting Fracking is a lie to hide his real, hidden from the public, plans with the environmental extremists that are a major base for Democrats.
The White House and the EPA are secretly in the hunt for shutting down hydraulic fracturing by re-writing Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations and claiming almost any creek, dry river, or pond is a navigable waterway. In doing so the EPA could veto the state’s ability to regulate and control fracking since the waste frack fluid is re-injected into deep disposal wells on private lands and state lands.
see: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-04-21/pdf/2014-07142.pdf
From the summary of the proposed rule change:
“This proposal would enhance protection for the nation’s public health and aquatic resources, and increase CWA program predictability and consistency by increasing clarity as to the scope of ‘‘waters of the United States’’ protected under the Act.”
Just another Executive power grab by Obama, under the ruse of environmental protection.

Robert W Turner

I guess you make yourself look dumb when you get all of your propagand….err…information from a docudrama about a technical engineering process made by a liberal arts major. I suggest we call this type of misinformation, stemming from docudramas, ingoremation.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

TonyK said on June 11, 2014 at 1:39 pm:

If Greenpeace had been around in the 1700′s, would we even have had an Industrial Revolution?

More troubling would have been PETA, as they’d force a ceasing of using animals for farming and transportation. That’d knock civilization down a notch.
But while it’s immoral to have animals do human work, humans can do human work. And there would be an endless supply of replacements for the animals in the form of unwashed savages from Africa, then South America, in assorted Pacific territories, the Middle and Far East…
Why would they need machines to replace the abundant labor that all civilized people had grown accustomed to needing and using?

planebrad

I wouldn’t claim victory just yet. The watermelons don’t give up easily.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/some-states-confirm-water-pollution-from-drilling/4328859/
The headline of this story spreads across Facebook and is reposted by such sites as 350.org, but the actual article doesn’t make it sound like pollution is that big of a deal. Unfortunately, the low info crowd don’t read the actual article.

brians356

Economics trumps all. Europe lives under its relentless rules as we do. Fossil fuels are so very, very cheap and efficient nothing else is even close. And some recent evidence points to fossil fuels actually being “renewables”. Anyone who thinks we can stop using fossil fuels and still maintain anything like a modern standard of living is smoking too much rope. To quote Hemingway – “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Steve C

Hydrobaric flow optimisation, or hyflow.
Sounds “fluffy” enough, and 100% honest.

Robert W Turner

planebrad says:
It seems that none of the cases mentioned involved hydraulic fracturing, just drilling activity. Apparently less than 1% of the complaints have supporting evidence with them, meaning a lot of people are crying wolf and swamping the conservation agencies.
At least they have wised up in most states and are requiring a baseline water test before drilling, which is irrefutable proof either way and cheap insurance for the operator. I’ll wager that the number of complaints drop with baseline water tests considering most complaints occur in areas with plenty of biogenic methane already in the ground water, e.g. Pennylvania. In Pennsylvania’s case, and anywhere else with late 1800s early 1900s drilling activity, contamination can occur from improperly plugged well bores that are close to new wells being stimulated. Many of these old wells were never even reported to the state and no one even knows they are there.

Santa Baby

What they really try to say is:
Fracking causes cheap energy and a big middle class?

TomB:
My brother-in-law is an Assistant Attorney General for the peoples Republic of Maryland. They do have a moratorium on fracking. He smoothly repeated the party line when I asked him about it by saying that I could not prove that Fracking was safe. I pointed out that you cannot prove a negative. When I said that I thought that restricting property development was equivalent to taking, he suggested that if I felt that way I could sue the state. If he wasn’t the father of of my niece and nephew, I would put him on a blacklist of thugs to be purged when we finally get control of the national government back. Any lawyer that argues for less constitutional rights should be barred from the practice of law entirely. Our current dictator in chief is the archetypical example of the danger of this kind of modern progressive thinking.
otsar:
Where did you get your information about Fracking? I have never heard of 10,000 gallons of hydrofluoric acid being added to modern hydraulic fracturing. That sounds very scary. Are you sure you’re not confusing hydraulic fracturing stimulation with acid stimulation? Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive ( it dissolves glass and has to be contained in beeswax) and I don’t believe that you could get very far down steel pipe without totally corroding the pipe.

Harold

Think of it as foreplay for Gaia.

Steve C says:
June 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm
Hydrobaric flow optimisation, or hyflow.
Sounds “fluffy” enough, and 100% honest.
*
I like it!

sonofametman

A chum of mine used to work as a safety analyst for the now defunct UK coal board. He asserted that most of the accidents (death or injury) in deep coal mines were due to miners riding the conveyor belts, i.e. were self-inflicted. I won’t dispute that the overall stats for deaths per TJ are much worse for coal than any other energy source, but I wonder how they’d look if you could eliminate the conveyor belt casualties..

dipchip

Why do we still here about Liquid NG export? The USA is currently a net importer of more than 1 trillion Cu ft of Natural Gas Annually. Further more New Production or additional production is not keeping up with new demand. That is the reason well head prices have more than doubled over the past 18 months. BTW $4.50 worth of NG (1 million Btu’s) has the equivalent energy of 8 gallons of gasoline.
NG is currently being sold for $2.25 per equivalent gallon of gasoline on the retail market. Many local urban delivery and collection trucks are switching to NG.

dipchip,
According to the latest issue of Forbes, the U.S. will soon bve a net exporter of natural gas. When that happens, it will put even more upward pressure on prices.

OK S.

The word fracking was a PR disaster, it sounds so unpleasant. Can anybody think of a better name?

Well, back when they dropped a couple of quarts of nitroglycerin down a well, they called it “Hot-Shotting“.

otsar

moliterno59: says
go to https://www.onepetro.org/search?q=spearhead+hydrofluoric+acid&peer_reviewed=&published_between=&from_year=&to_year=
or http://scholar.google.com and look for spearhead hydraulic fracture HF
The spearhead will change depening on conditions. The HF I am talking about is not the 49% acid. Hf is a weakly ionizing acid. It is used for removing oxides from metals (descaling) it will weakly attack iron. It replaces oxygen in oxides and makes them water soluble. The spearhead is a weak solution of HF or HCL and HF. The acids are consumed (neutralized) in the process.
HF is very nasty on flesh as it works slowly and the damage is not felt until a lot of damage has been done. Hf reacts with calcium (such as in bone or calcium carbonate) to give calcium fluoride. Calcium which is called fluorospar which is used as a flux in iron production. Fluorine is also a component of bone in the form of calcium fluoro phosphate (apatite.) It really makes me sad when I hear some people say they don’t want any chemicals in their food or environment. It tells me they are grossly ignorant and that “modern education” is a failure.
I could go on and on./rant over

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From OK S. on June 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm:

Well, back when they dropped a couple of quarts of nitroglycerin down a well, they called it “Hot-Shotting“.

I remember that from a MacGyver episode, except that was to blow out a well fire.
So was that a procedure, take a low-producing well, start a fire, then get the environmental authorities to grant emergency permission to put it out rather than submit applications and impact studies to eventually get fracking authorization?

” … I learned about “fracturing” in hydrology classes 50 years ago so I don’t understand the media attention. I guess it has to do with the combination of horizontal drilling and fracturing, particularly in coal bed methane and that somehow has evolved to “all fracturing is bad”. …”
The evolution is strictly political. With the modern “environmentalist” leading a full out attack on all cheap and reliable energy sources along with the huge reserves of Shale Gas, we are now being subjected to massive propaganda. These people are not “environmentalists” at all. I want a clean world and I don’t want any portions of our world needlessly polluted. In fact, I would much rather see Shale Gas used to power our lives than conventional nuclear plants that produce massive radioactive wastes.

Gary Pearse

“Despite a number of local bans, fracking is now a frequently used industrial process across the nation.”
How about: We have been fracturing formations for first, water and then oil gas and since the Civil War. Instead of hydraulic, explosives ( both gunpowder and nitroglycerine) were used which were much less controllable and resulted in some deaths of well workers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torpedo_%28petroleum%29
Conventional oil and gas has been fractured (torpedoed) since the industry began and torpedoing was used up into the 1960s. Hydraulic fracturing began in 1947 in a gas field in Kansas and has only come fully into its own after the turn of the millennium. I guess, the thing never got out until green zealots heard there might be a lot of cheap fossil fuel available. It is not new.
“Shale gas and oil are here to stay. Weak environmental arguments to ban fracking are being overwhelmed by the irresistible economic bonanza of low-cost energy.”
And this is a lesson that governments can overwhelm such destructive environmental zealotry with little effort. All you have to do is please your constituency, not those who circumvent the democratic process. Environmental organizations actions have, over recent years, begun to self-marginalize them. Greenpeace has become a joke and is now merely a political organization.

“The word fracking was a PR disaster, it sounds so unpleasant. Can anybody think of a better name?”
Earth Acupuncture and Deep Strata Massage