Energy Information Administration

More news on fracking

Did you read yesterday’s lead editorial in the Columbus Dispatch titled Shale’s Promise? It must be true what they say, “great minds run in the same channel” because it closely parallels my blog of the previous day titled Memo raising questions in the fracking fray. Or did they read my blog?

Prosperity is headed to our state, according to the editorial, not only in the form of what the wells are projected to bring in but also in the construction and steel industries. Plans are underway to remodel or build new plants to make the steel casings needed for the wells. Business leaders see this as an opportunity for a cheaper energy source, and the petrochemical industry expects a shale-gas boom to provide cheaper raw materials.

However, the editorial warns against a gold-rush mentality and cautions the industry to do things right. It quotes Ohio’s state attorney general, Mike DeWine, cautioning landowners to beware of sharp operators who might try to trick them into signing away rights to the gas and oil on their property too cheaply. The editorial also states that protecting the environment should be given equal priority to developing the business.

In a bit of encouraging news, the editorial says that Gov. Kasich sent a letter to dozens of oil and gas companies in May inviting them to consider the opportunities in Ohio, but also noted the need to protect public safety and the environment, asking them to make a “commitment to responsible corporate citizenship.”

The editorial closes by saying ,”Kasich declared himself “simply thrilled” to hear the bullish Chesapeake report, predicting a boom to the state and if the shale-gas reserves prove as rich as reported and can be extracted without damaging Ohio’s surface and ground water, he’s right to be. “

In other related news, Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, said that the shale resources can transform the state’s economy. “I believe that we could be at the beginning of a new and extended positive chapter in Ohio’s economy, and it’s essential that we properly marshal our economic development, job training, environmental and regulatory assets to make this work right and work well for Ohio,” he said.

In a “it could be good or it could be bad” category a federal panel just released a report approving the fracking process but qualified its announcement by saying the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can continue safely as long as companies disclose more about their practices and monitor their environmental impact.

The committee’s report could pave the way for more gas exploration but calls for new standards to limit harmful air emissions. In 2001 shale gas accounted for less than 2% of the total U.S. natural gas production, today it is 30%, and the Energy Information Administration projects that it will amount to 45% by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy says companies must do more to reduce air pollution and threats to groundwater. The report also says companies should follow best practices to limit leaks of methane and other air pollutants to safeguard streams and groundwater.

The report also calls for:

  • ·         Companies to use better seismic monitoring to ensure that only gas bearing shale is fractured
  • ·         Full disclosure on the chemicals used for fracking
  • ·         More research on the potential of shale gas to contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies.

It is encouraging to see that some recommendations are coming out at the beginning of this boom, however, only time will tell if these recommendations carry any weight. It would be great if this country could become completely independent of foreign oil, maintain a cheaper supply of energy at home, and extract this fuel in a clean and safe manner. It is up to the public to maintain vigilance and continue to pressure the companies to provide a safe environment.