Tag Archives: Hydraulic fracturing

Os políticos da UE rejeitaram um banimento do gás de xisto e pediram por um regime regulatório rígido para lidar com preocupações ambientais e outras em uma série de votações na quarta-feira no Parlamento Europeu.

Uma revolução do gás de xisto varreu os Estados Unidos, reduzindo os preços do gás e ajudando a diminuir a poluição do carvão.

A Europa está observando isso com interesse, se não com inveja, já que os Estados Unidos estão caminhando para uma independência energética e estão conseguindo um impulso econômico com o combustível barato.

Mas a perspectiva de desenvolvimento extensivo do gás de xisto na Europa é complicada por causa de regras de propriedade de terra, alta densidade demográfica e preocupações ambientais acerca do processo de fracking, usado para extrair gás natural do xisto.

O fracking, ou fraturamento hidráulico, envolve o bombeamento de água que contém químicos nas formações rochosas de xisto a uma alta pressão, e críticos dizem que o processo arrisca contaminar aquíferos, assim como pode causar tremores de terra.

Embora as votações de quarta-feira tenham rejeitado um pedido de banimento das atividades de fracking, afirmando que os estados membros da União Europeia têm o direito de explorar suas reservas, elas também seguiram uma linha cautelosa.

As votações, em dois relatórios separados, eliminaram sentenças que estimulavam o desenvolvimento rápido do gás de xisto.

As sentenças eliminadas incluíam uma em que o gás de xisto poderia “ter um papel essencial” na transição para a geração de energia de baixo carbono e outra de apoio “a um nível elevado na produção sustentável de gás de xisto”.

A Comissão Europeia deve no próximo ano criar um quadro sobre gerenciamento dos riscos e supressão de deficiências na regulamentação da UE.

“Estudos realizados indicam que há uma série de incertezas ou falhas na atual legislação da UE”, disse o comissário ambiental Janez Potocnik em uma declaração.

“Enfrentar riscos de saúde e ambientais será de suma importância para que a indústria ganhe ampla aceitação do público.”

As votações parlamentares de quarta-feira não foram obrigatórias, mas são um sinal político aos legisladores da Comissão.

Os partidários do gás de xisto parabenizaram os parlamentares, enquanto os ambientalistas e políticos do Partido Verde elogiaram o clima de cautela, mas teriam preferido um banimento.

“Isso implica que os estados membros deveriam pensar duas vezes antes de permitir que qualquer projeto dessa tecnologia controversa vá em frente”, declarou Carl Schlyter, do Partido Verde sueco e membro do Parlamento Europeu.

A Shale Gas Europe, um novo órgão apoiado por firmas de petróleo e gás, incluindo a Chevron, a Statoil e a Royal Dutch Shell, comentou que o parlamento pediu pela exploração do gás de xisto, garantindo que isso seria feito sustentavelmente.

“A Shale Gas Europe apoia totalmente essas metas e continuará o envolvimento com cidadãos e tomadores de decisão, ouvindo e atendendo às preocupações relacionadas ao gás de xisto”, observou a porta-voz Monica Cristina.

Traduzido por Jéssica Lipinski

Autor: Barbara Lewis
Fonte: Reuters



Local groups from Pittsburgh take part in a Frackdown Smackdown tug-of-war between college students representing the “gas industry” and Pennsylvania citizens during a global Frackdown Day Schenley Park in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/John Heller)

PHILADELPHIA — Demonstrators in the United States and other countries protested Saturday against the natural gas drilling process known as fracking that they say threatens public health and the environment.

Participants in the “Global Frackdown” campaign posted photos on social media websites showing mostly small groups.

But organizer Mark Schlosberg said Saturday afternoon he thought the protests were going well and he pointed to photos showing larger demonstrations in South Africa and France as well as higher turnouts in cities in California, Colorado and New York.

“I think it’s really the communities all over the world coming together to say, `We want to protect our water, we want to protect our air, and we want to safeguard our climate future by getting off dirty fossil fuels and saying no to fracking. We need to invest in a renewable energy future,'” said Schlosberg, who is national organizing director for Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that developed the GlobalFrackdown website and campaign.

The immense volumes of natural gas found by fracturing underground shale rock around the country has spurred a boom in natural gas production that has been credited with creating jobs and lowering prices for industry and consumers.

But scientists disagree on the risks of hydraulic fracking, a process that injects large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to break rock apart and free the gas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many state regulators say fracking can be done safely, and the American Lung Association says it can help reduce air pollution.

Opponents say the process can pollute water and sicken residents.

At a park in Pittsburgh, protesters signed a petition calling for a moratorium on shale gas drilling. In Buffalo, N.Y., demonstrators called upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Jennifer Krill, executive director of Earthworks, said about 50 San Francisco demonstrators marched along the waterfront to the Golden Gate bridge, carrying signs and banners. She posted a picture of a 30-foot-long white banner stretched out on the grass that listed chemicals used in fracking.

“I thought it was a very eye-catching way to display one of the key problems with fracking, which is that the public does not know – unless the company chooses to disclose it – what chemicals are involved in hydraulic fracturing,” she said.

Kathy Hanratty of Frack-Free Geauga said about 30 to 40 people turned out at a demonstration in the northeast Ohio county, which she said was not bad considering “it’s a small county and a rainy morning.”

“It is an affected area,” Hanratty said. “We just had the seismic test trucks go past my house on Monday.”

In Ohio, an injection well used to hold wastewater from the fracking process has been tied to a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area.

Author: PM ET EDT
Source: The Huff Post Green / AFP


Opponents plan a rally Saturday against using the process in the 1,200-acre Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the United States.

Oil wells in the Inglewood Oil Field along Onacrest Drive in Windsor Hills are shown. Residents say their properties have been damaged by mysterious land shifts, and that has increased their fears about the use of fracking. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

A much-anticipated report that evaluates the potential effect of a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the Baldwin Hills area is scheduled to be released next month, officials confirmed this week.

The study was launched a year ago at the 1,200-acre Inglewood Oil Field, which is owned and operated by Plains Exploration & Production Co., and completed in July.

The news comes on the eve of Saturday’s planned rally in Culver City to call on lawmakers to ban fracking, a technique that fractures rock formations to release trapped oil and natural gas. The process involves a high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemical additives into a drill site’s wellbore.

Fracking has come under scrutiny, however, amid allegations that it increases seismic activity and that it contaminates water supplies.

Located two miles south of the 10 Freeway, the field is surrounded by a handful of communities, including Culver City, Baldwin Hills and Inglewood — making it the largest urban oil field in the country. Plains Exploration is hoping to tap into the oil reserves in the field’s shale formations identified in 2003.

Residents say their properties have been damaged by mysterious land shifts, and that has increased their fears about the use of fracking. Some homeowners say they suspect the movements may be related to drilling operations. The cause is unclear, however, given that the area sits on top of the Newport-Inglewood fault.

Still, environmental and community groups like Food & Water Watch and Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community are trying to stop Plains Exploration from using the technique, and are calling on state lawmakers to ban the practice.

“There are numerous non-industry-funded studies and documentation from around the country that have shown the severe impacts fracking has on our air, water and land,” said Brenna Norton of Food & Water Watch. “The fracking process is too dangerous and too risky to ever be properly regulated and that’s why we’re calling for a ban on fracking in California.”

But proponents of fracking say the procedure is safe and has been used since the 1950s. They argue that there are no proven cases of underground water contamination being tied to fracking and that U.S. Geological Survey scientists have found no direct link between seismic activity and the technique. In fact, oil experts note that in a recent USGS study, seismologist Bill Ellsworth said that increased earthquakes are related to wastewater disposal wells.

“The people who demand that this technology should be banned occupy the fringes of the debate over energy policy in this country, and they care more about their anti-industry ideology than they do about facts,” said Dave Quast of Energy in Depth, a research and public outreach organization supported by the Independent Petroleum Assn. of America.

The Plains Exploration study is part of a settlement the company reached last year with community and environmental groups.

Daniel Tormey, environmental sciences technical director at Cardno Entrix, organized the report on behalf of Plains Exploration and submitted it to an independent peer reviewer in August.

Company Vice President Steve Rusch said that once the report is completed, it would be the first of its kind in California. It is scheduled to be released Oct. 10.

“The study will be particularly timely in providing answers to the key questions most often raised about hydraulic fracturing,” Rusch wrote in a recent newsletter to residents.

Author: Ruben Vives
Source: Los Angeles Times


As the state prepares to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, many people debate the risks of leasing mineral rights to extraction companies.

A hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation takes place on leased farmland near Dimock, Pa., where dairy farms once predominated. (Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times / December 27, 2011)

Reporting from Callicoon, N.Y.— Pete and Jack Diehl grew up in the tall clapboard house their German immigrant ancestors built in 1842, on a hillside overlooking a creek in the Catskills. Sharp-featured and lean, the brothers run dairy farms within a couple miles of each other. They own land together, and Pete’s grandson works on Jack’s farm every day after school.

But the Diehls are divided over the fate of their property — like thousands of others along the Pennsylvania border, where rich natural gas deposits underlie forests, pastures and towns. As New York prepares to lift a moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing — which carries environmental risks — landowners are debating whether to lease mineral rights to extraction companies.

Pete, 67, opposes leasing his land and the property the brothers jointly own. He worries that he would lose control over his pastures to a big corporation and that the drilling process could ruin the water.

“Once you lease the land, they can do what they want on it. They can drill wherever they want,” he said. “It’s about the future. It’s the landscape. It’s the Catskills.”

Jack, 61, favors leasing, convinced that a tough contract could protect the water while delivering thousands of dollars in royalties to keep the family’s farms afloat in these difficult economic times.

“If you do a contract right, the water will be tested beforehand and the company will be liable for the water,” he said. “If anything happens to it, they will bring you water until it gets cleared up.”

Other New York residents are as polarized as the Diehls. According to a Quinnipiac poll in December, 45% oppose hydraulic fracturing and 44% favor it. A majority thinks it would create jobs, but also that it would damage the environment.

“On an issue like this, there is no gray area,” said Alice Diehl, Pete’s wife. “People are either for it for an important reason or against it for a reason they think is as important.”

The process, also called fracking, involves injecting water infused with chemicals and sand into shale formations at high pressure, which requires millions of gallons of water and produces millions of gallons of wastewater. Critics say it can lead to contamination of water wells, rivers and streams. Other risks include leaks, spills and explosions.

Both sides invoke property rights and blame each other for imperiling their future. Supporters of leasing see the potential income as a lifeline to keep their land and preserve their farms. Opponents fear they could lose their land and livelihood to environmental catastrophe.

Despite the Catskills’ beauty, decades of economic blight are forcing landowners to consider leasing. Factories have closed, once-popular resorts have withered, and the arrival of second-home owners, tourists and specialty farmers has not turned things around. Dairy farmers fight to stay afloat amid high fuel and feed costs.

Many fracking supporters accuse wealthy outsiders of seeking to squelch development.

“It’s class warfare,” said Noel van Swol, president of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Assn. “They’re trust-fund babies who are throwing their weight around.”

But the dispute is more complicated. Some vacation homeowners welcome the chance to make money off their new property, while many longtime residents fight to keep the area rural.

Arguments sometimes break out at cafes and farmers’ meetings.

Wes Gillingham, 52, a lifelong resident and farmer who works for Catskill Mountainkeeper, an environmental group, says that although relations have largely stayed civil, neighbors are angry with one another — and with him.

“People I was friendly with are treating me as if I’m taking money out of their pocket,” he said.

The antagonists’ competing narratives rarely intersect.

Jack Diehl said customers at the feed store talk about a landowner in Pennsylvania’s bustling Bradford County who receives $50,000 a month in royalties.

“When it comes [time] to sign, I will sign,” even if it creates tensions with Pete, Jack Diehl said. “That’s a chance I gotta take: I’m looking at the future.”

Alice Diehl says neighbors who allow fracking could contaminate the aquifer for everyone.

“We have no control over other people’s property, but what they do affects us,” she said. “It’s as if we’d drilled ourselves. You feel like you’re on a sinking ship and you can’t fix it.”

Fracking opponents look toward Pennsylvania with dread. In Dimock, a small town about halfway between Scranton, Pa., and Binghamton, N.Y., at least 18 families’ water wells were contaminated with methane and chemicals after fracking began in the area. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is investigating, and delivering water to the families in the meantime.

Pete and Alice Diehl first heard about possible water contamination three years ago from their grandson Dan, now 16. Of all the Diehl children and grandchildren, he seems the most committed to dairy farming. He began buying his own herd when he was 8, and now has 15 cows.

Every day after school, Dan tends 80 milk cows — his Uncle Jack’s and his own Swiss Browns. In the dimness of the barn at twilight, cats run along the walls and calves sit tethered. Cows chew their cud, eyes alert. This, not college, is where Dan sees his future.

With farming paying as little as it does, Dan said, he understands why some people think leasing land for fracking may be their only hope. But he finds himself thinking like his grandfather.

“Unless they can show me that it’s permanently safe, I wouldn’t be for drilling,” he said. “I’m worried, but I keep my emotions hidden from my family. It keeps me out of trouble.”

Author: Neela Banerjee
Source: Los Angeles Times


When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took office last year, his administration seemed to be in hurry-up mode as it decided whether to allow hydraulic fracturing, a controversial gas drilling process. State regulators kept to tight deadlines to produce for public review an environmental impact study and proposed drilling rules, and the state’s top environmental official said drilling permits could be granted as early as this year.

But now, a decision on the process, known as hydrofracking — its scope, its timing or whether it will happen at all — seems much more uncertain, and the approval process has slowed considerably despite almost four years of study, debate and intense lobbying on both sides of the issue.

Mr. Cuomo did not mention hydrofracking in his State of the State address last month, and did not provide money in his proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year for regulating the new industry.

The governor’s office declined to answer questions Monday on the slowing of the approval calendar, but cited a statement by Mr. Cuomo in the fall of 2011 that a decision on hydrofracking should be based “on the facts and on the science.”

“This is not an issue to be decided by politics or emotion,” the governor added.

State regulators say they need more time to deal with the unprecedented volume of public comments about the drilling plan by the Department of Environmental Conservation — more than 46,000 for or against, or pointing out unresolved concerns. Others say there is less urgency given the low market price of natural gas and a recent announcement by some major drilling companies that they plan to curtail production.

Even some of the most outspoken advocates for hydrofracking are showing patience, including Tom Libous, the second-ranking Republican in the State Senate, who represents the natural-gas-rich Southern Tier, on the Pennsylvania border.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a given,” he said of the state’s permitting hydrofracking. “Economically, we need it desperately. But at the end of the day, if the scientists and geologists at the D.E.C. say ‘this is not a good thing to do,’ I’m not going to challenge it.”

New York officials have been cautious from the start, revising and twice submitting for public review an environmental impact document incorporating the lessons learned from other states that allow hydrofracking on the Marcellus Shale. The extraction process uses vast amounts of water, chemicals and sand to release gas from tight rock and has posed environmental risks, some of them still under study by the Environmental Protection Agency. As New York decides, new concerns have surfaced, including the fear of water contamination and seismic activity related to the disposal of drilling waste.

Opposition to hydrofracking has grown and organized. Some elected officials said the controversy had raised new political considerations, especially during this election year.

“It’s causing everybody to say, ‘Let’s not rush into this,’ ” said Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, a Democrat from Suffolk County who has sponsored a bill calling for a moratorium on hydrofracking until June 2013, to allow more time for study.

Mr. Sweeney, who leads the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, said the strong public sentiment could not be lost on the Cuomo administration.

“The first time something bad happens,” he said of the consequences of drilling, “it’s going to come right back to them.”

Last month, in his most recent remarks on the subject, Mr. Cuomo indicated that hydrofracking was very much an “if.”

“You would not be hiring staff to regulate hydrofracking unless you believed you were going ahead with hydrofracking,” he told reporters. “And we haven’t made that determination. So the budget won’t anticipate hydrofracking approval.”

An 18-member advisory panel convened by Joseph Martens, the state environmental commissioner, to determine how to pay for state workers overseeing hydrofracking postponed issuing its recommendations, missing the Nov. 1 deadline. The panel has been on hiatus since December. Two of its meetings have been canceled since the public comment period closed Jan. 11, as the Environmental Conservation Department reviews the mounds of feedback, sifting for any information that would warrant further revisions.

Robert Moore, a panel member and executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said the costs of minimizing hydrofracking’s risks had become a bigger issue now that some gas companies have gone into a retrenchment in response to the glut of natural gas. The industry would ultimately be responsible for the fees and taxes necessary to defray the costs of hiring and training state regulatory workers.

“With gas prices being what they are, it’s unclear what profits can be made,” he said. “If there’s no profit, there’s no tax revenue.”

Another panel member, Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo, a Democrat from Broome County, said, “It all boils down to two questions: what level of risk are we willing to accept, and at what cost?”

Gas companies are fighting New York’s proposed rules, arguing that they go too far and impose unnecessary restrictions and costs on the industry. Companies already estimate that they would have to spend an extra $1 million per well to drill in the state because of tougher requirements, including a rule that would require an extra layer of cemented well casing to prevent the gas from seeping out. Despite the market and the regulatory challenges, companies remain eager to drill, and to determine how much shale gas New York wells might yield.

“We don’t even know the quality of the resource in New York, and how New York production compares to neighboring states,” said Thomas S. West, an Albany lawyer who represents oil and gas companies. “If we opened the door, it’ll be a very slow ramp-up, and that’s a good thing.”

Environmental advocates note that the industry has every incentive to pursue drilling in the state, since it anticipates a bright future in the long term, particularly as it pursues federal approvals for exporting liquefied natural gas overseas. Lawsuits challenging what the state does could also alter the timeline.

“If the D.E.C. doesn’t adequately respond to the comments, there’ll likely be litigation,” said Deborah Goldberg, a lawyer with the environmental law firm Earthjustice.

Among those seeking a drilling ban, some have said they are prepared to engage in civil disobedience if it will stop the new drilling technique.

“People are ready to take unusual action,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a Democrat from Tompkins County and a vocal hydrofracking opponent. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Author: Mireya Navarro
Source: The New York Times


A “fracking” operation near Big Wells, in which water and chemicals are injected deep underground to extract oil and natural gas. (Photography: Michael Stravato for The New York Times)

Starting Feb. 1, drilling operators in Texas will have to report many of the chemicals used in the process known as hydraulic fracturing. Environmentalists and landowners are looking forward to learning what acids, hydroxides and other materials have gone into a given well.

But a less-publicized part of the new regulation is what some experts are most interested in: the mandatory disclosure of the amount of water needed to “frack” each well. Experts call this an invaluable tool as they evaluate how fracking affects water supplies in the drought-prone state.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into underground shale formations at enormous pressure to extract oil and natural gas. Under the new rule, Texans will be able to check a Web site,, to view the chemical and water disclosures.

“It’s a huge step forward from where we were,” Amy Hardberger, an Environmental Defense Fund lawyer, said of the rule.

Most fracked wells use 1 million to 5 million gallons of water over three to five days, said Justin Furnace, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association.

A June study prepared for the Texas Water Development Board suggested that less than 1 percent of the water used statewide went into fracking. Oil and natural gas groups say such numbers show their usage lags well behind that of cities.

But the data cited is a few years old, and drilling has since increased in places like the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. The amount of water used for fracking is “expected to increase significantly through 2020,” according to the state water plan published this month.

Dry soil at a facility in Roanoke where water used in fracking is cleaned. (Photography: Matt Nager for The New York Times)

Dan Hardin, the water board’s resource planning director, said water use for fracking was not expected to exceed 2 percent of the statewide total.

But drilling can send water use numbers much higher in rural areas, Dr. Hardin said. For example, he projects that in 2020, more than 40 percent of water demand in La Salle County, in the Eagle Ford Shale, will go toward “mining,” a technical term that in this case means almost entirely fracking. Until recently, no water went toward mining there.

Researchers say predicting future water usage for drilling is tough, citing economic and technological uncertainties. Meanwhile, they want more data.

Jean-Philippe Nicot, a research scientist with the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin and the main author of the water board’s June study, noted that many drillers already reported water usage to the Texas Railroad Commission. (The commission’s new rule will be the first time water disclosure is required.)

Dr. Nicot would like to see more information about whether the water comes from aquifers or reservoirs, or has been recycled from other fracking operations.

Texas also needs better information about what is in water that has been in the earth and comes up in a well in addition to oil or gas, said Mark A. Engle, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey’s Eastern Energy Resources Science Center. That water can contain materials like grease and radioactive elements.

“Texas ranks pretty much dead last of any state I’ve worked with for keeping track of that sort of data,” Dr. Engle said.

Author: Kate Galbraith
Source: The New York Times


LAST week the excitement surrounding the rush for shale gas in Poland was tempered with some unwelcome news. Seven people were charged with offering or receiving bribes in the allocation of concessions to look for the gas in 2011.

The environment ministry handed out the last of 109 exploration concessions in the second half of last year, most of them to foreign firms or their Polish subsidiaries. The prices, at around €100 per square kilometre, were trivial.

The sums involved in the bribery scandal are also not large: thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of euros, according to Waldemar Tyl, Warsaw’s deputy public prosecutor. But Mr Tyl insists that the evidence against those accused is compelling.

The seven include the head of the environment ministry’s geology department, two other ministry officials and directors of three Polish companies, all of them linked to Petrolinvest, a large energy concern. Neither the ministry nor any of the three companies were prepared to put someone up for interview.

But perhaps more telling than the investigation is what it reveals about Poland’s attitude towards what many have hoped will be its new-found resource wealth. For the last few years the country has been getting ever dizzier at the prospect of ending its dependence on Russian gas and becoming a “new Norway”. Last summer a US study heightened the fever by suggesting that Poland had 5.3 trillion cubic metres of accessible reserves, more than had been previously estimated.

But some experts, such as Grzegorz Pytel of the Sobieski Institute, a think-tank, have been warning for some time that Poland is as much like gas-rich Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan as it is Norway.

Starting, like the former Soviet states, with laws designed for a climate in which a handful of state-owned firms would be operating, Poland invited investment from multiple domestic and foreign companies. “If you have a system like this where you know that these licences are potentially worth a lot of money, but you can get them virtually for free, it’s bound to be corruption-prone,” says Mr Pytel. He says the new corruption investigation may be just the tip of an iceberg. Increasingly active environmental campaigners agree.

The Polish government sold the shale concessions so cheaply because of the speculative nature of the investment, and because the investors would have to bear all of its costs. The country has very little home-grown industry to service shale-gas development. Contrast with Norway, which manages to levy taxes worth 78% of revenues on the likes of Exxon because local service companies look after all the technical difficulties involved in extracting gas.

The Polish government insists that the system is not to blame for any individual wrongdoing. Still, it is working on a new legal framework for shale-gas exploitation. A new geological and mining law [paywall] came into force on January 1st, applying EU regulations and simplifying procedures for investors.

Environmentalists, however, complain that although the law gives concession-holders potential buyout rights to properties where they might want to set up a drill, it says nothing about “fracking fluid”—the huge quantities of water and chemicals that shale-gas extractors pump into the ground in order to crack shale rocks and get to the gas.

In the next three months the government should present a new law on the taxation of shale gas. The concurrent corruption investigation could have a sobering effect on a country caught up in flighty dreams of riches.

Author: G.C. | WARSAW
Source: The Economist


%d bloggers like this: