Is this time to be cutting the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency?
Over the last 10 years, the procedures of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed contact to large capacities of shale gas that were formerly too expensive to produce. Instead, the production of natural gas from shale formations has re-energized the natural gas industry in the United States.
Horizontal hydrofracking is a means of tapping shale deposits containing natural gas that were previously unreachable by conventional drilling. The only problem is that horizontal hydrofracking has been blamed in many areas thru out the United States for poisoning water supplies, killing livestock, destabilizing the landscape and of sucking investment from the renewable technologies said to be vital for combating climate change.
The industry vigorously denies that this process is unsafe – and blames pollution incidents as examples of bad practice, rather than a technique that is essentially risky because of chemicals used in part of the hydraulic fracturing process.
Hydraulic fracturing goes thru several phases. Phase one involves drilling a nine-inch hole below 12,000 feet then turning a five-inch bore horizontally for approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet along the shale seam.
Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into the well. This pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. Generally 1-8 million gallons of water may be used to frack a well. A well may be fracked up to 18 times. For each frack, 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used. Presently, the natural gas industry does not have to disclose the chemicals used, but scientists have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
The gas comes up wet in produced water and has to be separated from the wastewater on the surface. Only 30-50% of the water is typically recovered from a well. This wastewater can be highly toxic. Evaporators evaporate off VOCs and condensate tanks steam off VOCs, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The amount of wastewater that is recovered then is trucked to water treatment facilities.
There are several controversies over environmental impacts. Some geologists fear that fracking may destabilize the ground. Then, when the drillers plunge through aquifers – water-bearing rocks supplying homes – they must seal the borehole so water doesn’t leak in and waste doesn’t leak out. If this isn’t done right, there’s trouble. And there is plenty of evidence that it’s not being done right as many wells are being polluted and made undrinkable.
Some of the fracking water injected into the well gets absorbed by the shale. Some burps back contaminated with chemicals and has to be disposed of as hazardous.
Homes have been evacuated when methane escaped uncontrollably from well-heads. And a documentary, Gasland, showed extraordinary scenes of householders in New York State running taps with well water so laced with methane that they can set light to the gas in the sink.
In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was passed by Congress to ensure clean drinking water free from both natural and man-made contaminates.
In 2005, the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also exempts companies from having to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. Basically, the provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off the job. It is now commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole.
Some of the gas operations are close to major population centers, and many people are angry that firms say the chemicals in fracking are a commercial secret.
The FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical Act) is a House bill intended to repeal the Halliburton Loophole and to require the natural gas industry to disclose the chemicals they use.
“Energy-In-Depth” is a PR Firm/Lobbying Group funded by the American Petroleum Institute. They are putting a misleading spin on information in the documentary Gasland to soothe and silence public curiosity about gas drilling.
One of the areas being fracked is near the watershed that services 9 million people – if not monitored and done correctly, this could ruin the drinking water in this area for New York City, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.
For further information click here.
- Fracking for Natural Gas With Diesel Violated Law, EPA Says (nytimes.com)
- Rally against ‘fracking’ draws hundreds to Albany (troyrecord.com)
- “Senate committee holds hearings on hydrofracking” and related posts (michiganmessenger.com)
- Fracking USA: A Post about the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Governor Tom Corbett, C. Alan Walker, the Marcellus Shale, Polluted Drinking Water, and the Movie Gasland (jonathanturley.org)
- Fracking shale for gas brings wealth, concerns (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- What the Frack? (mylovelythoughtsdotcom.wordpress.com)