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EPA to Widen Drilling Study

Siobhan Hughes, Rigzone
Environmental Protection Agency officials said that they plan to widen their investigation into a natural-gas drilling technique that the energy industry says is critical to tapping huge new supplies of natural gas.

Controversy over whether the practice — called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — poses a risk to drinking water and public health drew
hundreds of people to an EPA hearing here Monday.

The American Petroleum Institute, an energy industry trade group, says that, with the use of fracturing the Marcellus Shale formation, which extends from Ohio and West Virginia into southern New York, could produce as much as 18 billion cubic feet of gas a day and support as many as 280,000 jobs. The process involves pumping large amounts of water laden with sand and chemicals deep underground, fracturing rock to release the gas trapped inside.

EPA officials, in comments at Monday’s hearing, said they intend to look beyond the issue of whether the chemicals used in pose a threat to water quality and also consider the impact of the large volumes of water the process requires. Agency officials said they also want to study the way gas wells are constructed and the risks that wells could leak gas or chemicals into underground water supplies…
(14 September 2010)

Cheap gas coming?
– pdf 75Kb
Paul Stevens, The World Today
In the last decadeAmerica has rapidly developed a newsource of gas found naturally in rocks. It nowprovides a fifth of national needs. Such gas is present inEurope too, andwhether or not it is practical to extract it, it is already having an effect on future supplies.

…Last year, US natural gas production was 593 billion cubic metres compared to 524 billion in 2006. This sharp increase was completely unexpected. Before 2007, everyone thought US domestic gas production was about to slip into terminal decline with imports rising dramatically…

The question now is whether the US shale revolution might be feasible elsewhere. In particular, there is great hype in western Europe, where unconventional gas exploration is just beginning, notably in Poland. If a shale revolution did happen, it would be a serious game changer…

Overall, the prospects for a shale revolution in Europe look thin. However, the hype has created huge investor uncertainty in gas. Already US investors in liquefied natural gas regasification plants have been badly hurt as the demand failed to materialise. Faced with such uncertainty, it is likely that current potential investors in gas transport options – pipelines and liquefied natural gas – will wait to see what may or may not emerge on unconventional gas…
(Aug-Sep 2010)

Paul Stevens is Senior Research Fellow for Energy at the UK thinktank Chatham House. His report on unconventional gas will be published shortly.

Land of Gas

Gregor Macdonald, Gregor.US
The ongoing controversy which surrounds the shale natural gas story is a nice example of entangled theories and beliefs. And, how thoughtful observers can be right on different aspects of a complex phenomenon, while arguing against each other vociferously all the while. At issue? Whether the tremendous upward swing in US natural gas production is sustainable. Sustainable on both a nominal basis, and, sustainable on a real basis. While this depends on one’s timeline, let’s first acknowledge that many who envisioned ten years ago a decline in US natural gas production–and with some justification–were wrong. At issue now, however, are the steep decline rates observed from shale natural gas wells. Don’t these decline curves imply, axiomatically, that the new miracle of shale natural gas production is doomed?…
(8 September 2010)

New study underscores dangers of hydraulic fracturing

David O. Williams , The Colorado Independent
A new study by a Paonia, Colo.-based doctor who’s a frequent critic of the state’s natural gas industry, has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.

“Natural Gas Operations From a Public Health Perspective [pdf],” co-authored by Paonia’s Dr. Theo Colborn, who runs the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TDEX) there, calls for the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process called “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracking” for short…

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, introduced legislation that would remove a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for fracking that was granted during the Bush administration in 2005. The EPA is currently studying the process…
(15 September 2010)

Link to the report