Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Cornell Study Links Fracking Wastewater with Mortality in Farm Animals

John Messeder, Ecowatch
A recently completed study by two Cornell University researchers indicates the process of hydraulic fracturing deep shale to release natural gas may be linked to shortened lifespan and reduced or mutated reproduction in cattle—and maybe humans…

Without knowing exactly what chemicals are being used, and in what quantities, it is difficult to perform laboratory-style experiments on, say lab rats. But farm animals are captive, surrounded by electric and barbed wire fences.

And when fracking wastewater is spilled across their pasture and into their drinking water, and they start dying and birthing dead calves, one can become suspicious that there is a connection.

Which is what the Cornell researchers found during a year-long study of farm animals, based primarily on interviews with animal owners and veterinarians in six states: Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas…

The report has been produced by Robert E. Oswald, a biochemist and Professor of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University, and Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian with a master’s degree in pharmacology.

In one case, an accidental release of fracking fluids into a pasture adjacent to a drilling operation resulted in 17 cows dead within an hour. Exposure to fracking fluids running onto pastures or into streams or wells also reportedly led to pregnant cows producing stillborn calves, goats exhibiting reproductive problems and other farm animals displaying similar problems. Farmers reported effects within one to three days of animals consuming errant fracking wastewater…
Link to report
(15 January 2012)

U.S. Shale Bubble Inflates After Near-Record Prices for Untested Fields

Joe Carroll and Jim Polson, Bloomberg
Surging prices for oil and natural- gas shales, in at least one case rising 10-fold in five weeks, are raising concern of a bubble as valuations of drilling acreage approach the peak set before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Chinese, French and Japanese energy explorers committed more than $8 billion in the past two weeks to shale-rock formations from Pennsylvania to Texas after 2011 set records for international average crude prices and U.S. gas demand. As competition among buyers intensifies, overseas investors are paying top dollar for fields where too few wells have been drilled to assess potential production, said Sven Del Pozzo, a senior equity analyst at IHS Inc. (IHS)

Marubeni Corp. (8002), the Japanese commodity trader, last week agreed to pay as much as $25,000 an acre for a stake in Hunt Oil Co.’s Eagle Ford shale property in Texas. The price, which includes future drilling costs, exceeds the $21,000 an acre Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) paid last year for nearby prospects owned by KKR & Co. (KKR)’s Hilcorp Resources Holdings LP. In the Utica shale of Ohio and Pennsylvania, deal prices jumped 10-fold in five weeks to almost $15,000 an acre, according to IHS figures.

“I don’t feel confident that the prices being paid now are justified,” Del Pozzo said in a telephone interview from Norwalk, Connecticut. “I’m wary.”..
(9 January 2012)

Study needed on shale gas effects on health: group

Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters
The public health effects of shale gas development need to be rigorously studied as production rapidly spreads in the United States, public health professionals and advocates said on Monday.

Advances in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, drilling technique have revolutionized the natural gas industry, but researchers said more must be done to evaluate what the shale boom means for the those living near wells.

Health groups have concerns including possible air and water pollution from fracking, especially since some operations take place very close to homes and schools.

“We are leaping before we are looking,” said Jerome Paulson, of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, at a conference focused on shale gas and public health.

“Those who are drilling and extracting … have not done the human health research and ecological studies to assure that the process and chemicals they use are the least hazardous possible,” Paulson said.

The Mid-Atlantic center and Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy sponsored the conference with hopes of setting up a consortium to collect and assess scientific data on the effects of shale development on the public…
(9 January 2012)

Ministers slammed over fracking

Tom Bawden, The Independent
The Government has been accused of “appalling complacency” after it emerged that not a single minister has met with the Environment Agency’s experts to discuss the hugely controversial gas exploration technique known as fracking.

Despite earthquakes in Blackpool, growing concerns about poisoning of the water supply and demonstrations around the world, the Government still appears not to be taking the potential dangers of fracking seriously enough, critics said. At the weekend, anti-fracking demonstrations were held in London, Paris, Copenhagen and Bulgaria.

The extent of the Government’s failure to prioritise the issue came in the answer to a parliamentary question tabled following The Independent’s revelations last month that the US environment agency had established the first clear link between fracking and water poisoning.

The shadow Energy minister, Tom Greatrex, said the Department of Energy and Climate Change was taking a “shockingly complacent approach” after learning that its ministers have not met anybody from the Environment Agency to discuss the technique…

Professor Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at the think-tank Chatham House, found the lack of face-to-face contact between DECC ministers and the EA “appalling”.

“This is incredible, ridiculous really,” said Professor Stevens, who gave evidence to an inquiry by the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on the topic last year. “It’s common sense that if a select committee has done a report like this the relevant ministers would go to the EA to get their reaction to it.
(16 January 2012)

Fracking is ‘pretty safe’, says British Geological Survey

Duncan Geere, Wired
The British Geological Survey has declared that it’s “extremely unlikely” that groundwater could be contaminated by the process of hydraulic fracturing, putting it into conflict with environmental groups pushing for a ban on the process in the UK…

On the topic of groundwater contamination, however, there’s rather more debate. Mike Stephenson, the British Geological Survey’s head of energy science, told a press conference that “the risk is pretty low”. Groundwater supplies typically lie around 50 metres below the surface, whereas the shale containing the methane is situated more than a mile underground.

On top of that, the small amount of peer-reviewed literature on the subject presents no evidence of water pollution from fracking. “Most geologists are pretty convinced that it is extremely unlikely contamination would occur,” Stephenson said. However, that does go against a December 2011 report from the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, which stated that fracking may be causing groundwater pollution in Wyoming…
(11 January 2012)

Bulgarians protest, seek moratorium on shale gas

Tsvetelia Tsolova, Reuters
Thousands of Bulgarians protested throughout the Balkan country on Saturday against exploration for shale gas, worried it would poison underground waters, trigger earthquakes and pose serious public health hazards.

Protesters rallied in more than six major Bulgarian cities calling for a moratorium on shale gas tests through hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and demanding a new law to ban unconventional drilling for gas in the southeastern European country.

“I am opposed because we do not know what chemicals they will put in the ground. Once they poison the water, what shall we drink?” said Olga Petrova, 24, a student who attended a protest in Sofia.

In June, the centre-right government granted a license to U.S. energy major Chevron to test for shale gas in northeastern Bulgaria, with the hope that it could reduce the country’s almost complete dependence on gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom…
(14 January 2012)