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Shale energy triggers bean rush in India

Meenakshi Sharma and Selam Gebrekidan, Reuters
In India’s northern desert states, farmers are scrambling to harvest as much as they can of a bean with the power to lift them out of poverty. In the United States, the multi-billion dollar shale energy industry is banking on their success.

U.S. companies drilling for oil and gas in shale formations have developed a voracious appetite for the powder-like gum made from the seeds of guar, or cluster bean, and the boom in their business has created a bonanza for thousands of small-scale farmers in India who produce 80 percent of the world’s beans…

India, on average, produces more than 1 million tonnes of guar beans annually, the biggest crop in the world. It exported more than 400,000 tonnes of guar products, including gum, in the fiscal year that ended in March 2011. Exporting beans is prohibited.

U.S. energy firms, however, will need nearly 300,000 tonnes of guar gum this year, energy investment banking firm Simmons & Company International said in a February report. Last year, the guar shortfall forced some U.S. firms to halt fracking, it said…
(28 May 2012)

Halliburton blames guar bean shortage for profit warning

BBC Online
Halliburton has warned that a shortage of guar beans in India will hit its profits.

The oilfield services company said its North American profit margins would fall by twice as much as expected in the current quarter.

Guar is a key ingredient in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluids, which are used to extract natural gas from rocks…
(7 June 2012)

Shale Gas: Fracking great

The Economist
THE story of America’s shale-gas revolution offers hope in hard times. The ground was laid in the late 1990s, when a now-fabled Texan oilman, George Mitchell, developed an affordable way to extract natural gas locked up in shale rock and other geological formations. It involves blasting them with water, sand and chemicals—a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. America’s shale-gas industry has since drilled 20,000 wells, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, and provided lots of cheap gas. This is a huge advantage to American industry and a relief to those who fret about American energy security…

…as well as posing environmental risks, a gas boom would bring an important environmental benefit. Burning gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal; so where gas substitutes for coal, emissions will fall. America’s emissions have fallen by 450m tonnes in the past five years, more than any other country’s. Ironically, given its far greater effort to tackle climate change, the European Union has seen its emissions rise, partly because of an increase in coal-fired power generation in response to Europe’s high gas price…
(2 June 2012)

Lawmakers air frustration over federal attention to shale

Pam Kasey, State Journal
Frustration over federal attention to shale oil and gas production turned out to be the real focus of a May 31 House Oversight Committee energy hearing on whether President Barack Obama is pursuing an “all of the above” energy strategy…

With one exception, witnesses invited to the morning session, titled “Does President Obama Really Support an ‘All-of-the-Above’ Strategy?,” answered “no.” They broke no new ground through references to perceptions of federal regulatory overreach and of favoritism for some fuels over others…

Cornell University biogeochemist Robert Howarth, known especially for his work on methane emissions from shale oil and gas operations, countered the industry’s common observation that hydraulic fracturing has been done for decades and there’s no reason to direct greater regulatory effort toward it now, especially not from the federal government.

What is not decades old, he pointed out, as many have, is the combination of directional drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing that uses millions of gallons of water per well.

“As a result, the science, our understanding of the consequences, is very, very new,” he said…

Howarth’s 2011 estimate that as much as 8 percent of a shale gas well’s production escapes as fugitive emissions through its lifetime has been criticized as unrealistically high. But he told the Oversight Committee members that an about-to-be-published estimate from Colorado scientists about will show his estimates were conservative…
(1 June 2012)

China’s shale future: not as bright as promised?

Leslie Hook, FT Beyond Brics Blog
…China is believed to contain vast shale gas resources. Two years ago, consultancy Wood Mackenzie calculated that its shale gas resources would reduce imports of liquefied natural gas after 2020 and potentially eliminate the need for pipeline imports entirely.

However, in a report published on Wednesday, the consultancy changes its tune…
(6 June 2012)

Gas rebranded as green energy by EU

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Energy from gas power stations has been rebranded as a green, low-carbon source of power by a €80bn European Union programme, in a triumph of the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industry lobby over renewable forms of power.

In a secret document seen by the Guardian, a large slice of billions of euros of funds that are supposed to be devoted to research and development into renewables such as solar and wave power are likely to be diverted instead to subsidising the development of the well-established fossil fuel.

The news comes as a report from the respected International Energy Agency predicted a “golden age for gas” with global production of “unconventional” sources of gas (notably shale gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’) tripling by 2035…
(29 May 2012)