Click on the headline (link) for the full text. Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Study links Texas earthquakes to drilling disposal wells

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Fuelfix
Most recent earthquakes in North Texas happened close to injection wells used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling in the region, according to new research.

A two-year study by the University of Texas at Austin also found that the relatively minor temblors happened more often than indicated in previous investigations.

The UT study, published this week in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” is the latest to suggest a link between drilling and seismic activity.

“You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,” said Cliff Frohlich, the University of Texas researcher who conducted the study. “But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”…
(6 August 2012)
Link to abstact

Fracking poses risk to water systems, research suggests: U.S. study

Teresa Smith, Calagary Herald
A new scientific study of the risks associated with Hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — in the United States, found that current methods for wastewater disposal put drinking water at risk…

…in an American paper entitled “Water Pollution Risk Associated with Natural Gas Extraction from the Marcellus Shale,” the authors found that the process is likely to contaminate nearby water systems. The Marcellus Shale, the largest in the U.S., covers approximately 124,000 km from New York to West Virginia.

The paper, which appears in the August 2012 issue of the international journal Risk Analysis, says “even in a best case scenario, an individual well would potentially release at least 200 m3 of contaminated fluids.” Doctoral student Daniel Rozell and Dr. Sheldon Reaven, a professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, partnered on the work.

In order to identify where regulators should focus their efforts, the study model identified five ways fracking could contaminate water supplies: transportation spills, well casing leaks, leaks through fractured rock, drilling site discharge, and wastewater disposal….

…However, Professor Danny Reible, Chair of Environmental Health Engineering at the University of Texas, said the study’s projections are based on a large number of assumptions and it’s unclear how accurate or current the results could be.
(8 August 2012)
Link to abstact
Link to report on slideshare

China Drills Into Shale Gas, Targeting Huge Reserves Amid Challenges

Catherine T. Yang, National Geographic News
Hills and water have shaped the story of Chongqing, in China’s southwest. At the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, the Sichuan Province city became China’s first inland port open to foreign commerce in 1891. In the 1930s and ’40s, Chongqing served as China’s wartime capital, although the mountain ranges on all four sides provided less of a buffer than hoped against Japanese air raids.

Now a new chapter in Chongqing’s history is being written, as hydraulic fracturing rigs assembled this summer in this undulating landscape to drill into one of China’s first shale gas exploration sites.

Technology to force natural gas from its underground source rock, shale, has transformed the energy picture of the United States in the past six years, and China—sitting on reserves some 50 percent larger than those of the U.S.—has taken note. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a made-in-the-U.S.A. process that China aims to import…

*Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.
(8 August 2012)

Shale Gas And The Overhyping Of Its CO2 Reductions

Shakeb Afsah and Kendyl Salcito, CO2 Scorecard
Recent declines in CO2 emissions in the US have made shale gas a fossil fuel of much adulation, but this reputation is unfounded. We show that price driven displacement of coal by natural gas can account for just around 10% of the CO2 reductions during the period 2006-11. Nearly 90% of the cuts in CO2 emissions were caused by: (1) the decline in petroleum use in the transportation sector, (2) displacement of coal by mostly non-price factors, and (3) its replacement by wind, hydro and other renewables.

Each ton of CO2 saved from price driven displacement of coal by gas in the electricity sector was offset by a ton or more of CO2 from its increased use in commercial, residential and industrial sectors.

We also show that both renewables and energy efficiency measures independently outperform the CO2 savings from coal-to-gas displacement, indicating that natural gas can at best play a peripheral role in cutting CO2 emissions, and it cannot substitute for authentic climate policies based on regulations, clean energy standards and carbon price.

Natural gas deserves credit where it is due, but pro-gas advocacy has led to a significant overstatement of the true CO2 cutting credentials of shale gas. This is a mistake and it undercuts the effort to keep policy discussions accurate.

Many are adrenalized by shale gas, but let’s not lose track of what it can or cannot do for climate change. Natural gas is at its best when it displaces coal, but it is at its worst when it suppresses renewables and energy conservation. Striking the right balance will need a mix of policies including clean energy standards, energy efficiency programs, regulations and a carbon tax; unfettered shale gas supply is not the answer.

We are thankful to Danny Cullenward, Jon Koomey, Skip Laitner, Thomas Sterner, Gernot Wagner and David Wheeler for their comments on this research note. All the views and opinions expressed in this note should be attributed only to the authors and the CO2 Scorecard Group. This research note is supported solely by the efforts and resources of The CO2Scorecard Group and the parent consulting firm Performeks LLC based in Bethesda MD, US.
(7 August 2012)
View full report

A ‘War on Shale Gas’?

Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog via Huffington Post
Since late 2009, there’s been a slowly-growing wave of attacks from the unconventional oil and gas industry on media outlets that cover the controversies surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other shale gas practices. Reporters who write for publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Reuters to the New York Times have had their professional bona fides called into question after unearthing documents and facts that challenge claims that fracked shale gas is cheap, abundant, and clean.

These industry attacks on media occur against the backdrop of a larger campaign to establish unconventional oil and gas at the forefront of the nation’s energy options.

Only a few years ago, it seemed likely that gas would increasingly be a mainstay of power generation, especially in the wake of high-profile disasters like the Massey Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster and the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry (at the time) received support from surprising allies like the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress. Fukushima tarnished the nuclear industry, further shifting momentum towards shale gas for utility-scale electricity generation.

But a popular movement fueled by growing concerns about water contamination and public health impacts posed by fracking, coupled with a clearer look by press and by Wall Street analysts at the industry’s claims, has threatened to derail the ascendency of unconventional gas…
(1 August 2012)