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Drilling spills reaching Colorado groundwater; state mulls test rules

Bruce Finley, Denver Post
Oil and gas have contaminated groundwater in 17 percent of the 2,078 spills and slow releases that companies reported to state regulators over the past five years, state data show.

The damage is worse in Weld County, where 40 percent of spills reach groundwater, the data show.

Most of the spills are happening less than 30 feet underground — not in the deep well bores that carry drilling fluids into rock.

State regulators say oil and gas crews typically are working on storage tanks or pipelines when they discover that petroleum material, which can contain cancer-causing benzene, has seeped into soil and reached groundwater. Companies respond with vacuum trucks or by excavating tainted soil.

Contamination of groundwater — along with air emissions, truck traffic and changed landscapes — has spurred public concerns about drilling along Colorado’s Front Range. There are 49,236 active wells statewide, up 31 percent since 2008, with 17,844 in Weld County…
(9 December 2012)

Shale Shocked: Studies Tie Rise Of Significant Earthquakes In U.S. Midcontinent To Wastewater Injection

Joe Romm, Think Progress
Two new papers tie a recent increase in significant earthquakes to reinjection of wastewater fluids from unconventional oil and gas drilling. The first study notes “significant earthquakes are increasingly occurring within the United States midcontinent.” In the specific case of Oklahoma, a Magnitude “5.7 earthquake and a prolific sequence of related events … were likely triggered by fluid injection.”

The second study, of the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team, concludes ”the majority, if not all of the earthquakes since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.”

Both studies are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week (program with abstracts here).
(4 December 2012)

Ignore the doom merchants, Britain should get fracking

Boris Johnson, The Daily Telegraph
If it were not so serious there would be something ludicrous about the reaction of the green lobby to the discovery of big shale gas reserves in this country. Here we are in the fifth year of a downturn. We have pensioners battling fuel poverty. We have energy firms jacking up their prices. We have real worries about security of energy supply – a new building like the Shard needs four times as much juice as the entire town of Colchester…

It is no wonder that some of the more heroic spirits in the Coalition Government are saying that we should get our act together, and make use of what nature has bestowed on Lancashire and elsewhere. As soon as he became Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson announced that he was going to make life easy for potential frackers, with a one-stop permit system. He has the support of George Osborne, who hailed the potential of fracking in the Autumn Statement.

Alas, we are in a Coalition, and the Liberals run the Department of Energy and Climate Change. They have announced a moratorium on fracking, claiming that there have been earthquakes in the Blackpool area – even though there are tiny quakes every day. In what they thought was a cunning move, the Lib Dems also leaked the location of two big reserves of shale gas – in Tatton and Shropshire North. Much to his credit, Owen Paterson immediately announced that he was all in favour of fracking his constituency if it would deliver jobs and growth, and he is dead right. The shale gas discovery is hateful to the Libs and the Greens, because it destroys their narrative about the ever rising cost of hydrocarbons. It is glorious news for humanity. It doesn’t need the subsidy of wind power. I don’t know whether it will work in Britain, but we should get fracking right away.
(9 December 2012)
Boris Johnson is Mayor of London.

Shale gas is not a game changer

The Daily Telegraph
Shale gas is not a game changer in the UK, a Government adviser has said, as a new report warns production will disrupt communities and risk water supplies.

There is estimated to be trillions of barrels of gas in porous rocks underneath the UK… However David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, voiced a note of caution.

Even at the most optimistic estimates, he said shale gas will only provide 10 per cent of the UK’s current gas demand.

“It is not going to be a game changer,” he said. “There may be enough shale gas to contribute to heating our homes but let’s be clear, it is not going to drive prices down and it is carbon intensive.”…
(10 December 2012)

The fracking dream which is putting Britain’s future at risk

Andrew Rawnsley, The Guardian
Amid the inky gloom that shrouded George Osborne when he delivered a wintry autumn statement of more cuts and further tax rises, there was a dreamy gleam in the eye of the chancellor. Like a Spanish conquistador setting out for Latin America, he thinks he can find a source of fabulous riches. This El Dorado is not made of bullion, but it sounds as good as gold when you hear him and other enthusiasts talk about this magic stuff. It is natural gas in underground shales. For believers, and there are now many of them in the Tory party, shale gas is going to provide Britain with a remarkable bonanza of cheap energy…

Then there is the huge hole at the heart of the frack-heads’ dream. No one even knows yet how much shale gas can be profitably extracted…So while the frack-heads fantasise about a bonanza, the reality is that not so much as one cubic metre of shale gas has been profitably extracted anywhere in Europe.

The explanation is geology. Shales in Europe are generally thinner and deeper, and therefore much more expensive to tap, than those that have been successfully exploited in the United States. And Britain looks likely to be one of the less promising prospects in Europe because its shales are typically among the thinnest…
(9 December 2012)