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Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

"Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions," said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a "collision course" with other water users.

"It’s a wake-up call," said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. "We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage."…
(5 February 2014)
Link to the report page

Why Shale Oil Boosters Are Charlatans In Disguise

James Gruber, Forbes
Something has bothered me of late: why is the price of crude oil still elevated? Other commodities have taken a battering since 2011. Gold, copper and iron ore – all are way down off their peaks. But oil has seemingly defied gravity. And that’s despite increased supply from shale oil in the U.S., still soft demand particularly in the developed world and declining rates of inflation growth across the globe.

What gives? Well, shale oil proponents will say falling oil prices are just a matter of time. And that the boom in shale oil will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, leading to cheaper local oil, which will free up household budgets and spur consumption as well as the broader economy. Perhaps … though I’d have thought all of that would be already reflected in prices.

On the other side, you have “peak oil” supporters who suggest high oil prices are perfectly natural when oil production has peaked, or at least the good stuff has disappeared. Yet the boom in U.S. shale oil appears to put at least a partial dent in this thesis.

There may be a better explanation, however. It comes from UK sell-side analyst, Tim Morgan, in an important new book called Life After Growth. In it, he suggests that the era of cheap energy is over. That the new unconventional forms of oil are far less efficient than old ones, meaning they require significant amounts of energy to produce. In effect, the energy production versus energy cost of extraction equation is rapidly deteriorating.

Morgan goes a step further though. He says cheap energy has been central to the extraordinary economic growth generated since the Industrial Revolution. And without that cheap energy, future growth will be permanently impaired.

It’s a bold view that’s solidified my own thinking that higher energy prices are here to stay. And the link between cheap energy and economic growth is fascinating and worth exploring further today. Particularly given the implications for the world’s fastest-growing and most energy-intensive region, Asia….
(26 January 2014)

Risks of Fracking Boom Draw Renewed Attention from Investors

Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog

Risks of Fracking Boom Draw Renewed Attention from Investors (via Desmogblog)

A coalition of investors called out five oil and gas companies for failing to measure or reduce risks associated with fracking on Tuesday, singling out companies both large and small for how they’ve handled the myriad risks associated with shale oil…

(2 February 2014)

Canadian awaits verdict on fracking nightmare

Staff, Deutsche Welle
Diana Daunheimer still finds it hard to believe that big mining companies have started fracking practically in her backyard. The Canadian vegetable grower sees a court case as her only way out…

Daunheimer’s claim has rattled nerves. Late last year, the company that fracked around her home sold out to Bellatrix Exploration. A week later, Bellatrix offered Daunheimer $50,000 to settle out-of-court. She declined. Bellatrix’s defense statement is due in court on February 7.
(6 February 2014)

Focus on well efficiency keeps Marcellus Shale pumping despite low prices

Saqib Rahim, E&E
If there are "monster wells" dwelling in the Marcellus Shale, count Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. among those trying to capture one.

In December, the Marcellus specialist unveiled its largest operation yet: an attempt to drill 10 horizontal wells from a single surface point. The firm billed it as a tour de force of efficiency with techniques and technologies that showed the edge of industry’s reach into shale rock.

And by Cabot’s rendering, the result was potentially monstrous. Doing it the traditional way would have cost $6 million more, the company said. Savings like that, applied across the Marcellus, could have enormous implications for profits, production and reserves.

But are these hyper-productive wells visions of the future or flashes in the pan?…
(5 February 2014)

Cuadrilla fracking delays over radioactive waste water

Energy company Cuadrilla has withdrawn applications for permits to frack in Lancashire after issues with radioactive waste.

Fracking produces large volumes of water contaminated with low level naturally-occurring radiation.

The Environment Agency (EA) said it would not grant a radioactive substances permit until it was sure the water will be disposed of safely.

Cuadrilla said it was preparing new permits to meet revised guidelines.

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a technique in which water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.

When Cuadrilla Resources fracked at Preese Hall, Weeton the agency found traces of naturally-occurring uranium and thorium.

It also found levels of radium 90 times higher than naturally occurs in drinking water.

Cuadrilla pulled out of Preese Hall in December last year after fracking at the site was linked to two earth tremors.

Previous regulations classed the waste water as industrial effluent and Cuadrilla was legally authorised to discharge two million gallons into the Manchester Ship Canal after being processed at the Davyhulme treatment works in Trafford…
(27 January 2014)

Voluntary Fracking Certification Kicks Off in U.S.

Carey L. Biron, IPS
A controversial new certification process that could cover a significant portion of the U.S. oil-and-gas “fracking” industry began accepting applications on Tuesday, indicating the formal start of an initiative that has the backing of some key industry players and some environmentalists – but by no means all of either.

In recent years, the Centre for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a non-profit based in Philadelphia, has been meeting with green groups, regulators and philanthropic foundations, as well as with major oil and gas producers with interests in a major petroleum-rich rock formation in the eastern part of the United States, known as the Marcellus Shale or Appalachian Basin.

The new certification process revolves around 15 performance standards aimed at mitigating against air and water pollution from the use of new technologies – known broadly as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – that have upturned the U.S. energy market. While this has resulted particularly in a glut of natural gas, it has also led to a spectrum of environmental and health concerns…
(21 January 2014)

Tight Trouble

Daniel Davis, Jeremy Leggett, Huffington Post
On December 10, when most of the U.S. government was shut down due to snow, a hardy group of experts gathered about five blocks from the White House to take part in an inaugural event called the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue (TESD).

Participants in the U.S. included oil industry experts and analysts, diplomats, academics, military officers, defense experts, and business executives. They were joined via videoconference to a group in London, which included Members of Parliament, former ministers, retired admirals and generals, investment experts, leading business executives, oil industry analysts, and others. Two presentations in particular sharply questioned the global oil industry’s ability to continue producing enough oil to meet expected demand.

Mark Lewis, former head of energy research for Deutche Bank, discussed the rising capital expenditures (capex) in the oil patch.

"I was absolutely stunned when reading this year’s World Energy Outlook," Lewis remarked. "If you look at the global upstream capex for the oil and gas industry, about 75% of the total is just for oil. It has trebled in real terms since 2000. Over the same period the increase in oil supply has only been about 12%. So you’ve had a 200% increase in capex, effectively, for a 12% increase in global oil supply. That is a very striking number and one that I think should be ringing alarm bells."…
(3 February 2014)
Daniel Davis is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, Jeremy Legget is the author of The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance