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Study: Shale Gas Fracking Taints Rivers in Pennsylvania

Brett Walton, circle of blue
A study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows how two pollutants associated with shale gas — chloride and total suspended solids — enter rivers and streams.

Used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped deep underground to break apart shale formations to release the natural gas trapped within the rock. There is concern that the chemicals used in fracking may contaminate groundwater and that the fracking process itself causes methane to seep into wells. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a study — to be released in 2014 — regarding the effects of fracking on drinking water.

Typically, groundwater gets most of the attention in the fracking debate, but rivers are also affected by the rush of shale gas development across the United States, according to Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, which are responsible for the PNAS study.

Researchers looked at two pollutant sources:

  • the facilities that treat wastewater from gas development
  • the well pads from which drilling takes place.

Link to report
(21 March 2013)

Fracking ‘linked to biggest Oklahoma earthquake’

Jason Palmer, BBC Online
Scientists say wastewater injection from hydraulic fracturing was linked to a magnitude-5.7 earthquake that struck the US state of Oklahoma in 2011.

Fracking, as it is known, injects water and chemicals into petroleum wells in a bid to extract trapped natural gas.

Opponents of the practice say that it risks causing seismic events and contaminating groundwater.

The study in Geology shows that "induced seismicity" can occur years after wastewater injection begins.

Most seismic events linked to fracking have been markedly of smaller magnitudes, and have tended to occur in the first weeks or months of injection.

By contrast, fracking wastewater was first injected into Oklahoma’s Wilzetta oilfields, near the town of Prague, some 18 years prior to the November 2011 series of quakes that included three of magnitude 5 or greater…
(27 March 2013)
Link to report

Fracking communities should get incentives, says minister

Fiona Harvey and Damian Carrington, The Guardian
Communities near shale gas fracking sites should be given handouts to accept drilling in their area, a government minister has said.

The suggestion is markedly similar to a proposal made by the fracking company Cuadrilla in a letter to the energy minister John Hayes, released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, for taxpayers’ money to be offered as a "quid pro quo" to help communities accept wells on their doorstep.

In the 11-page letter to Hayes in November last year, the Cuadrilla chief executive, Francis Egan, wrote: "There is a certain inconvenience that the local population bears in hosting development of this industry … We consider that there should be financial benefits [to the local population] in the form of a share of the tax take." He suggests further conversations to discuss the details.

Hayes would not say whether such benefits should come from the taxpayer or companies involved in fracking. An environment ministry spokesman said incentives would be offered but the form they would take and who would pay for them had yet to be decided. Officials did not comment on whether the ministry’s move was prompted by Egan’s letter.
(18 March 2013)

US shale gas to heat British homes within five years

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Nearly 2m homes in the UK will be heated by shale gas from the US within five years, under a deal agreed on Monday that is likely to be the first time major exports of the controversial energy source are used in the UK.

The US government has kept a tight rein on exports since the shale gas boom started more than five years ago. But the deal struck by energy company Centrica marks the start of a new era in gas use in the UK, because it opens up the market to cheap supplies from the US, as North Sea gas fields run out and pipelines to Europe remain expensive.

Shale gas exploitation has been blamed for environmental problems in the US, including water, ground and air pollution and leaks of methane.

Under the deal, Centrica will pay £10bn over 20 years for 89bn cubic feet of gas annually – enough to heat 1.8m homes – from Cheniere, one of the first US companies to receive clearance from the federal government to export shale gas in the form of LNG (liquefied natural gas). The first deliveries, by tanker, are expected in 2018…
(25 March 2013)

Gas drilling – Skytruth/flickr