Natural Gas From Shale: Natural Gas Extraction From Shale Gas A Threat to Environmental and Human Health?

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Natural Gas From Shale: Shale Gas Extraction A Threat to Environmental and Human Health?

Natural gas from shale is gathered by a natural gas extraction method commonly referred to as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This method of extraction is coming under fire as of late with some serious concerns over whether or not it is safe. There have been numerous reports of complaints from nearby residents whom have gas and other toxins in their water supplies, tap water starting on fire, and more recently fracking responsible for earthquakes may also be a proven side effect for this process of extraction.

Let us first explain more about gas from shale. Shale gas is a natural gas which is formed when getting trapped within shale rock formations. It has grown in importance in the U.S. over the last 10 years and around the world interest is spreading into the potential of this resource. Natural gas from shale is expected to supply nearly half of the production of this gas in North America by the year 2020. Experts also expect that the supply of natural gas from shale will greatly expand the worldwide energy supplies.

shale gas deposits

United States Shale Gas Deposits

Shale formations typically have insufficient permeability to allow for significant flow of fluids through them to a well bore, and most shales are not considered commercial sources of this gas. Gas from shale is therefore considered an unconventional source of natural gas, which also includes coalbed methane, tight sandstones, and methane hydrates.

Natural Gas From Shale

The first natural gas from shale was extracted as a resource in Fredonia, N.Y. in 1825, in shallow, low pressure fractures. Commercial scale natural gas from shale production did not truly begin until the 1970’2 which was when conventional gas deposits began declining which prompted the U.S. Federal Government to invest in further Research and Development and demonstration projects that ultimately led to now commonplace directional and horizontal drilling, microseismic imaging, and hydraulic fracturing on a massive commercial scale. Up until the public and private R&D and demonstration projects of the 1970s and 1980s, drilling in shale was not considered to be commercially viable.

shale-gas-diagram_fracking

shale-gas-diagram_fracking

It was not until the Shale Gas Revolution back in 1998 that utilized all of the R & D developments and component technologies and developed the first economically feasible shale fracture using an innovative process called slick-water fracturing which revolutionized the natural gas from shale and fracking industry. In 2000 natural gas from shale represented only 1% of our supplies. Today, however, it represents 30% and is expected by some experts to be at 50% by 2020.

There are those, however, whom feel differently about this natural gas from shale extraction method of fracking. The Halliburton Loophole implemented by Dick Cheney in the 2005 energy bill literally stripped the EPA of it’s authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

fracking-shale-gas-image1

Shale Gas fracking

Going back to 2005 and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which many refer to as the “Halliburton Loophole“, which in essence stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate the natural gas from shale extraction method called hydraulic fracturing thus creating more fears for the safety of the nation’s clean water supplies.

Key paragraphs from the ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005

OIL & GAS REGULATORY ROLLBACKS

SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.
Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION.—The term ‘underground injection’—
‘‘(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
‘‘(B) excludes—
‘‘(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
‘‘(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.’’.

SEC. 323. OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION DEFINED.
Section 502 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1362) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(24) OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION.—The term ‘oil and gas exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations or transmission facilities’ means all field activities or operations associated with exploration, production, processing, or treatment operations, or transmission facilities, including activities necessary to prepare a site for drilling and for the movement and placement of drilling equipment, whether or not such field activities or operations may be considered to be construction activities.’’.

Section 322

“Exempts from the Safe Drinking Water Act a coalbed methane drilling technique called “hydraulic fracturing,” a potential polluter of underground drinking water.

One of the largest companies employing this technique is Halliburton, for which Vice President Richard Cheney acted as chief executive officer in the 1990s. This exemption would kill lawsuits by Western ranchers who say that drilling for methane gas pollutes groundwater by injecting contaminated fluids underground. Only 16 companies stand to significantly benefit from this exemption from clean water laws: Anadarko, BP, Burlington Resources, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Dominion Resources, EOG Resources, Evergreen Resources, Halliburton, Marathon Oil, Oxbow (Gunnison Energy), Tom Brown, Western Gas Resources, Williams Cos and XTO. These companies gave nearly $15 million to federal candidates—with more than three-quarters of that total going to Republicans. Moreover, the 16 companies spent more than $70 million lobbying Congress.

gas from shale fracking process

Gas from shale fracking process

With all this, new reports and Worries Over Water As Natural Gas Fracking Expands, as it turns out that companies are fracturing the shale multiple times, which can then allow methane and other gases and chemicals used in the fracking process to leech into water wells and water supplies for the local communities which in turn makes the water undrinkable, and for the most part useless.

According to the NY Times on natural gas fracking: “The dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”:

But the relatively new drilling method “” known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking “” carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of waste-water that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the waste-water by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the waste-water, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

Resources:

The former Mitchell Energy geologist provides an illuminating perspective on the federal government’s role in the development of shale gas recovery technologies.

While we think that Natural Gas From Shale and Natural Gas Extraction From Shale Gas poses a threat to environmental and Human health, most in power and with vast sums of cash do not. They would prefer to make this a Gasland and ignore the consequences of their actions in the name of greed and profits.

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