DOE Sec. Chu Goes to Pittsburgh, Promotes Shale Gas Drilling

Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Steven Chu, visited Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Part of his visit was to (sort of) promote shale gas drilling. Among other things, Mr. Chu said hydraulic fracturing can be done “in an environmentally responsible way.”

Mr. Chu, the nation’s top energy official since 2009 and the 1997 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics, toured the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park and then stopped in Pittsburgh to laud Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s use of a $3.4 million Energy Department grant.

During a news conference in the mayor’s office, Mr. Chu raised the issue of natural gas production, saying the resource must be developed for economic and national security reasons. He spoke just steps from where city council, concerned about the environmental and health impacts of gas drilling, adopted a citywide ban on production in 2010.

"The long story short is, we believe it can be done in an environmentally responsible way," Mr. Chu said, noting the Energy Department has played a role in researching safe drilling.

He said gas production helps to drive down energy costs and has the potential to become the fuel of choice for long-haul trucks, which account for much of the nation’s transportation energy costs.(1)

However, lest you think Mr. Chu is now a converted pro-driller, he also said the following during his Pittsburgh talk:

"(Natural gas production) can create wealth, but it also has the potential for doing bad things to the environment."(2)

Chu said it was the DOE that discovered horizontal fracking, turning it over to private industry for development. Whatever. Ultimately he displayed the same ideology that runs deep in an administration that now pretends to support shale gas drilling, that ideology being the country needs to get off fossil fuels and on to wind and solar (Solyndra anyone?) as quickly as possible:

Chu said the Department of Energy’s experiments between 1978 and 1992 helped develop the widespread practice of horizontal drilling and fracturing that made capturing natural gas from rock formations such as shale cost-effective enough that private industry could take over. He said ongoing experiments in labs such as the one in South Park would hopefully be adapted by drillers to make natural gas production safer and a more efficient "bridge" from the use of other fossil fuels to wind or solar power to generate electricity.(2)

(1) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Feb 10, 2012) – U.S. energy czar touts natural gas during visit

(2) Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Feb 10, 2012) – Chu: Shale gas can free nation

  • Anonymous

    Hydraulic fracturing for stimulation of oil and natural gas wells was first used in the United States in 1947.[2][3] It was first used commercially by Halliburton in 1949,[2] and because of its success in increasing production from oil wells was quickly adopted, and is now used worldwide in tens of thousands of oil and natural gas wells annually. The first industrial use of hydraulic fracturing was as early as 1903, according to T.L. Watson.[4] Before that date, hydraulic fracturing was used at Mt. Airy Quarry, near Mt Airy, North Carolina where it was (and still is) used to separate granite blocks from bedrock.
    Hydraulic fracturing as it is used today is primarily a product of technological innovations made in the late 20th century[5]. The Morgantown Energy Research Center (MERC), a predecessor to today’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), initiated the Eastern Gas Shales Project in 1976[6] in response to concerns from the gas industry that US domestic conventional gas deposits were losing their production potential[7][8]. MERC, the Department of Energy, several national labs, and other federal government agencies spearheaded the R&D and technology demonstration projects that led to the development of massive hydraulic fracturing (MHF), horizontal drilling, and microseismic imaging of gas deposits in shale[9]. Mitchell Energy, a Texas gas company, used all these component technologies and techniques to achieve the first economical extraction of shale gas in 1998 via an innovative drilling process called slick-water fracturing[10].
    Volcanic dikes and sills are examples of natural hydraulic fractures. Hydraulic fracturing incorporates principles from the disciplines of fracture mechanics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, and porous medium flow.

  • Anonymous

     Why do you always  inject sarcastic remarks interpreting the “true”: motives of Obama or people working on his behalf ; in this case Dr. Chu? Are you psychic; have mental telepathic powers?
      The brilliant Dr.Chu  is a reasonable man who can see the many advantages of gas development while also ,at the same time, is fully aware of  the potential environmental risks that need  to be mitigated. These include: surface spills, inadequate casing or cementing, improper wastewater and tailings disposal, excessive methane leakage at well completion, surface erosion, etc.
      I want both gas development and minimal environmental impact; don’t you?

  • Jim Willis

    Thanks for posting that bit of history.

  • Jim Willis

    A) I do want both gas development and minimal environmental impact, goes without saying, B) he’s obviously brilliant, he’s a Nobel prize winner, C) he’s also an ideologue who believes (by his own admission & words) that at best gas is a bridge, away from fossil fuels–that is, solar and wind are the real goals (I dispute that, I don’t think solar and wind are going to be ready to take on our energy needs for generations), and D) yes, I’m psychic! 😉

    Snark and sarcasm comes with blogging, it’s in the manual.

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