In an article posted on The Energy Collective website, Geoff Styles, who has a degree in chemical engineering (U.C. Davis) and worked for Texaco for 22 years, in addition to working for NASA, explores just what hydraulic fracturing is, how it’s done, and why it’s safe, particularly in the Marcellus Shale deposit. It is an extremely well written and enlightening article—please read it!
Here is a brief extract:
[F]or the purposes of this discussion let’s take a quick look at one of the shale regions at the heart of this controversy, the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian region of New York, Pennsylvania and the Virginias. In the course of my research I ran across a handy document on groundwater from Penn State. Aside from surface water (lakes, rivers and streams), it identifies the various aquifers in Pennsylvania by type in Figure 4. The key fact from the perspective of fracking safety is that the deepest of these aquifers lies no more than about 500 ft. below the surface, and typically less than a couple of hundred feet down. By contrast, the Marcellus Shale is found thousands of feet down–in many areas more than a mile below-ground–with a thickness of 250 feet or less. In addition, the gas-bearing layers are sealed in by impermeable rock, or the gas would eventually have migrated somewhere else. In other words, the shale gas reservoirs are isolated by geology and depth from the shallower layers where our underground drinking water is found.
He covers many other issues, including the relatively SMALL amount of water used to frack a well with horizontal drilling—compared with water used in a “traditional” oil or gas well. And how the aquifer is protected when the drilling begins, before any water and chemicals are pumped into the well.
Thus, whether intentionally or as a result of a basic misunderstanding of how this technology works, we are being presented with a false dichotomy concerning shale gas and fracking. The real choice here isn’t between energy and drinking water, as critics imply, but between tapping an abundant source of lower-emission domestic energy and what looked like a perpetually-increasing reliance on imported natural gas just a few years ago.
In a surprisingly balanced report by NPR, we learn of the infighting that is taking place in the Sierra Club, between the national organization and the state and local chapters. It seems the national organization believes natural gas and gas drilling are a good and acceptable alternative to coal. But local chapters are concerned about drilling’s effect on the the landscape and on water supplies.
Click through on the link above to read the transcript or listen to the four minute segment, which includes the Sierra Club attending a ribbon cutting ceremony at a plant at Cornell University to celebrate their conversion from coal to natural gas.
More jobs are coming to the Marcellus Shale region because of drilling activity. An engineering firm in Plains Township (Luzerne County), Pennsylvania is hiring:
Borton-Lawson has been advertising for seven engineering, design and surveyor positions. Chris Borton, company president, said the marketplace is unlike anything he’s seen in the 22 years since he and Tom Lawson teamed up.
“It’s a tough economy. There are still things that are going on out there,” said Borton on Tuesday.
The influx of companies exploring and drilling in the Marcellus Shale region has created work for Borton-Lawson and others. It’s opened a branch office in the Pittsburgh area.
Coming soon to an art house theater near you is… GASLAND, winner of the Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. From the GASLAND official website:
When filmmaker Josh Fox discovers that Natural Gas drilling is coming to his area—the Catskillls/Poconos region of Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, he sets off on a 24 state journey to uncover the deep consequences of the United States’ natural gas drilling boom. What he uncovers is truly shocking—water that can be lit on fire right out of the sink, chronically ill residents of drilling areas from disparate locations in the US all with the same mysterious symptoms, huge pools of toxic waste that kill cattle and vegetation well blowouts and huge gas explosions consistently covered up by state and federal regulatory agencies. These are just a few of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND.
Michael Moore, writer/producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Capitalism: A Love Story among others, has pioneered this kind of “documentary” that’s long on innuendo and short on facts, perfecting it as an art. It seems Mr. Moore has spawned imitators, including Josh Fox.
The drumbeat will only grow louder from the anti-drilling movement. Their two-pronged attack is to claim: 1) Hydraulic fracturing as a mining technique is unsafe, and 2) Your water will become contaminated with nasty chemicals and/or methane gas if there’s a drill anywhere near you. Both claims are false.
Look, no one wants people’s water to become polluted, or livestock to become ill, or water to become contaminated. Painting energy companies as the Great Satan, as films like this try to do, is simply childish and simplistic at best. There are safeguards in place. Drilling IS happening in a lot of places—with no negative consequences. We need to stay vigilant, of course. But drilling can happen safely, and it should. To ban all natural gas drilling and hydrofracking as a technique is unreasonable.