Will Soil be the New “Water” in the Fight to Stop Marcellus Gas Drilling in NY State?

MDN finds it necessary to periodically post disclaimers such as the following: We think drilling can be done safely, but we must remain vigilant. The more we know about drilling, the more we are convinced it is a good thing for the economy and the nation’s energy future. We are not anti-science, we’re not blind, we do care about our neighbors and we welcome opposing opinions. No one wants water supplies to be poisoned, and no one wants enjoyment of the great outdoors to be spoiled by drilling activity. And it doesn’t have to be that way if drilling is done right.

With that said, the other side of the drilling debate seems to stop at nothing to instill irrational fears into the general population under the guise of science. Put the name of a prominent educational institution next to a committee or group, invoke the name of someone with a Ph.D., and viola, instant credibility. And if you dare say, “but the Emperor has no clothes” out loud, you’re shouted down as an industry shill or accused of being greedy at others’ expense. Such loving and caring people those who disagree with us.

Since “your water will be poisoned” doesn’t seem to be getting sufficient traction these days as a scare tactic, we now find out that soil is “sensitive” (bet you didn’t know that!) to drilling activity:

Researchers have developed the Cornell Soil Health Test to evaluate soil response to management on different types of land. It’s intended to assess changes due to gas drilling work.

The construction necessary to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in southern New York could affect the soil around drilling sites and pipeline right-of-ways, says a Cornell soil expert who has helped develop a new soil health test to assess such impacts.

“Soil is sensitive to heavy construction, and while there are a lot of construction standards and practices, there isn’t really a standardized way to measure construction impacts on soil behavior,” said Robert Schindelbeck, a Cornell extension associate in crop and soil sciences and member of the Cornell Soil Health Team.

To fill in that information gap, Schindelbeck and his team have developed the Cornell Soil Health Test (CSHT), a set of tests designed to evaluate soil response to management on different types of land.*

*PhysOrg.com (Apr 1) – New test assesses gas drilling effects on soils

Mesa Energy Gets NY DEC Approval to Convert Two Existing Medina Wells into Marcellus Wells

Mesa Energy has received a green light from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation to convert two vertical wells in Western New York from Medina gas to Marcellus gas. We also learn from the press release that the Marcellus Shale layer in the Java Field owned and operated by Mesa is about 200 feet thick across the entire area—much larger than originally thought.

Mesa Energy press release:

Mesa Energy Holdings, Inc. (the “Company”), an exploration stage oil and gas exploration and production company with a focus on the Marcellus Shale in western New York today announced that the Company has received permits from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation to move forward with its re-completion plans on two existing Medina wells in its Java Field natural gas development project in Wyoming County, New York.

“An initial round of location maintenance, through-casing logging and evaluation was completed on the two wells in December 2009, and now that we have our permits in place, we can begin the next phase,” said CEO of Mesa Energy Holdings, Inc., Randy M. Griffin. “The preliminary data obtained in December 2009 on both wells clearly supports our project in the Java Field and now that we have received permits, we can proceed with the final planning and execution of the re-completion of both wells.”

The through-casing logs that were run in December 2009 indicated that there is nearly 200 ft. of high quality shale with good organic content in the Marcellus zone; nearly twice as much as the Company initially anticipated. The two wells are approximately three miles apart and the log over the Marcellus zone in each is almost indistinguishable from the other. This indicates that the Marcellus zone appears to be evenly distributed across the acreage.

*Press Release (Apr 1) – Mesa Energy Holdings, Inc. Receives Permit Approval

Mud Spill at Drilling Site in Central PA Due to Human Error

There was a mud spillage at a drilling site on Friday, April 2nd in Pennsylvania. The site is located on state-owned land—the Sproul State Forest in north-central Pennsylvania. The drilling was being done by Anadarko. According to reports:

An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of mud used by Anadarko E&P Company Inc. for drilling operations overflowed at the well site due to human error, said Daniel Spandoni, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection in Williamsport.

While about half of the mud spilled over the boundary of the well pad, it didn’t spread far enough to contaminate any surface waters, ground water or wetlands in the area, Spandoni said. A contractor began cleanup work Friday night. DEP officials have taken mud samples to determine a proper disposal method.

The mud is used as a cooling agent in drilling operations. Since the mud that spilled is synthetic-based, it doesn’t contain any diesel fluids as some other agents do, said Spandoni.*

*Hazelton Standard Speaker (Apr 2) – Mud spill at drilling site contained

T. Boone Pickens Talks About the Marcellus, Natural Gas, and America’s Energy Future

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently interviewed T. Boone Pickens, the famous Texas oil billionaire and now “energy evangelist,” out to help chart a new course for energy in America. One of the main points in his Picken’s Plan is to use natural gas as a transition fuel to replace the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Mr. Pickens is less than impressed with President Obama’s recent decision to lift a drilling ban in certain areas of the North Atlantic. The problem, according to Pickens, is there are no appreciable oil reserves in the locations where the ban has been lifted.

In the interview, Mr. Pickens had some interesting comments about drilling in the Marcellus Shale, including:

Pickens told New York listeners he was mystified by the uproar gas drilling had caused in the Marcellus Shale region, where environmentalists oppose hydraulic fracturing (fracking), an extraction technology involving high-pressure injections of sand and drilling fluids into a well. The EPA recently announced it would study fracking.

“You’ve been fracking wells in Texas and Oklahoma for 50 years,” Pickens said. “I’ve never heard anybody complain about your damaging the water. We’re just amused that people in Pennsylvania and New York are crying about messing up their water.”

On the topic of electric vehicles:

Pickens said he had nothing against electric vehicles and hybrids – he just thinks it will take too much time for them to penetrate the market of 220 million vehicles in America to have much effect on petroleum consumption.

And electric vehicles don’t enter into the equation when it comes to heavy trucks, the biggest consumers of motor fuel; there is currently no commercial battery-driven vehicle capable of powering a tractor-trailer rig.

“If you replace eight million 18-wheelers with natural gas, you have cut OPEC in half,” Pickens said.

Don’t you just love a plain talking, truth-telling Texan! Finally, one of his favorite and now oft-repeated phrases:

“Natural gas. It’s cleaner, cheaper, and it’s ours.”

*Philadelphia Inquirer (Apr 4) – Pickens: Drilling isn’t the answer

Video Interview with John Sherman, CEO of Inergy, About Infrastructure in the Marcellus Shale

TheStreet.com reporter Debra Borchardt interviews John Sherman, CEO of Inergy, a company that, among other things, provides transportation and distribution of natural gas. They are the nation’s fourth largest propane distributor, and they “have their eye” on the Marcellus Shale, with plans for major investments in the Northeast to meet demand in the Marcellus region.

Sherman says that natural gas is clean burning and is a “transition fuel” for the United States. Watch the short segment from TheStreet.com to learn more about Inergy’s plans for the Marcellus Shale.