Anti-Driller Lets the Truth Slip Out: “It’s not about the science”

Don’t look now, but somehow a little bit of truth seeped into the reporting about hydraulic fracturing. And it happened in the Syracuse Post-Standard:

At a public forum in DeWitt, Syracuse University hydrology professor Don Siegel thought he had presented enough unbiased, scientific information to prove that drilling for natural gas in New York would benefit the state far more than it might hurt.

Then someone in the audience of more than 75 stood up.

“With all due respect, Dr. Siegel,” she said, “it’s not about the science.”

Two months later, Siegel still stews over those words.

The debate should be about the science, he contends, as do two retired SU professors, Bryce Hand and Joe Robinson — who have defended high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a safe method to capture a huge supply of underground natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.

But opponents of hydrofracking have “dispensed with science and rely on fear” to turn the public against drilling, Siegel said.*

The article quotes one scientist (a Cornell professor) who is opposed to drilling, but at least the pro-drilling (and scientific) side of the debate is fully explored in this article, and is well worth the read. Kudos to the Post-Standard for some honest reporting.

*Syracuse Post-Standard (May 2) – Some scientists say hydrofracking benefits outweigh risks

Chesapeake on Track to Drill 170 Wells and Operate 31 Drilling Rigs in Marcellus Shale in 2010

This bit of information about Chesapeake’s Marcellus Shale activities from a recent operational update:

With approximately 1.5 million net acres, Chesapeake is the largest leasehold owner in the Marcellus Shale play that spans from northern West Virginia across much of Pennsylvania into southern New York. On its Marcellus leasehold, Chesapeake estimates it has approximately 26 tcfe of risked unproved resources and 66 tcfe of unrisked unproved resources.

During the 2010 first quarter, Chesapeake’s average daily net production of 65 mmcfe in the Marcellus increased approximately 40% over the 2009 fourth quarter and approximately 815% over the 2009 first quarter. Chesapeake is currently producing approximately 100 mmcfe net per day from the Marcellus. Chesapeake is currently drilling with 24 operated rigs in the Marcellus and anticipates operating an average of approximately 31 rigs in 2010 to drill approximately 170 net wells. During the 2010 first quarter, approximately $90 million of Chesapeake’s drilling costs in the Marcellus were paid for by its joint venture partner Statoil. From April 2010 through 2012, 75% of Chesapeake’s drilling costs in the Marcellus, or approximately $1.9 billion, will be paid for by Statoil.

Three notable recent wells completed by Chesapeake in the Marcellus are as follows:

  • The James Barrett 2H in Bradford County, PA achieved a peak 24-hour rate of 12.7 million cubic feet of natural gas (mmcf) per day;
  • The James Barrett 1H in Bradford County, PA achieved a peak 24-hour rate of 11.8 mmcf per day; and
  • The Strom 1H in Bradford County, PA achieved a peak 24-hour rate of 8.2 mmcf per day.

*Business Wire (May 3) – Chesapeake Energy Corporation Provides Quarterly Operational Update

More Delay Tactics, Elected Officials in NY Actively Oppose Drilling in the Marcellus Shale

New York State’s future with drilling in the Marcellus Shale continues to be cloudy at best. While MDN believes drilling should start—now—hoping and wishing will not make it happen and New York landowners have to face the cold, hard reality it may not happen until summer 2011 at the very earliest (if indeed it ever happens). Now that the NY Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing two sets of rules for drilling—one for the New York City and Syracuse watershed areas, the other for everyone else—anti-drillers are using it as a wedge issue.

Must be fun being an anti-drilling person in NY. First, you say over and over and over again that drilling in the Marcellus in the watershed may contaminate New York City’s water supply. And so, when finally the DEC throws up its hands and says, “OK, we’ll take drilling in the watershed off the table,” the new argument becomes, “See! See! If it’s not safe for the watershed, it’s not safe anywhere!” Gotta love that twisted logic. Point of fact: Hydraulic fracturing is safe everywhere, including the watersheds.

Here’s some of the latest opposition to drilling from New York’s elected leaders:

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, chairman of the Assembly’s Energy Committee, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, are preparing legislation that will require the same drilling regulations for all state watersheds, including the Delaware.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, recently co-sponsored a bill calling for a moratorium on drilling at least until a federal study on the impact of “fracking” on drinking water is complete — in about two years.

And on Friday, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, called on the Delaware Basin Commission, which approves withdrawals of Delaware River water used for “fracking,” to conduct an environmental impact study on the cumulative effects of those withdrawals before it considers any applications.*

So, let’s recite the playbook: Claim it’s not safe. Claim it pollutes water supplies. And when all else fails, call for “let’s go slow and do more studies” and try to delay drilling for at least 2-3 more years to give the anti-drilling forces time to solidify opposition and completely kill it forever.

And lest PA thinks they’re clear of all this, you’re not. The Delaware River Basic Commission has effectively blocked drilling in the Delaware River watershed for now. And your own U.S. Senator, Bob Casey, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get involved in the situation in Dimock, PA.

*Middletown Times Herald-Record (May 2) – Legislators want drilling rules fairly crafted

PA League of Women Voters Comes Out Against Drilling in the Marcellus

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is anti-drilling. Although they pretend to be a non-partisan group, they are anything but. Not only do they sponsor forums with anti-drilling speakers on a regular basis, they have now issued an official position in favor of an extraction tax on drilling in PA, and they have gone on record favoring strict new regulations for drilling in PA. While they don’t categorically say “don’t drill,” their positions and statements essentially do say it. Here’s the opening (alarmist) paragraph from the press statement announcing their official position on drilling in the Marcellus:

FRAC is a four-letter word, F, R, A, C. FRAC impacts everyone in Pennsylvania. It requires the immediate attention of all–from young and old, from rich to poor, from Pittsburgh to Easton, and from Philadelphia to Erie. Why? Fracturing is an explosive process that expels natural gas from Marcellus Shale, a rock that lies deep beneath two-thirds of our Commonwealth. Natural gas extraction impacts our water, our land, our air, our communities, our public health, and our economy.*

Yes, fracturing is an explosive process—small, controlled explosions that happen a mile below solid rock (conveniently left out of the statement). The language used in the press statement is distorting and pejorative about the process of drilling. But hey, it’ll bring in the contributions and it whips up the faithful!

*Statement by Olivia Thorne, President, PALWV (May 3) – Press Conference on Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Extraction

Anadarko Now Operating Four Drilling Rigs in Marcellus, Drilled First Lycoming County, PA Well in 1Q 2010

An update on Anadarko’s Marcellus drilling activities from a recent operations report released to investors:

Anadarko entered into a joint venture with Mitsui E&P USA LLC. Under the terms of the agreement, Mitsui will participate with Anadarko as a 32.5% partner in Anadarko’s Marcellus Shale assets in exchange for providing a $1.4 billion capital carry to Anadarko that covers 100% of its capital in 2010 and 90% thereafter. The carry is expected to be fully utilized by 2013. In addition, Mitsui committed to approximately $100 million to normalize its position with respect to Anadarko’s historical costs.

At the end of the 1st quarter, Anadarko was operating four rigs and participating in an additional 12 non-operated rigs. The company spud ten operated wells and completed two wells during the quarter. Anadarko expects to be operating six rigs by the end of the 2nd quarter 2010.

The Company completed and tested its first Lycoming County well (Larry’s Creek 3H) in January. The well was tested at a peak rate of approximately 6.1 MMcf/d.*

*Anadarko Operations Report First-Quarter 2010