Yesterday, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released its plan with specifics for how it will conduct research into the question of whether or not hydraulic fracturing contaminates, or otherwise negatively impacts, drinking water supplies. A copy of the 190-page plan is embedded below.
The first (preliminary) results from the study are due in 2012, but a final report is not due until 2014. In order to meet those deadlines, the EPA has already begun collecting field data and water samples. The problem is, that data was collected before the the plan itself was completed—before the rules for how the data collection should be done were established. Industry groups rightly have asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson how data collection for the study can begin before the methodology, the “how we will do this” part of the study was complete. It immediately calls into question the veracity of the data itself.
The EPA has “jumped the gun” by starting before the methodology was released. GIGO—garbage in, garbage out.
The Utica Shale in eastern Ohio, and Chesapeake Energy’s discovery that it contains oil and wet gas in addition to methane, is paying off big-time for the company. Yesterday, Chesapeake announced a major cash infusion from a new joint venture with a mystery/unnamed “international major energy company” to the tune of $2.14 billion. Some $640 million of that will be paid when the deal officially closes, and the balance of $1.5 billion will be paid by the end of 2014.
A third company in the joint venture is EnerVest. The joint venture values the land leased by Chesapeake and EnerVest at $15,000 per net acre. The previous highest deal for Utica Shale leases was Hess—for $8,000 per net acre. The overall deal between Chesapeake, EnerVest and the unnamed company is a bit complicated (see the press release below), but the gist of the matter is that Chesapeake will get enough money to fully fund their Utica Shale drilling program in Ohio, and the overall value of the joint venture means Chesapeake will eventually receive $3.4 billion.
At least one energy firm has voted with its pocketbook that drilling will come, eventually, to New York State. Inflection Energy has just paid landowners in the Town of Maine (Broome County), NY $1,000 per acre to not bail out of the previous deal they signed.
In 2010, Inflection signed a deal that Maine landowners would receive a $6,000 per acre signing bonus over eight years plus 20 percent royalties. The initial payment was $1,000 per acre, the rest due after New York starts issuing permits for drilling. Problem is, those permits have not been issued and under the terms of the deal, landowners would have the right to vacate their leases and find a better deal later. So to keep them in the deal until permits are finally forthcoming, Inflection paid an additional $1,000 per acre (one-time payout) stipulating the landowners will not cancel their leases.
Looks like Enterprise Products’ plan to build an ethane pipeline from the Marcellus and Utica Shales to the Gulf Coast (see this MDN story) is already paying off. Chesapeake Energy is the first company to commit to using the pipeline, which is due to be completed and in service by 2014.
Sunoco is getting out of the refinery business by July of next year and is instead looking to expand its investment in midstream businesses, including pipelines, terminals and storage, in addition to its retail outlets. Sunoco is particularly interested in opportunities in the Marcellus and Utica Shales.
Residents of Charleston, WV want large energy companies looking to locate an ethane cracker plant in the Marcellus region to know that residents of Charleston want it and welcome it with open arms. An online letter-writing campaign has been launched to show community support for the project, which is estimated to bring more than 12,000 new jobs and some $7 billion in economic activity to the region where it’s built.