Marcellus Shale operations in Pennsylvania—and oil and gas operations nationwide—will need to reduce so-called air pollution emissions to comply with new federal rules issued yesterday. And even though the “fix” in “air pollution” regulations was mandated by a kangaroo federal court, the EPA autocratically delayed implementation for parts of the new standards for more than two years, to Jan. 1, 2015. Why? The stated reason from the EPA is that the equipment drillers will need for “green completions” is not yet widely available.
The real reason for the delay is because Obama wants to remove it as a political issue during his re-election campaign. Just like the tragedy that is nationalized health care, the real “bite” from the new EPA “fix” won’t take effect until midway through what Obama hopes is his second term, when the unpopular parts and the massive expense of the EPA ruling becomes apparent, but it can’t touch Obama politically. Sleazy.
It looks like today’s “extraordinary shareholder’s meeting” for Marcellus & Utica Shale driller Norse Energy, held at corporate HQ in Norway, has yielded the desired result. As MDN pointed out in our sneak preview of the shareholder presentation (see this MDN story), Norse was pitching existing shareholders on the concept of giving Norse more money to drill because “New York is almost ready to allow drilling” and when that happens, Norse will need the cash to ramp up operations. (Plus, they need the cash to keep going until then.)
Norse just issued a press release that they’ve raised an additional $2 million from existing shareholder Megaron AS, who agreed to a convertible loan. It was a good deal (potentially) for Megaron—they’re getting 10% interest on the loan.
From time to time MDN will tackle a complicated issue and try to, as briefly as possible, break it down for our readers to understand the essence of it. This is one of those issues. It involves property rights, contracts, deeds, a sympathetic landowner, and Chesapeake Energy’s single largest-producing Utica Shale well in Ohio—the Buell Well.
The Buell Well, designated Buell 8H by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is named after the landowner Kenneth Buell, a 73 year-old farmer. It’s located in Archer Township in Harrison County, OH. It was one of the first Utica Shale wells to be drilled in Ohio and previously yielded 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 198 days—2% of the total gas production for the entire state. It’s 300 times more productive than the average vertical well in Ohio, and it has also has produced in excess of 13,000 barrels of oil. By any measure it’s a star performer—the star performer in Ohio. And it’s now in danger of being shut down because of legal disputes over who owns the rights to drill it. That’s where the situation gets messy and complicated.
Earlier this year MDN reported on the story of the Patriot Water Treatment facility in Warren, Ohio. Patriot accepts and treats raw fracking fluid from Marcellus drilling operations, removing heavy metals, bromide and other contaminants. Last fall, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican who seems to be rather anti-drilling in his actions, declared that Patriot’s permits were illegal because they were not using the latest technology (see this MDN story).
The Ohio EPA took DeWine’s findings as a cue to go after Patriot to shut them down. They did so by not allowing the City of Warren to accept Patriot’s treated wastewater. With no place to send the treated wastewater, Patriot had to shut the plant down in April. Patriot appealed the EPA decision and on Tuesday, Patriot prevailed. The plant will reopen today.
The Morgantown, WV City Council is at it again. You may recall they tried to ban hydraulic fracturing last year both inside and up to one mile outside of the city limits. A judge struck down the law (see this MDN story). Council members aren’t about to give up though. On Tuesday, they passed six new ordinances that will “limit” drilling to areas immediately surrounding the Morgantown Municipal Airport.
Less than two weeks ago, MDN asked the question, Did Reuters break the law with the latest Chesapeake story? (see this MDN story). We pointed out that the emails used by Reuters were private, and in order for Reuters to take possession of them, someone likely broke the law. None other than the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review is now essentially asking the same question about the source of those emails.
When will fracking begin in New York? When MDN editor Jim Willis speaks with friends and family, perhaps that is the question he gets most often. Most New Yorkers and even most non-New Yorkers Jim talks with believe it’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when. Jim just has to shrug his shoulders when asked and says, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
The question on the minds of many New Yorkers is the object of endless speculation on radio talk shows and in newspaper articles. North Country Public Radio ran a segment yesterday speculating on the “when” question. They had some interesting points to make on the topic, pointing out that the New York legislature is now in recess for the rest of the year (sure wish we only had to work half a year!), and the legislature recessed without voting on key legislation that would need to be in place if drilling were going to begin this year:
Typically MDN does not cover the (plentiful) news about shale gas drilling in other parts of the US or even the world—unless the story has a direct bearing somehow on drilling in the Marcellus or Utica Shale. Or unless it’s about fracking technology/issues in general, which of course do have a bearing on Marcellus and Utica drilling.
But every now and again we’ll throw in a story for pure entertainment value. This time, it’s a story about North Carolina, where the fracking debate has heated up. The NC legislature recently voted to allow fracking. The Democrat governor, Bev Perdue, vetoed the legislation. And a vote was just taken to override her veto. The veto, we’re happy to report, has been overridden, and the deciding vote was cast by a Democrat who had campaigned against fracking—Becky Carney. It seems it was past Ms. Carney’s bedtime and she was so sleepy she hit the wrong voting button by mistake. Oops.
Even though natural gas prices remain low, drilling in Ohio remains red hot, largely because of the promise of natural gas liquids and oil. An article in Farm and Dairy magazine recaps the permitting activity for June, and includes this handy summary chart for the entire state, county by county, including where actively producing wells are located: