DOE National Lab Tackles Question of Fracking Fluid Migration

NETL logoThe Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh is tackling the thorny question raised by Duke University earlier this week: Can and does fracking fluid (or any fluid) migrate upward through rock layers? The Duke study released earlier this week suggests it’s possible for fluids to migrate from thousands of feet down (see this MDN story) up to water aquifers near the surface. News of the Duke study continues to reverberate throughout the media with hundreds of stories being written and endlessly recycled.

The NETL will tackle the same question using an active, commercially drilled Marcellus Shale natural gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania. Using a single well won’t provide definitive answers because Marcellus geography varies from region to region—but at least it’s a start. Recall that the Duke study focused on data from six northeastern Pennsylvania counties and their data did not include sampling from active drilling sites.

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Range Resources O&G Production Sees Huge Increase in 2Q12

Range Resources announced second quarter results today. Production volumes for all classes (natgas, NGLs and oil) are up an eye-popping 42% over the same quarter last year, and up 10% from the first quarter of this year. And if they remove the Barnett Shale numbers from the equation for last year, production would have been up 51%. Range sold off their Barnett assets last year, which included 390 active wells on 52,000 net acres. Range’s main focus continues to be the Marcellus and Utica Shale region.

Production, by volume, was 80% natural gas, 14% natural gas liquids, and 6% crude oil. From the press release:

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Ohio DNR Visits Patriot Water Facility in Warren, OH

Patriot Water in Warren, Ohio is fighting a battle on both the legal and publicity fronts. Yesterday they scored some points in the publicity column by (finally) getting a representative from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to tour their facility.

Brief background: Patriot’s facility processes wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, removing the nasty stuff so the water is clean and able to be disposed of through the local Warren municipal wastewater processing plant. But the Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rescinded Warren’s permit to accept the wastewater from Patriot, saying Patriot’s technology is not up to scratch (see this MDN story for more background on Patriot’s legal squabble with the OEPA).

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Marcellus to the Rescue: Marcus Hook Refinery to Reopen

The Marcus Hook Refinery in the Philadelphia, PA area was closed down in April. Owned by Sunoco, it is one of three refineries in the greater Philly area. A few weeks ago MDN told you about a study that Marcus Hook and Delaware County spent $100,000 on detailing potential uses and markets for the refinery (see this MDN story).

At the time, MDN asked the question if the Marcellus Shale would save the Marcus Hook refinery. Looks like it did. Yesterday, PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s office announced that some of the Marcus Hook Refinery assets have been purchased by Braskem America. Braskem will use it to manufacture polypropylene plastics. The press release says Braskem will secure feedstocks (raw materials) from “multiple sources,” without naming those sources. You can be sure natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica Shale will be a big source—perhaps the main source—for the refinery.

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Norse Energy Continues Stock Sales to Generate Cash

Norse Energy is an interesting company. MDN has written plenty about them. They have 130,000 acres of leases in, of all places, New York State. And they’ve been waiting, along with everyone else, four long years to begin drilling. And they’ve done whatever they can to stay in business, selling off assets, selling ownership slices of the company, floating bonds (debt), obtaining loans—whatever they can.

On one hand you have to have tremendous respect for a company that hangs tough. On the other hand, you want to ask them if they need their heads examined for betting the ranch on the vagaries of New York politicians.

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Sullivan County, NY Township Votes to Ban Fracking

Another one bites the dust. A township in Sullivan County—the Catskill region of New York State—has voted to ban hydraulic fracturing ahead of the state allowing it (if they allow it). The Town of Highland board voted 5-0 to ban fracking Tuesday night.

What you don’t hear about so often in the press are all of the towns voting in favor of drilling—or at least in favor of letting the DEC do it’s job and not prejudging the outcome. Anecdotal evidence MDN has heard is that something over 100 townships have voted to ban fracking (most of them not in the Marcellus Shale region), while perhaps 50 have voted to allow the DEC to do it’s job—what anti-drillers view as being supportive of drilling. Most of those are in the Marcellus Shale region.

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WV Gov. Tomblin Appoints Members to NatGas Vehicle Task Force

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin yesterday announced the members of his Natural Gas Vehicle Task Force. Tomblin announced the formation of the Task Force a month ago with the mission of investigating if, and how, the state can convert all of it’s state-owned vehicles to run on natural gas (see this MDN story).

Yesterday’s announcement names the members of the new Task Force. It’s all all-star cast from some of the country’s biggest drillers and pipeline companies.

From the Governor’s press release:

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