Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Dec 17, 2013

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading:

New York

Fracking fluid law to take effect in Orange County
Mid-Hudson News Network
The law that will prohibit the disposal of hydrofracking wastewater in Orange County’s sewer systems will take effect as soon as appropriate filings are made with Albany. The county legislature approved the measure last month and sent it to County Executive Edward Diana for his signature. He declined to sign or veto it, so it automatically became law. The legislature previously adopted a local law this year that prevents fracking brine from being applied on county roads as a snow-melting agent. A number of other counties in the region have adopted similar laws. Opponents of hydrofracking as a process to harvest natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation believe the chemicals used in the process are dangerous to public health.

The Shallow Motivations of Hydraulic Fracturing Opponents
Natural Gas Now
Erie County’s recent decision to block the use of hydraulic fracturing on its property reveals more about the shallow motivations of legislators than anything else. December 12, 2013 is the 17th anniversary of the death of Vance Packard, author of “The Hidden Persuaders.” Published in 1957, this book pioneered the study of motivation research, the psychological process that was thought to have directed advertisers and politicians to manipulate consumer and voter minds and influence opinions and actions. Ironic that December 12, 2013, was also the day that Erie County (NY) decided to ban hydraulic fracturing on county-owned land. The half-truths and well-massaged statements posing as facts played out in the legislative chambers and on local media would be enough to make Packard spin in his grave. Local environmental activists – the same crowd that advocated for a “symbolic” ban on hydraulic fracturing in the City of Buffalo – used its Park Foundation-funded Food & Water Watch chapter here to lead the charge that basically accomplished nothing, except to spread more misinformation in the general public and add to the hubris amongst its followers.

Why Fracking for Gas Is Controversial and Fracking for Oil Is Not
Natural Gas Now
Shale gas gets all the fracking opposition, but shale oil gets by largely unscathed. The reasons? Oil is too big for the greens and it’s all about New York for the fractivists. Our friend Nick Grealy, from No Hot Air over in the UK, is onto something. He remarks, in his latest post available here, on one of the fascinating aspects of the politics of shale; the opposition is all about gas and not oil. He asks why hydraulic fracturing or fracking of shale gas generates controversy and the use of the same process to extract oil gets a ho-hum response for the most part. He also posits an answer that is absolutely correct as far it goes, but there’s another key element. Here’s some of what Nick Grealy has to say about the missing half of the shale debate:


Marathon’s Wellsville Project Links to Cornerstone
Youngstown Business Journal
Opportunities in the Utica shale of eastern Ohio have convinced one of the largest refining companies in the country to step up its investment here. Marathon Petroleum Co. LP, based in Findlay, expects to spend between $400 million and $500 million to upgrade its transportation and midstream network in the Utica, the company says. Among these projects is a multimillion-dollar investment at the Wellsville Intermodal Facility in Columbiana County, where Marathon is hoping to move ahead with construction of an oil/gas transfer hub in conjunction with Harvest Pipeline Inc., an affiliate of Hilcorp Energy Co.

Endangered bats might create roadblocks for Ohio oil, electricity, coal and road work
Cleveland Plain Dealer
One can fit in your palm, although most people don’t care to hold bats. You can even call them cute, in a toothy, homely-mammal way. The northern long-eared bat, named for its unusually long ears, is disappearing in parts of the United States. But Ohioans with interests in coal mining, electricity transmission, oil and gas drilling, and road-and-bridge improvement say that while they appreciate wildlife, the long-eared bat is about to become a nuisance for them. They are questioning, and in some instances fighting, a recommendation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS, to declare the northern long-eared bat (formal name: Myotis septentrionalis) an endangered species. There is “no question” that the northern long-eared is in danger of becoming extinct, said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, whose petition to the FWS in 2010 started the process. “There is broad consensus on this in the scientific community.”

Ohio drillers face new chemical reporting deadline
Akron Beacon Journal
Friday was the deadline for drillers to comply with Ohio’s revised chemical disclosure rules. Drillers have to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking to local governments, first responders and the public, if certain thresholds are exceeded. The deadline covered chemical use in 2012. The deadline for 2013 reporting is March 1, 2014. The new reporting rules stemmed for a petition filed last spring with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Columbus activist Teresa Mills and supported by several Ohio environmental groups. They said chemical use was not properly being reported. They said that oil and gas producers were not following the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.

You’d Be Crazy To Invest In Aubrey McClendon’s New IPO
Aubrey McClendon has had no trouble finding money to play with since leaving Chesapeake Energy CHK -0.85%. As of October, his American Energy Partners LP had raised $1.7 billion in equity and debt. The closely held company has been busy buying up acreage in the Utica play of Ohio. Late on Friday a registration statement was filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission for an offering of $2 billion in units of American Energy Capital Partners LP. Although the names of the two companies are similar, this is not McClendon’s company. Instead, the partnership is sponsored by American Realty Capital, a multi-billion-dollar family of investment vehicles backed by Nicholas Schorsh and William Kahane. They’re the ones in charge, and they brought in McClendon to line up oil and gas assets for the partnership to buy.

People living near permitted injection well sound off at commission meeting
Athens News
Neighbors to a newly approved injection well for storing wastewater from oil-and-gas drilling operations attended a Athens County Commissioners meeting Thursday, to express their concerns about and objections to the facility. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently granted a permit to the West Virginia-based K&H Partners allowing the company to drill and test the well, at a location near Torch in eastern Athens County. K&H will need a second permit before it can open the well to accept wastes. After K&H, which already operates one injection well in the Torch area, applied for a permit for a second well, many local citizens demanded that ODNR hold a public hearing on the permit application. Though ODNR took written comments, it did not schedule a public hearing.


Philadelphia considers switching city vehicles to CNG
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is weighing the pros and cons of switching some of its 5,800 city vehicles to ones that run on compressed natural gas. Our friends at StateImpact Pennsylvania partner station WHYY report city officials are hesitant to launch a full-scale fleet conversion: Philadelphia fleet manager Chris Cocci said he would not want to use natural gas for police cruisers or fire trucks, though he’s open to it for other purposes. “We do not want to put any public health and safety vehicles relative to the fire department or the police department in that arena,” he said. “We believe the technology, as far as refuse vehicles, is well advanced and could sustain it.”

Bill encourages drillers to use abandoned mine drainage to frack by easing liability
StateImpact Pennsylvania
After shrinking away from the spotlight for almost eight months, a bill aimed at encouraging natural gas drillers to use polluted mine drainage water to frack by easing their liability is making its way back into the legislature. Senate Bill 411 got a lot of attention earlier this year when environmentalists pushed back, claiming it would grant immunity to the industry all the way through the fracking process. The bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Kasunic (D) from Somerset and Fayette counties, was tabled in March, but was amended in mid-November and has now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee to the surprise of environmental groups closely following the issue. The state wants natural gas drillers to use this polluted water over fresh water sources. It takes about four million gallons of water to frack just one well. Some drilling companies like Seneca Resources are already doing this, but others worried the state’s Clean Streams Law would make them responsible for cleaning up these streams in perpetuity.

West Virginia

Marcellus shale fears are not founded on facts
Charleston Daily Mail
Since consideration is being given to building a natural gas cracker plant in West Virginia, it might be well to ask, “Just what is a cracker plant?” Many people might associate fracking, or fracturing, with cracker. They are not the same. Fracking has to do with a process used in gas drilling and the cracker has to do with what has been done to the natural gas after it is produced. A cracker is similar to what is done with produced crude oil. When crude oil has been produced it goes through a refining process where various products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene and heavy lubricants are made. Gov. Tomblin announced a couple of weeks ago a Brazilian company “will look to capitalize on the regional opportunities in the Marcellus and Utica shale.”

Proposed ethane cracker faces tough review
AP/Houston Chronicle Fuel Fix Blog
A proposed ethane cracker plant in Wood County likely would have to comply with a state regulation aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial facilities. Adopted in 2011, the regulation requires the Department of Environmental Protection to determine, when reviewing air pollution permits, whether such facilities would use the best available technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The threshold to qualify as a “major source” of greenhouse emissions is 100,000 tons per year. Air quality officials with the DEPT met with representatives of Brazilian petrochemical giant Odebrecht last week to begin discussing the project, the Charleston Gazette reported Sunday. “It’s going to be a difficult permitting process,” John Benedict, the DEP’s air quality director, told the newspaper.


Big stakes for Kentucky gas pipeline
Cincinnati Enquirer
Pendleton County resident Jim Lockwood drove his 7-year-old daughter over the rolling hills of the Licking River Valley looking for surveyors’ flags on a recent afternoon. He used the flags to figure out where construction crews plan to place the controversial Bluegrass Pipeline, which will transport natural gas liquids from shale-producing areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to the petrochemical market in the northeast and the export complexes on the Gulf Coast. “What I confirmed is I live about a mile downstream from the proposed pipeline’s path,” said Lockwood, a 37-year-old British native who married a Kentuckian and settled in a century-old farmhouse on a bubbling creek in Pendleton County. “I would very much like to see it better regulated, better sited – and preferably not built at all.” The planned pipeline presents divisive issues – economic development, landowner rights, safety concerns – that have consumed rural communities along its route, including Pendleton County in Northern Kentucky and Clermont County in Southwest Ohio.

Feds forecast natural gas will dethrone king coal as source of electric power
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Natural gas is projected to surpass coal as the dominant source of U.S. electric power generation in the coming decades, according to a new federal report. By 2040, natural gas will account for 35 percent of total electric generation, while coal will supply 32 percent. The forecast comes from an early overview of the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook. The EIA is the statistics arm of the Department of Energy. The report predicts national energy trends through 2040, with the assumption that current laws and regulations remain relatively unchanged throughout that time period.

Shale Gale Blowing Harder, EIA Says
NGI’s Shale Daily
The shale gale, first in natural gas and then in oil, has blown through the energy sector and is filling the sails of U.S. industrial consumers and power generators while it creates headwinds to energy imports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the early version of its Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014) on Monday. Since the previous outlook the United States is projected to become even more of an energy “have” as opposed to “have-not.”

President Obama Directs Agencies to “Lead by Example,” Setting New Renewable Energy Goals for Federal Facilities
On December 10, 2013, President Obama issued a memo entitled, “Federal Leadership on Energy Management,” that directs federal facilities to achieve new goals for renewable energy and implement new energy management practices. The principal goals are as follows: (1) by 2020, 20% of the total electric energy consumed by each agency during any fiscal year should come from renewable energy, with interim goals of 10% renewable energy usage by 2015, 15% in 2016 and 2017, and 17.5% in 2018 and 2019; (2) each agency must install building energy meters and sub-meters as required by the National Energy Conservation Policy Act and install additional ones where cost-effective and appropriate; and (3) the General Services Administration, in coordination with the Department of Energy, must initiate a strategy to pilot “Green Button” at federal facilities where feasible. “Green Button” is a data access system developed by the North American Energy Standards Board for providing web-based secure access to energy bill account data, usage data, and consumption data to customers and utilities for purposes of demand-side management. For purposes of the President’s memo, “renewable energy” is defined as “energy produced by solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, ocean, geothermal, municipal solid waste, or new hydroelectric generation capacity.”

The Other Natural Gas Boom
The Motley Fool/Daily Finance
Growing natural gas consumption fueled by low prices paints a future of clean electricity with reduced emissions. While the electrical power sector is a very important consumer of natural gas, the industrial sector is also a substantial and growing consumer. Natural gas producers benefit from the industrial sector’s stable and growing demand in the face of utilities switching between coal and natural gas. The above chart shows how America’s consumption of natural gas has changed. The important point is that for a number of years industrial consumption is almost equal to power sector consumption. Even taking in account growing demand, the Energy Information Agency expects that by 2040 industry’s consumption of natural gas will be higher than power generation’s consumption.

Know This About the Changing Face of Natural Gas
The Motley Fool/Daily Finance
Cost is a big issue in business. If you keep costs under control, profits can become freed up. But let them rise too fast, and investors are sure to be disappointed. That’s where natural gas comes into play, and it’s causing wide reaching changes. Here’s what you need to know about the emerging shift. Utilities are big natural-gas customers. Part of that is because the combination of fracking and horizontal drilling has led to a glut of the fuel and thus, low prices. That’s made coal, which is cheap but dirty, less compelling. The other side of the equation, though, is that utilities are easy customers since a gas pipeline to a power plant doesn’t require massive infrastructure spending. However, the cost of natural gas is a big determinant of its use in the utility space. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average delivered cost of natural gas for utilities has gone up by more than 27% year to date. It’s no wonder that utility use is down almost 15%. Interestingly, that drop is masking important changes on the industrial side of the equation, where natural gas use is up 3% year over year.

New Inflammatory Study on Fracking and Endocrine Disruption: Five Key Facts
Energy in Depth
A new study published by the Endocrine Society suggests hydraulic fracturing will ultimately “disrupt the body’s hormones” and lead to widespread infertility, cancer, deformities and birth defects. But a closer look at the study reveals a very different picture, based on numerous flaws in the methodology. Here are five key takeaways from the report:


Peter Jones: Fracking good plan for oil and gas
The Scotsman
Earlier this year at a conference in Aberdeen, a speaker excitedly declared that “Scotland has the potential to be the Pennsylvania of Europe”. Eh? California or Florida perhaps, but Pennsylvania? The US state has its attractions, but doesn’t immediately come to mind as the kind of role model we ought to be trying to emulate. The speaker was not being ironic, however. He was referring to the fact that after several decades in the doldrums following declines in the traditional manufacturing industries on which Pennsylvania used to thrive, it is now experiencing a renaissance. Where its big cities – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – were once a byword for decline, now they are experiencing growth and big companies are investing. So perhaps there are lessons to be learned. The catch, however, is that the turnaround is based on the highly controversial business of fracking – pumping water, chemicals and sand into shale rocks deep underground and getting oil and gas out. Controversial yes, but could this, rather than the North Sea or renewables, actually be the future for Scotland’s economic prosperity? And if it is, why isn’t Alex Salmond busy promoting it? Could the SNP be missing a trick here as it tries to persuade Scots they could be better off with independence?

UK’s shale gas market threatened by ‘scaremongering environmentalists’?
Shale Energy Insider
Chris Faulkner, a leading shale gas industry executive and chief executive of Breitling Energy Corporation, also dubbed the ‘Frack Master’ believes that green campaigners are ‘scaremongering’ investors in the British shale gas market. Speaking before a government report due to be published this week on the environmental impact of fracking, he said that the confrontation between shale gas driller Cuadrilla in Balcombe and campaigners this year raised concerns within the industry. He insists that Cuadrilla’s response to the Balcombe protests were disappointing when thousands of protestors attempted to halt exploratory oil drilling near West Sussex village. “I did not see a strong message coming out of Cuadrilla during May and June when the demonstrations were taking place. The reaction instead seemed to be to put up a prison fence. Does that create a situation where people would like to come and invest large sums of capital? No, it does not,” he told the Guardian.”

As America enjoys cheap gas, Asia’s top buyers to pay more
Asia’s biggest economies face paying twice as much for some natural gas as old supply deals are renewed, with a North American shale glut years from helping to meet soaring demand in the region. Rocketing prices will add billions of dollars to the power bills of Asian nations and threaten competitiveness, but mean an earnings bonanza for LNG producers such as Malaysia’s Petronas , BP and Australia’s Woodside Petroleum. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China bought 70 percent of global liquefied natural gas supplies last year. They can spend five times as much for the super-chilled fuel as U.S. buyers pay for piped gas.


Cassini offers us a view of Titan’s oceans of natural gas
[MDN comment: Who would of thought those evil substances methane and ethane could possibly be found in abudance on Saturn’s largest moon? It’s shameful! We need a Saturnian anti-fossil fuel group and we NEED IT NOW! Calling Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Fox and all the other nutters. Here’s a new cause for you!] When you look up at an alien planet and see Earth-like features, it’s natural to assume they have an Earth-like origin; when first spying Mars, people interpreted the seemingly orderly rows of dunes as the quickly built canals of a doomed Martian people scrambling against an encroaching desert. Similarly, when astronomers began seeing evidence for large liquid bodies on Titan, they might have expected something fairly terrestrial; not water, certainly, since Titan is too cold for that, and indeed there aren’t many substances that are liquid at -160 degrees Celsius. Now, the Cassini space probe has completed a detailed survey of these Titanian oceans, and confirmed what scientists had suspected: Yes, Titan’s massive polar lakes, along with all of its other liquid bodies, are actually composed of hydrocarbons. Primarily the two-carbon ethane and single-carbon methane, these lakes are a product of Titan’s atmosphere, which sits nicely between the freezing and boiling points of these two substances. Ethane seems to make up the majority, since methane evaporates away too quickly to build up to the same extent.