WVU Prof Stokes Radioactive Fears, Says DEP Study Missing Research

Say What?Here’s a story that we confess, we’re having a tough time wrapping our brains around. Allegations are swirling in West Virginia that one of three officially conducted studies for the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) released last year overlooked important data collection. The study in question was completed in December 2011 and released in February 2012. Titled “Pits and Impoundments Final Report,” the report looks at frack wastewater impoundments and water pits used in horizontal Marcellus Shale drilling (see WVU Study Finds Potential Problems with Frack Wastewater Pits for a copy of the full study). From what we can determine, solid waste, like drilling mud and “cuttings” (leftover rock and soil from drilling) were not part of that study–at all.

But now, the Charleston Gazette identifies and quotes a WVU professor who supposedly worked on that study (although his name doesn’t appear in the study) who says researchers tried to test drill cuttings for radioactivity and were either denied access or put off/delayed until they finally ran out of time and had to file the report without doing the analysis. It’s now a big deal because anti-drillers are raising the specter that everyone is about to glow in the dark from radioactive drill cuttings going to landfills across the state. The WVU prof seems to be intentionally stoking those fears…
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Gov Corbett Requests Drillers Continue to Honor Act 13 Setbacks

One of the unintended consequences of the recent PA Supreme Court ruling that struck down zoning provisions in PA’s Act 13 law is to weaken environmental protections–specially the distance away from rivers, streams, wells and other bodies of water that drillers sink a well. Act 13 provided for a minimum 300 foot “setback” from water sources, but that’s now out the window after the Court’s decision (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). PA Gov. Tom Corbett yesterday issued a call/challenge/request/plea to the drilling industry to maintain the setback standard in their drilling practices. The industry, via various representative organizations like the Marcellus Shale Coalition, has already responded that indeed they will continue to honor the setback provisions–even though the high court tossed them out. Which is just more evidence of responsible people working together responsibly to safely drill for natural gas and oil in PA. Even when the courts screw it up.

Here’s Gov. Corbett’s request, and the response by the drilling industry:
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Marietta, OH Offered $4,750/Acre + 17.5% Royalties for 35 Acres

An offer–or more accurately a pre-offer–was made at the Marietta (OH) City Council meeting yesterday that would put an initial $166,250 in the city’s coffers from leasing 35 city-owned acres along the edge of the city for shale drilling. A driller is tentatively offering $4,750 per acre as a signing bonus, plus 17.5% royalties, for land in the area. Some city council members (Democrats) expressed concerns about the potential offer, and several residents from anti-drilling groups in attendance also added their drivel 2 cents.

Here’s more of the details about the offer–the driller who’s making it, when the drilling would begin, and what was ultimately decided as the next step at yesterday’s meeting…
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Pennant Midstream Says Hickory Bend (OH) Cryo Plant Now Ready

Good news! Pennant Midstream announced yesterday that its Hickory Bend cryogenic processing plant in Mahoning County, OH is now live and online and ready to receive “wet gas” from the Utica Shale. You may recall Gov. John “foreigner hunter” Kasich dedicated the plant back in October (see OH Gov. Kasich Dedicates Hickory Bend Plant, No Foreigners Found). However, the $375 million plant was not quite ready at that point. It is now, and the gas will start flowing soon.

The even better news is that Pennant, a joint venture between Hilcorp Energy and NiSource, is preparing to build two more plants at the same location. Each plant can handle 200 million cubic feet of raw gas per day, separating it into methane and natural gas liquids (NGLs). The NGLs are then pipelined elsewhere for further processing. Here’s yesterday’s announcement:
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Gulfport Energy Issues Utica Production Guidance for 2013, 1Q14

Gulfport Energy, one of the most important (and increasingly prolific) drillers in the Utica Shale released a short update yesterday to crow about their production numbers for 2013, set production expectations for the first quarter of 2014, and to remind investors to invest early and invest often.

Here’s yesterday’s Gulfport update…
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The Wild Ride for NatGas Prices in the Northeast

The price that utility companies and large users of natural gas pay at the pipeline is a lot higher than the price drillers sell it for. Like, multiples higher. However, the pipeline sale price does influence how much drillers will receive. Natural gas is a commodity, and like all commodity markets, the price of gas depends on supply and demand. Since gas is sold at hundreds of market points along transmission pipelines across the country, there are hundreds of different, tiny “markets” of supply and demand.

Platts issued an interesting press release/article yesterday about the yo-yoing price of gas right now due to the extreme cold in the northeast and Midwest. While some Marcellus gas is sold by drillers for under $3 per thousand cubic feet (or Mcf, which is the same unit as one million Btus, or MMBtu), some of that same gas is being purchased down the pipeline for upward of $60 per Mcf (or MMBtu)! The current situation is an extreme price spike and it won’t last, but it illustrates just how widely prices can swing in the natgas market…
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Another Flawed Fracking/Health Study Emerges…from Economics Conf

Do they never tire of this crap? Apparently no. We have yet another “study” on how fracking kills people. The latest one comes from an economics conference (yeah, figure that one out). The so-called “research” (not yet peer-reviewed and not yet posted anywhere so it can be evaluated) was shared, or rumored to have been shared, at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia. The rumored-not-yet-published study claims babies born close to shale drilling sites have an increased chance of being born with low birth weight–a 3.4% increased chance.

Blow the horns! Wail and gnash teeth! Fracking kills! Well, it doesn’t kill, but a few “researchers” claim it maybe/might/could cause a few babies to have to put on some extra weight. But that’s not the narrative that will emerge. The narrative is that fracking kills, so let’s say it over and over as a mantra. Everyone ready? Let’s begin…
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UGI Wins! Auburn Pipeline with Marcellus Gas in NEPA Goes Live

It’s been a loooong uphill battle for utility company UGI with their Auburn Pipeline system, but by persisting, they’ve finally won against staggering odds. We’re happy to report that the Auburn Pipeline is now fully operational and Marcellus gas is flowing through it. The final leg of the Auburn, which connects the Tennessee Gas Pipeline with the Transco pipeline, is now done. Initially UGI proposed a compressor station in Luzerne County, but that was scrapped (see Luddites of Luzerne: UGI Scraps Plan for PA Compressor Station). The compressor was later built in Wyoming County.

Next up was opposition to a simple “gate station” or metering station. Even though another gate station had been in the area for 50 years, UGI still had to battle the forces of anti-drilling to build a new one (see Back to Kindergarten: UGI Explains NatGas Gate Stations). The gate station got built. Once all the court battles were fought, and won, UGI prevailed and the Auburn is now complete, which is very good news for consumers who will benefit from cheap, regionally extracted Marcellus Shale gas…
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