New Government Study Helps Frackers Become More Profitable

Branching into densely spaced hydraulic cracks is essential for effective gas or oil extraction from shale.

Can math help us be better frackers? Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory certainly think so. Researchers have developed a new mathematical model that better predicts previously hidden fractures, that can potentially boost efficiencies and profits in natural gas production.
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Government Research Uses Sound Waves to Help Frack Wells

ORNL researcher Joanna McFarlane, prepares to test a sample with the IMAGING beamline at the High Flux Isotope Reactor. (Image credit: ORNL/Genevieve Martin)

The process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of shale uses water, a LOT of water, forced into small cracks in order to force those cracks open and allow the gas and oil to escape. What if you could use far less water (and chemicals) by first bombarding the rock with sound waves?
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SW PA Farmer Challenges Reg Preventing Shale Well on Her Land

Jefferson Hills, PA

Seven selfish Pennsylvania towns sued PA in 2012 over the zoning provisions in the then-new Act 13 law, eventually winning at the PA Supreme Court level (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). The Act 13 victory gave townships and municipalities across the Commonwealth the right to pass local zoning ordinances that restrict, but don’t outright ban, Marcellus/Utica drilling. Towns with a majority of antis in charge got pretty creative and effectively banned drilling in many towns–like Jefferson Hills in Allegheny County. Now, a brave farmer, Carol Ann Bucar, is pushing back against overly restrictive zoning ordinances that prevent shale drilling on her 197-acre farm. Her property rights have been stripped away, and she’s seeking to overturn the zoning regulations that do it.
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Paid Protesters Present DRB Frack Ban Petitions to NY, NJ Govs

A small group of paid protesters from Big Green groups colluded with sycophantic liberal reporters in Albany and Trenton to stage a fake rally where they “delivered” form-generated “petitions,” supposedly with 100,000 signatures (no doubt many of them faked), given to Govenors Cuomo and Murphy, respectively, demanding that the governors support a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin. NY and NJ are two of five members of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), a rogue group that has pledged to permanently ban fracking in the Basin based on baseless fears fracking may contaminate New York City and Philadelphia drinking water supplies. Total bogus B.S.–but that’s the fearmongering used by people with no ethics. There’s one teeny tiny problem with the DRBC’s proposed ban: A U.S. District Court is currently considering whether or not the DRBC has the legal authority to ban fracking, even if it wants to (see Major Federal Court Decision Opens Door to Stop DRBC Frack Ban). The evidence strongly suggests the DRBC doesn’t have the legal power to block fracking, no matter what Cuomo and Murphy and the other voting members of the DRBC decide to do.
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Ohio State Study Looks at 2 New Microbes in Shale Wells


Over the past several years MDN has highlighted important research performed by Ohio State University with respect microbes (bacteria) living in shale wells. In a 2016 study, researchers dubbed a never-before-seen bacterial “lifeform” found in a Utica Shale well, Frackibacter. Having some fun, we labeled it a different name: Frackenstein (see Frackenstein! Researchers Find New Life Form in Fracked Utica Wells). The researchers kept at it and published another study along the same lines in 2017 (see Ohio State Research Finds Microbes in Utica Well May be Corrosive). Researchers said a different bacteria studied that appeared in multiple Utica wells (called Halanaerobium) may be a cause for concern, possibly corrosive to pipes and cement and toxic for workers. OSU researchers have kept at it and we now have a brand new study, titled “Members of Marinobacter and Arcobacter Influence System Biogeochemistry During Early Production of Hydraulically Fractured Natural Gas Wells in the Appalachian Basin” (full copy below). This time, several Utica and Marcellus wells were studied. What’s the upshot of this latest study?
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Study: Marcellus Drilling Doesn’t Affect Brook Trout All That Much

Trout Unlimited (TU), previously outed as an anti-fracking organization (see Trout Unlimited, Other Groups Outed as Radical Green Groups), is promoting a research study recently authored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) titled “Brook trout distributional response to unconventional oil and gas development: Landscape context matters” (full copy below). TU believes the study offers proof that fracking hurts brook trout. We scanned the study and came to the opposite conclusion. Using a count of the number of certain kinds of trees in a given habitat as a proxy for how well trout will do, or not do, the study concludes that there is some minor degradation in brook trout habitat when drilling comes to town. But only in places where the habitat had already been damaged by other non-drilling activities.
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Huntley & Huntley to Use Gas-Powered Electric Fracking in SWPA

Huntley & Huntley, with some 100,000 acres leased in southwestern Pennsylvania, has kicked its shale drilling program into high gear this year. Yesterday we told you that a former Range Resources veteran in charge of Range’s Marcellus drilling program has joined up with H&H (see Retired Range VP of Marcellus Heads to Huntley & Huntley as COO). We have more H&H news: The company has contracted with oilfield services company U.S. Well Services to use “electric fracking”–natural gas powered electric fracture stimulation. It’s more environmentally friendly than diesel-powered fracking, reducing noise by 99% and fuel consumption by 90%.
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PA Antis Suffer Crushing Defeat in SWPA Zoning Case re ERA

An important court case was decided on Friday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that potentially impacts all shale drilling in the state. You will recall that seven selfish towns sued the state over the 2012 Act 13 law and it’s provision that would substitute a statewide, uniform and fair set of zoning ordinances for drilling in place of a patchwork, crazy quilt system of local ordinances for oil and gas drilling. Seven selfish towns (including Robinson Township) wanted their own ordinances and sued, ultimately winning at the Supreme Court (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). Since winning the “Robinson” case, antis have used local ordinances to try and block or greatly restrict drilling. But sometimes a town uses the Act 13 decision to allow drilling in more places. Antis don’t like it, but last Friday’s decision ratifies you can’t take one (restricting drilling) without the other (not restricting drilling), if that’s what a town wants to do.
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Univ of Tennessee Studies PA Fracking Effects on Water Health

It seems that universities in states outside the Marcellus region are fascinated with the Marcellus. They love to “study” it. Or at least, the Marcellus is a goldmine for them in research grants. The latest outsider to study the Marcellus is the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Using a National Science Foundation grant, researchers from UT “will look at how aquatic microbial communities are impacted by biocides associated with hydraulic fracking.” That is, they’re studying whether or not fracking, because it has a low presence of chemicals, is creating superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Will fracking cause a new Black Plague?
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Rice Boys Invest in Fracking Software Company, Toby Joins Board

After selling Rice Energy to EQT (see EQT Buys Rice Energy in $8.2B Deal, Becomes #1 Gas Producer in US), the four Rice brothers, all of whom worked at Rice Energy (and left after the merger), launched a new venture (see Rice Brothers Act II – $200M Marcellus/Utica Investment Firm). Dan, Toby, Derek and Ryan Rice plus a fifth partner, a former VP at Rice, pooled $200 million of their money (and their expertise) and launched Rice Investment Group (RIG). RIG has just closed on a round of investment in Cold Bore Technology, a company that uses software to do better fracking. Toby Rice joined Cold Bore’s board. It’s good to see the boys back and active.
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Huntley & Huntley Drilling Another 5 Wells in Upper Burrell, PA


What a difference a year can make. In October 2017, Upper Burrell Township (Westmoreland County, PA) supervisors approved a plan by Huntley & Huntley to drill four shale wells in the town. The supervisors endured an extremely hostile crowd as they voted to approve the plan (see H&H Drilling in Upper Burrell Gets Final Approval, Raucous Crowd). Those wells, at lease some of them, have since been drilled. H&H came back with a plan to drill another five wells at the same location–the Zeus well pad. This time there was no crowd opposing the plan. Just a simple, quiet approval by town supervisors.
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3 PA Senators Seek to Join Lawsuit Against DRBC Frack Ban

A bit of encouraging news to share with respect to a lawsuit against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and their attempt to ban fracking and shale drilling in the basin. In May 2016, a landowner in Wayne County, PA filed a lawsuit against the DRBC asking a judge to declare that the DRBC does not have jurisdiction to prevent construction of a natural gas well (see Wayne County, PA Landowner Sues DRBC Over Fracking Ban). The Wayne landowner argued in U.S. District Court that oil and gas wells, under the DRBC’s charter, do not constitute a “project” that is regulated by the DRBC and therefore are exempt from oversight from the DRBC. The way the DRBC so broadly reinterprets the word “project” in the original charter, it allows them to regulate anything and everything. The case was eventually appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In July that court sent the case back down to U.S. District Court with orders to more fully consider what is, and what is not, meant by the word “project” in the original DRBC charter (see Major Federal Court Decision Opens Door to Stop DRBC Frack Ban). It was a MAJOR victory for the landowner, and a MAJOR defeat of the DRBC. No, the case isn’t over yet, but now the full case will get heard. The legal arguments in the case clearly support the landowner. The new news is that three prominent Pennsylvania State Senators, Lisa Baker, Gene Yaw and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, have all filed to join the lawsuit as “intervenors” on behalf of the Wayne landowner. They want to add their two cents, on behalf of the Commonwealth of PA, to influence the court to rule in favor of the landowner (overruling the DRBC). What’s noteworthy about this development is that long-time senators typically don’t make risky political moves. The senators are either confident that the landowner will win the case, or if he loses, that public sentiment is with the landowner (a political win). The senators’ participation has the DRBC even more nervous, as evidenced by statements from their mouthpiece THE Delaware Riverkeeper’s Maya van Rossum…
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OH Supreme Court Rules Columbus Anti-Utica Ballot Measure Illegal

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that yet another ballot measure backed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in Columbus, OH, a measure meant to ban fracking to send a “you’re not welcome” message to Utica drillers, is in fact illegal and will not appear on the November ballot. In July we told you about a group of anti-fossil fuel nutters, backed by CELDF, making a run at implementing an illegal frack ban in Columbus, OH (see CELDF Finds New Group of Suckers in Columbus for Utica Frack Ban). Columbus, with a population of 2,078,725 people, found 12,134 suckers (1/2 of 1% of the population) to sign a petition to get a so-called Community Bill of Rights measure on the ballot in November. As we previously pointed out, this initiative is illegal. State law specifically reserves the right to regulate oil and gas activity at the state level–local towns, cities, etc. don’t have the staff or expertise to regulate such activities. The Franklin County Board of Elections wisely refused to put the measure on the November ballot, prompting a lawsuit that went all the way to the state Supreme Court. Last week the Ohio Supremes concurred with the Board of Elections, saying they were right to block the anti-Utica measure from the ballot…
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NETL Picks 2nd Morgantown Site for Additional Fracking Research

MSEEL test site in the Morgantown Industrial Park – click for larger version

Important research on fracking by West Virginia University (WVU) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Morgantown, WV continues. Last year we told you that NETL and its Marcellus Shale Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) program are working on “mastering the subsurface”–learning what happens at the smallest level of fracturing shale, so they can improve recovery rates using new processes and materials (see NETL Morgantown Working on Breakthrough Shale Production Techniques). In addition to improving recovery, they’re also looking for ways to cut down on water use. Since there’s a fair bit of water already trapped in shale, NETL is experimenting with carbon dioxide foam as a way of using less water. They’ve even experimented with using natural gas itself to frack rock. Great work being done by NETL/MSEEL. So far that work has happened at one live, fracked shale gas well near Morgantown, drilled by Northeast Natural Energy. Now comes word that researchers are setting up a second test site, also in the Morgantown vicinity (Blacksville). As before, the aim “is geared toward improving gas recovery from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing at sites throughout the region”…
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PA Antis Trot Out “Secret Chemicals Used in Fracking” Claim, Again

This is getting really old. Every few years lying antis recycle the same debunked meme that “frackers” are trying to hide the identity of big, bad nasty chemicals they use to extract shale gas. The implication is those chemicals will kill you. And if you only knew what those chemicals were, why, you’d be outraged! And demand an end to all fracking. Problem is, it’s a total lie. Chemicals are FULLY reported by drillers, for every single well they drill. But that doesn’t stop antis repeating the same meme every few years. It’s just popped up again, in Pennsylvania. The Partnership for Policy Integrity, a shell/front group for Big Green radicals, has just released a totally fictional “report” that supposedly proves drillers in PA are hiding “secret chemicals” from the public. The report, which is titled “Keystone Secrets: Records Show Widespread Use of Secret Fracking Chemicals is a Looming Risk for Delaware River Basin, Pennsylvania Communities” (full copy below), is total BS. Made up. Lies. And yet mainstream news sources pick it up and run with it, believing and spreading the lies…
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