Posts

Controversial Pinelands Pipeline Defeated

For many months, a battle has been raging in New Jersey about whether to convert the coal-burning BL England power plant to natural gas. While coal-burning is relatively more polluting (especially in terms of sulfur dioxide, NOx, and carbon dioxide emissions) and more expensive than natural gas, natural gas power plants bring with them other concerns. In order to repower this plant on the shore of Cape May County, a 22-mile-long pipeline was proposed to be built through the 1.1-million acre New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, a sensitive wetland habitat that straddles the Cape May and Cumberland County lines. The pipeline would have run adjacent to Rt 49, a main highway that bisects the Pinelands. Although the administration of Governor Chris Christie had lobbied strongly for the project, saying that the pipeline would go under and alongside existing roads, opponents of the project felt that that it posed too much of a threat to state- and federally-regulated wetlands and other Natural Heritage sites.


Map of Proposed Pinelands Pipeline plan (defeated). For a full-screen version of this map (including map legend), click here.

On Friday, January 10, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected the proposal by New Jersey Gas to move ahead with the project. According to the New York Times, New Jersey Gas would have been exempt from a ban on additional transmission pipelines through the Pinelands because they were including an offer to acquire and preserve two to three thousand acres of land near the pipeline route. Now, the next decision will be whether to find an alternate route for gas delivery to the plant if it is converted, keep the plant running on coal, or, perhaps, like has been suggested for other sites like the Cayuga and Dunkirk plants in New York State, choose to upgrade the efficiency of transmission lines, and capture energy that is currently lost.

For more information:
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve National Park Service website
New Jersey Officials Back Pinelands Pipeline NY Post, 12/12/2013
Panel Blocks Gas Pipeline in New Jersey Pinelands New York Times, 1/11/2014
Controversial Repowering of the Cayuga and Dunkirk Coal-fired Power Plants, Earthjustice website
Coal-To-Natural-Gas Switch For Power Generation Is Paying Off In Smaller Carbon Footprint, International Business Times, 1/14/2014

Data sources
National Wetlands Inventory: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Letter of Inquiry from a Public Health Professional

By Mary Ellen Cassidy, Community Outreach Coordinator

I recently came across a letter by Dr. Alan Ducatman, MS, MD, Professor of Public Health and Medicine at WVU in Donald Strimbeck’s updates.  It stuck me by its sincerity, logical tone, and reasonableness.

Drilling Spill SampleDr. Ducatman’s letter begins by commenting on the gas industry’s response to a surface spill in Garfield County.  The industry’s response to this spill, an Energy In Depth Blog (12/20/13), includes the following statement, “We all know spills are bad and can cause problems, so what exactly did they expect to find?”

Dr. Ducatman’s letter looks past the rather snide tone of the response to commend the industry for its honest acknowledgement that spills do occur and bad things can and do happen.  Dr. Ducatman notes that, although the response “lacks consistency with past and present behavior in public forums,” he hopes to see it become a “consistent and reasonable position” in the future.

The letter then calls on industry to be more scientific and open in their communications regarding other issues such as quality assurance, worker safety, well casing failures, leaks, water testing impediments, public protection practices, and reporting, while reminding the industry of the human and economic costs of externalities and the “terrible weight” of these collateral impacts on communities.

It occurred to me, upon reading this letter that more of us need to ask questions of the industry and take action to protect and support our impacted communities. Not only do we need more professional researchers like Dr. Ducatman asking questions, we also need many more people on the ground _DSC4465documenting what is happening around them to hold the industry accountable.

FracTracker Alliance aims to empower and equip volunteers to track and document unconventional gas and oil activities. Options for engagement include:

  • Trail Logbook – addressing trail-based observations about physical and experiential conflicts related to oil and gas development
  • The US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts – aggregating cases of home drinking water problems that may be associated with oil and gas exploration
  • The new FracTracker mobile app (for iPhones) – making it easy  to take photos and record information on various oil and gas impacts in your neighborhood or afar. We are currently in the pilot testing phase of this app, which can also be used to contribute data to the other two programs described above.

These programs depend on crowdsourced information from you and others to grow a national database on the extensive footprint of the industry.  Check out our website and projects to see where you fit.

In addition, we always welcome your ideas on how our mapping and other services can help your community’s efforts to protect its health and natural resources.

Contact me to learn more about how you can become a part of the FracTracker team, and a special thank you to Dr. Alan Ducatman for his letter reenergizing this important conversation.

If you are one of those people ready to work together in a concerted effort towards a more positive energy future, FracTracker needs you.


Mary Ellen Cassidy, Community Outreach Coordinator
Cassidy@FracTracker.org
304-312-2063

Hydrocarbon Industrial Complex Map In Detail

Below is a brand new map from our team that contains multiple data layers that speak to the myriad players and facilities involved in the North American hydrocarbon network – from upstream processing facilities to transporters and export terminals. This map helps us to demonstrate the complexity of the hydrocarbon industry, because we often assume that hydraulic fracturing or related extractive techniques are local issues. However, there is actually a tremendous – and growing – interconnectivity between production, transport, processing, usage, storage, and export.


To see a fullscreen version of this map, along with a legend and description, click on the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map.

Data Descriptions

EIA Sources: Peak Shavers, Underground Natural Gas Storage, Compressor Station, Natural Gas HUBs, and Pipeline Data

Peak Shavers are:

…used for storing surplus natural gas that is to be used to meet the requirements of peak consumption later during winter or summer. Each peak-shaving facility has a regasification unit attached but may or may not have a liquefaction unit…[they] depend upon tank trucks to bring LNG from other nearby sources to them. Of the approximate 113 active LNG facilities in the United States, 57 are peak-shaving facilities. The other LNG facilities include marine terminals, storage facilities, and operations involved in niche markets such as LNG vehicular fuel. Learn more

The data included in this map include 109 Peak Shavers vs. the aforementioned 57.

  • Regional distribution: 7 Central US, 12 Midwest, 53 Northwest, 24 Southeast, 5 Southwest, 8 Western
  • 106 of which are active and 3 under construction

The Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities (UNGSF) layer is an EIA-defined collection of 413 facilities1, a definition that includes “pipelines, local distribution companies, producers, and pipeline shippers with an inventory management tool, seasonal supply backup, and access to natural gas needed to avoid imbalances between receipts and deliveries on a pipeline network.” (For a more detailed description of UNGSF, see the EIA’s description)

Compressor Stations are designed to ensure:

…that the natural gas flowing through any one pipeline remains pressurized, compression of this natural gas is required periodically along the pipe…usually placed at 40 to 100 mile intervals along the pipeline. The natural gas enters the compressor station, where it is compressed by either a turbine, motor, or engine…[they] gain their energy by using up a small proportion of the natural gas that they compress.

For a more detailed discussion of the importance and design of compressor stations, refer to NaturalGas.org’s The Transportation of Natural Gas.

  • This layer includes: 1,756 compressor stations with the following regional distribution: 207 Canadian, 344 Central US, 14 Gulf Coast, 169 Midwest, 249 Northeast, 191 Southeast, 450 Southwest, and 132 Western stations
  • The mean and total horsepower across 1,417 of these facilities is 10,411 and 18,282,484, respectively, with average and total throughput of 660 and 1,159 Billion Cubic Feet (BCF)2.

Natural Gas HUBs are broken down by operator type with 26 “Market Center”, 31 “Market Hub”, 3 “Production Hub”, and 3 “Storage Hub” facilities included.

  • Regional distribution: 9 in Canada, 7 across the Central US, 4 in the Midwest, 8 in the Northeast, 4 in the Southeast, 24 in the Southwest, and 7 in the Western US.
  • All facilities were activated between 1994 and 1998
  • Status: 5 Canceled, 13 Inactive, 36 Operational, and 9 Proposed HUBs

Pipeline segments are parsed by type: a) 69 sections totaling 1,627 miles described as “Gathering” at an average diameter of 17 inches, b) 18,905 segments totaling 127,049 miles as “Interstate” with an average diameter of 15 inches, and  c) 15,152 “Intrastate” segments totaling 66,939 miles and an average diameter of 2.8 inches.

Select states statistics:

  1. 7,450 segments were located in Texas with a total length of 44,600 miles,
  2. 1,313 segments were located in California with a total length of 6,370 miles,
  3. 2,738 segments in Louisiana with a  total length of 15,330,
  4. New York and New Jersey are home to a combined 2,315 pipeline segments with a total length of 4,015 miles,
  5. 859 segments and 5,935 miles in Ohio,
  6. Great Lakes bordering states contain 6,841 pipeline segments totaling 33,457 miles,
  7. Pacific Northwest states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana contain 1,765 segments totaling 6,121 miles,
  8. Gulf Coast states sans Texas contain 3,886 pipeline segments totaling 25,775 miles.

The above datasets were compiled by Ted Auch and Daniel Berghoff of the FracTracker Alliance or sourced from the US Energy Information Administration via their Natural Gas data portal and their analysts Tu Tran and Robert King.

US River and Coastal Export/Import Ports

US inland (i.e., Mississippi River) and coastal ports are the singular ways in which all manner of hydrocarbons are transported to downstream processing facilities and subsequently used domestically or exported. The data contained herein include 12 Mississippi, 7 Ohio and Tennessee River, and 11 Columbia river ports along with 16 Great Lakes/St. Lawrence river ports (Table 1).

Table 1. Number of inland and coastal US and territories ports as of December 2013.

State

Number of Ports

State

Number of Ports

AK

40

MO

2

AL

7

MS

3

AR

2

NC

2

CA

9

NJ

2

CT

3

NY

6

DE, VA, MD, & DC

6

OH

2

FL

17

OK

2

GA

2

OR

13

HI

7

PA

2

IA

1

PR

1

ID

1

RI

1

IL

4

SC

1

KY

2

TN

4

LA

13

TX

11

MA

3

VI

1

ME

2

WA

6

MI

6

WI

4

MN

4

WV

2

US Coal Plants & Emissions

We were pointed to this data by Source Watch’s “Coal Swarm” project’s Director Ted Nace and researcher Joshua Frank. Learn more. The layer includes coal used, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), methane (CH4), oxides of nitrogen (NOX), and mercury (Hg). Also included are the number of deaths across a variety of categories and emergency room visits attributed to each coal plant, along with estimates of the valuation of each of these. The raw data are available from the the US EPA’s Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) comprehensive data portal with the “Version 1.0” ZIP file containing: “spreadsheet files, state import-export files, Technical Support Document, file structure document, Summary Tables, GHG output emission rates, the EUEC2010 paper, and graphical representations of eGRID subregion and NERC region maps. Data in this file encompasses years 2009, 2007, 2005 and 2004.” The data were most recently updated on May 10, 2012 in order to include 2009 data.

Transload Facilities Directory

Directory Description:

Rail-to-truck transload facilities where cargo is transferred between tank trucks and water or rail transportation…These bulk material handling companies also provide information such as products handled, services and equipment available, and methods for dry bulk product transfer…These intermodal locations are owned or operated by trucking companies, railroads, or independent bulk terminal operators. Unless the prohibition is stated, these businesses have indicated they allow outside carriers to load products at their facilities. Learn more

Services Key:

  • Products handled: a. Acids, b. Chemicals (liquid), c. Chemicals (dry), d. Asphalt, e. Foods (liquid), f. Foods (dry), g. Plastics (dry), h. Petroleum products
  • Services/equipment available: a. Air compressor, b. Scale, c. Blending meters, d. Sampling service, e. Hot water heating, f. Steam heating, g. Tank trailer cleaning, h. Liquid storage tanks, i. Liquid pumps
  • Dry bulk product transfer by: a. Vacuum trailer, b. Auger, c. Blower, d. Gravity (trestle), e. Portable vacuum/air conveyor, f. Bulk conveyor

Intermodal Tank Containers

Those facilities “that have actual storage depot operations. The operators specialize in both the handling and storage of ISO containers.” Learn more

Intermodal tanks are:

… intermodal container[s] for the transport of liquids, gases and powders as bulk cargo…built to the [International Organization for Standardization] Standard, making it suitable for different modes of transportation. Both hazardous and non-hazardous products can be transported in tank containers. A tank container is a vessel of stainless steel surrounded by an insulation and protective layer of usually Polyurethane and aluminum. The vessel is in the middle of a steel frame. The frame is made according to ISO standards and is 19.8556 feet (6.05 meters) long, 7.874 feet (2.40 meters) wide and 7.874 feet (2.40 meters) or 8.374 feet (2.55 meters) high. The contents of the tank ranges from 27,000 to 40,000 liters (5,900 to 8,800 imp gal; 7,100 to 11,000 U.S. gal). There are both smaller and larger tank containers, which usually have a size different from the ISO standard sizes. The trade organization @TCO estimates that at the end of 2012 the global fleet of tank containers is between 340,000 and 380,000. (Wikipedia definition)

Services Key: a. Storage, b. Cleaning, c. Container shuttle service, d. Container drayage, e. Steam/electric heat, f. Rail siding, g. Repair/refurbishing, h. American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) certification, i. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) certification, j. ISO 9000 certification, k. 2.5- and 5-year ABS testing, l. Reefer tank repairs, m. Parts supply

Abbreviations: SC=straddle carrier, TLSL=top-lifting side-loader, D/D=drop-deck

MarkWest Facilities

Facility locational data gathered from the company’s operations website.

Cargo Tank Repair Directory

“Bulk Transporter’s Cargo Tank Trailer Repair Directory…the most comprehensive listing of repair facilities that service tank trucks and tank trailers. Additionally, many of these facilities offer custom fabrication. Most listings include services offered, but tank truck operators are encouraged to contact the facilities directly for more information…The first six items listed on the “Services Key” are the DOT tests and inspections required by federal law. Companies listing “R” or “U” stamps were asked to provide Bulk Transporter with a record of their accreditation. The federal CT registration number also was requested for the tank repair shops in the directory.” Learn more

Repair Services Key:

1. External visual inspection, 2. Internal visual inspection, 3. Lining inspection, 4. Leakage test, 5. Pressure retesting, 6. Thickness testing, 7. MC330/331 retesting, 8. Vapor recovery testing, 9. Bottom-loading conversion, 10. Major barrel repair, 11. Tank passivation, 12. Sandblasting/painting, 13. Tank changeouts, 14. Tank degassing, 15. Tank cleaning (for repair only), 16. Custom fabrication, 17. Purchase wrecked trailers, 18. Pick-up & delivery, 19. Lining repair, 20. ASME “U” stamp, 21. National Board “R” stamp

Soon To Be Added Data:

Tank Cleaning Directory

The Commercial Tank Cleaning Directory…information…was supplied by the operators of commercial and carrier-owned tank wash facilities that provide cargo tank interior cleaning. Directory listings may include product limitations such as “food grade only” or “no hazmat.” Learn more


Footnotes

[1] 407 active and 6 inactive facilities; Region –

  1. 259 “Consuming East” primarily within depleted reservoirs providing supplemental backup and/or peak period supply,
  2. 49 “Consuming West” primarily for domestic US and Alberta gas to flow at constant rates, and
  3. 105 “Producing” facilities which are primarily responsible for hydrocarbon basin export connectivity, transmission, and distribution and allow for the storage of currently redundant natural gas supply; Field Type Affiliation – 43 aquifers, 331 depleted fields, and 39 salt domes. Learn more

[2] These total horsepower and throughput figures are up from 13.4 million and 743 BCF in 1996.

So, Where’s that North Carolina Map?

Sometimes, one vote really does make a difference.  When the North Carolina state legislature attempted to override then-Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto of a bill designed to allow hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the Tar Heel State back in July 2012, one legislator pressed the wrong button, and was not allowed to correct her vote.  With that, proponents of the law had enough votes, and historical laws banning horizontal production wells and injection wells were stricken from the books.

So now that it’s legal, where’s the North Carolina map?

Our maps section has maps for over 30 states, numerous maps of national interest, and one for British Columbia, as well.  There have certainly been numerous requests from people in North Carolina in the year and a half since Governor Perdue’s veto was overridden for us to map their state.

It’s true that our small staff is still working on backlog of states to be added to our collection of shale viewer maps.  It’s also true that some states produce insufficient data to map their unconventional oil and gas efforts.  For example, neighboring Tennessee’s Department of Environment & Conservation has no data at all available on their website (a fact that I have verified through personal correspondence).

But in North Carolina, the reasons are different.  While horizontal drilling and injection wells are now legal, essentially paving the way for development with hydraulic fracturing, the law that was passed over the veto mandated that the Mining and Energy Commission develop a regulatory framework for the modern drilling techniques.  The Commission is  still in the process of putting that together, and should be finished by October 1, 2014.

So stay tuned.

This post was updated on February 13, 2015 to fix a broken link and provide a more accurate estimate for the number of shale viewer maps we offer.

Renewal

By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

This isn’t a call for membership (we really don’t have members, but we do accept donations through the donate button on our home page), it’s a pause for gratitude, reflection, and sharing of good news and good will as we begin 2014.

In our expanding efforts to communicate impacts of the global oil and gas industry and inform actions that positively shape our energy future, the FracTracker Alliance is pleased to have Mary Ellen Cassidy join the staff as Community Outreach Coordinator. Mary Ellen has a diverse background as a teacher, researcher, and program director. She has a passion for energy issues – including promoting awareness of climate change and the need for energy conservation and efficiency – and her research has focused primarily on extractive industries’ impacts on community watersheds. FracTracker’s national outreach and education initiatives will be the thrust of her new role. Those initiatives include an emphasis on crowd-sourced data collection.

Crowdsourcing is – by the Wikipedia definition – “the practice of obtaining needed…services or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people,” and we see great opportunity to learn more about the effects of hydraulic fracturing via observations, photos, and measurements from people across the country and around the world. With Mary Ellen aboard and a new mobile app, our capacity to foster crowdsourcing can blossom and the more we learn, the more we can show, tell, and enlighten.

Mary Ellen also gives FracTracker a missing presence in West Virginia – where many communities are grossly burdened by the heavy foot of shale gas development. While her role is different from our state coordinators, her location in Wheeling presents advantages for partnering with West Virginia organizations and institutions underscoring our vision to be a leading resource on oil and gas issues and a trusted asset to the concerned public. We are rooted in collaboration.

From West Virginia to California, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and everything in between, our work and reach is empowered by our funders, enriched by our partners, and in service of communities and people in need. The first two renew and infuse our vigor; the latter we hope will find renewal in 2014 through the collective efforts of many.

So as we continue our quest for truth and transparency in a new year, I profusely thank my smart, energetic and hyper-dedicated staff – Sam, Matt, Karen, Ted, Gwen, Kyle, and Mary Ellen – for their ceaseless efforts. My appreciation also flows to the FracTracker board– John, Mike, Brian, Ben, and Sara – for their ongoing guidance.

On behalf of the staff and board, I extend a world of thanks to our funders, past and present:

  • Heinz Endowments
  • George Gund Foundation
  • Park Foundation
  • 11th Hour Project
  • Hoover Foundation
  • Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
  • William Penn Foundation

And we thank the multitude of grassroots groups – of various sizes and geographies -and academic researchers who tirelessly address the challenges of unconventional fossil fuels. If we haven’t worked together in the past, perhaps this is the year we can.

Finally, we thank the thousands of people who have visited FracTracker.org, who follow us via social media, or met us at conference or training. We hope we’ve been informative, helpful, and invigorative…fueling a new-found energy.

Florida Hydraulic Fracturing, Proposed Drilling, and Seismic Tests

Over the last few months, we have received several requests to map drilling data in Florida. Below is the information we have been able to procure to-date.

One of the newest controversies in the field of oil and gas extraction is playing out in South Florida, just outside of the City of Naples. While there has been history of oil and gas development, both on- and off-shore in Florida since the 1940s, the risks of fracturing rock to extract hydrocarbons more than 10,000 feet below the surface, has been gaining much attention recently.

The map below shows the locations of planned seismic testing for deep strata oil extraction in Collier and Hendry Counties, Florida, and also the location of a newly permitted exploratory oil well and an adjacent salt water injection well close to the center of the city of Naples, Florida, in the suburb of Golden Gate Estates. According to the final permit, filed 9/20/2013, the horizontally-drilled exploratory well, if it reaches “an economically viable layer and the applicant chooses to continue drilling operations…will proceed to a final depth of 16,600 feet measured depth/12,064 feet total vertical depth”. The nearby salt water injection well would be 2800 feet deep. This extraction targets a fossil fuel-bearing geological layer called the South Florida Basin Sunniland/Dollar Bay Basin. The method of extraction will be via “acid fracking” – the type of unconventional process proposed for the Monterey Shale in California – not hydraulic fracturing using water. Florida is underlain by limestone bedrock. Acid-fracking in this sort of geology creates cracks in the rock by dissolving the calcium carbonate, allowing trapped gas to escape.

In April 2013, in conjunction with the well permitting plan,  31 neighbors near the proposed well received notices that they were living in a “hydrogen sulfide evacuation zone.” Hydrogen sulfide is a often released from gas-bearing rock formations during drilling.

(Click here to be redirected to a full-screen version of this map, including a legend and capability to toggle layers on and off)

The drilling activities are being opposed by groups such as Preserve Our Paradise. Preserve Our Paradise was formed when residents learned that the Dan A. Hughes Company of Beeville, Texas had applied to drill a well that the organization feels presents threats to public safety and the natural environment. Members felt particular concern because the proposed well would be less than a mile from the “City of Naples main water wellfield, the future Collier County water wellfield area, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Preserve, and the residential suburb of Golden Gate Estates,” according to Preserve Our Paradise’s website. The Dan A. Hughes Company has already leased 115,000 environmentally sensitive acres of Southwest Florida for exploration. Two other petitions were filed opposing the well: one from the Stone Crab Alliance, a citizens’ group, and other by Matthew Schwartz, a Lake Worth resident. Both petitions cite concerns for panthers and other environmental issues.

Additional testing for oil and gas is may be occurring not far away. Companies, such as Kerogen Florida Operating Comp. LLC, Hendry Energy Services, and Tocala LLC have applied for permits to conduct seismic testing for oil in Hendry and Collier Counties, just north of Big Cypress National Preserve, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Drilling Applications Database.

EPA Region 4 will be holding a public hearing on the Golden Gate well permit, tentatively scheduled for February 27, 2014 at the Golden Gate Civic Association.

Addendum: In a victory for opponents of the drilling near the Panther refuge, Sierra Club reported that in mid July, 2014, the Dan Hughes Oil Company announced that it would be terminating its lease holdings on 115,000 acres in the area. Only a few weeks earlier, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced that the driller had been using illegal extraction techniques similar to fracking.

Data sources

Sustainability and Unconventional Drilling: Different Definitions, Shared Discourse

By Jill Terner, PA Communications Intern, FracTracker Alliance

In 1987, at the World Commission on Environment conference, sustainable development was recognized internationally for the first time. Sustainability in this sense is broadly defined as both the goal and process of serving present needs while not precluding the ability of future generations to serve their needs1. This general definition has lent itself well to becoming the cornerstone of arguments for and against drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing.

A largely economic definition of sustainability is behind many pro-drilling agendas, while environmental sustainability is mainly what informs regulatory or anti-drilling viewpoints2. Though these two parties make different uses of the term sustainability, they still share discourse on this topic. This common use that overlies differing connotations renders sustainability what Star & Griesemer (1989) would term a boundary object3.

Over the course of this blog series, I will look at how both industry and environmental regulatory committees are using the science at their disposal to make a case for or against unconventional drilling as a sustainable practice. Finally, I will finish by discussing how the shared discourse that uses these competing definitions impacts the court of public opinion.

Sustainability Defined by Industry

From an industrial perspective, sustainability is viewed in an economic light. Social, environmental, and other facets of sustainability aren’t ignored, though. Rather, they are seen as part of a cost-benefit equation wherein the potential impacts of industrial presence on communities and the environment are quantified and measured against the potential economic benefits associated with tapping into unconventional oil and gas reserves2,4.

The primary, direct economic benefit reported to be associated with this industry’s presence in communities is job creation. Industry leaders espouse the notion that allowing drilling in an area opens up job opportunities for rig workers. Extractive industries are typically located in economically depressed, non-metropolitan areas6. Thus, the benefit of employment and inferred family support is a great touted advantage4.

Additional direct benefits are associated with leasing of both land and mineral rights to grant drilling access to industry. Selling the mineral rights below a plot of land can be a lucrative option for those who own them. However, the mineral rights owners are not always the same people as those who own the land above the minerals to be leased. As such, landowners must be mindful of what is going on with the minerals beneath their property.

Ancillary businesses may also reap economic benefits associated with industry. Primarily, businesses that supply the materials needed in the construction and maintenance of the drilling operation can potentially benefit from industry presence. More indirectly, unrelated businesses such as hotels and restaurants in the community may stand to benefit from the influx of wealth associated with residents’ newfound employment.

These direct and indirect economic consequences are commonly viewed as a positive investment in the community by industry, and the local political leaders that support industry’s presence. If residents allow drilling, industry claims, they are making an investment towards economic stability and sustainability – which will be propagated by the influx of wealth due to job creation. Negative environmental and social impacts that may occur alongside this economic boon typically fall short of outweighing its benefits in the eyes of the industry.

How Industry Makes Use of Current Research

At present, there is relatively little scientific research done on the impacts of unconventional drilling. What research does exist on the sustainable impacts of unconventional drilling consists largely of studies funded by industry4. As hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new practice, more research continues to burgeon and inform questions regarding economic, social, and environmental impacts from all angles.

One way industry gets around the lack of pre-existing research is to do input-output analysis4. This analysis links the primary industry with ancillary ones through tables of coefficients, and calculates the estimated direct and indirect economic impacts through calculations using that table. While some of the calculated benefits may be viewed positively across the board, public perception of these gains may be different in different locations5, making it tough to generalize acceptance of findings.

Relatedly, industry also takes research done on the economic benefits incurred by communities and states where unconventional drilling has been in place longer, and applies the methods or results to areas where drilling is new4. For example, coefficients generated from an input-output equation from a Texas community could be used to project benefits for a community in New York. Analogy can be a powerful tool, and with the lack of research on current industrial practices, it is the best tool to use in certain circumstances. However, as geographic, economic, social, and environmental contingencies are different between locations of drilling, comparison may be somewhat limited.

Additionally, many pro-industry groups are dedicated to refuting scientific studies that have been put out by academics, environmental regulatory bodies, or independent researchers. For example, the website Energy in Depth published a thorough critique of the HBO documentary Gasland, debunking it point-by-point. When scientific research cannot be entirely disproved, promoting the benefits of unconventional drilling over the costs of another dirtier fuel, like coal, is also another way to promote drilling. While these cost-benefit-analyses can be legitimate, they often fail to incorporate the use and potential benefits of other energy resources, like wind.

What’s Next?

In the next installment of this series, I will discuss how regulatory committees are defining sustainability, and how they are mobilizing science towards their definition.


References

1. Dernbach, J. C., & Bernstein, S. (2003). Pursuing sustainable communities: Looking back, looking forward. The Urban Lawyer, 35(3), 495-532.

2. Finewood, M. H., & Stroup, L. J. (2012). Fracking and the neoliberalization of the hyrdo-social cycle in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale. Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education, (147), 72-79.

3. Star, S. L., & Griesemer, J. R. (1989). Institutional ecology, ‘translations’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s museum of vertebrate zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science, 19, 387-420.

4. Barth, J. M. (2013). The economic impact of shale gas development on state and local economies: Benefits, costs, and uncertainties. New Solutions, 23(1), 85-101.

5. Perkins, N. D. (2012). The fracturing of place: The regulation of Marcellus Shale development and the subordination of local experience. (research paper). Retrieved from Duquesne University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series. (2012-17).

6. Freudenburg, W.R., and L.J. Wilson. “Mining the data: Analyzing the economic implications of mining for nonmetropolitan regions.” Sociological Inquiry. 72.4 (2002): 549-575. Print.

Researchers “drilling for data” present findings at Shale Gas Symposium

By Lisa Mikolajek Barton, Center for Environmental Research & Education, Duquesne University

Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference attendees 2013

Facing the Challenges 2013

Two dozen researchers in a variety of disciplines presented their findings at “Facing the Challenges,” a symposium on unconventional shale gas extraction that drew more than 300 attendees to Duquesne University on Nov. 25 and 26, 2013.

The Power Center Ballroom was filled with speakers from several regional institutions as well as Cornell, Duke and Yale Universities; representatives from industry, government and non-profit agencies; and private citizens.  The event was free and open to the public.

The conference was chaired by Dr. John F. Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education and professor of biology, and coordinated by Samantha Malone, manager of science and communications for FracTracker Alliance.  They convened the conference at the request of the Heinz Endowments, which sponsored the event along with the Colcom, Claneil and George Gund Foundations.

“It is really important that this research is funded by foundations,” Stolz remarked, “because we are able to get data unencumbered by confidentiality or conflict of interest.”

Dean Reeder giving the introductory remarks for the Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference 2013

Dean Reeder giving the introductory remarks

Most of the data presented over the two-day event suggest that the impacts of unconventional shale gas drilling extend far beyond the well pad.  In addition to the more obvious environmental concerns such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, waste disposal and negative health effects, there are also complex economic and social implications.

Researchers in the social sciences pointed to evidence that an economic boom and impending bust are the likely result of this rapidly expanding industry, leading to increased crime and other social problems.  While non-residential owners of large acreage and the drilling companies may reap the economic rewards, residential owners of small parcels, renters and local businesses related to tourism and agriculture tend to be the “losers” in an uneven exchange of risks and benefits.

The experiences of local people and the effects on local land were on visual display throughout the conference with photographs from the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, and independent filmmaker Kirsi Jansa presented excerpts from Gas Rush Stories.

Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference attendees 2013

Over 300 in attendance

Overall, a recurring issue raised by many of the researchers was that the rapid rate of expansion in unconventional shale gas drilling has outstripped our ability to manage the growth responsibly.  The pace of research and regulation lags far behind the race to produce profits for shareholders.  Although we are just beginning to observe the effects of the recent “gas rush” in Pennsylvania, lower natural gas prices are already driving drillers to other states, where more lucrative oil can be found.

Nevertheless, the researchers who presented at Duquesne University will continue to fill the gaps in our knowledge to inform leaders, lawmakers and the general public.  As Stolz noted, “A major goal of the Center for Environmental Research and Education is to understand the complexities of environmental issues and to bring those insights to the community at large.”


The manuscripts and reviews generated by many of the conference speakers will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and a video recording of the event will soon be available.  For updates, visit the conference website: www.duq.edu/facing-the-challenges.

Reprinted from Duquesne University’s Spectrum newsletter.

WV Field Visits 2013

FrackFinders Wanted

Unconventional drilling waste impoundment

A partner in data-crunching, SkyTruth, is seeking volunteers to find waste impoundments from unconventional oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

SkyTruth is our “eye in the sky” when it comes to tracking everything from the plume of the BP Oil Spill to flaring in the Bakken. They use remote sensing and mapping technologies to better understand the extent and impacts from a wide spectrum of industrial activities.

With the rapid increase in unconventional drilling in PA since 2005, this endeavor is incredibly important; waste impoundments may release chemicals into the air that are dangerous to health. To assess the true impacts, however, we need to know how close people are living to these potential air pollution sources.

As anyone who has seen a drilling site knows, hydraulic fracturing (e.g. fracking) requires a lot of water and often produces a lot of waste. This means that to map where all of the waste impoundments are located in PA will require many volunteers. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that a group can contribute a significantly larger number of observations much more quickly than could ever be possible with a few non-profit staffers.

“What can I do?” SkyTruth needs your well-trained eyes for their new project called FrackFinder PA: Project Moor Frog. In the comfort of your home, they’ll ask you to identify ponds that are large enough to be a part of oil and gas extraction activities from satellite photos taken above the sites.  Learn more  | Get involved  |  Data results

The Muskingum Watershed and Utica Shale Water Demands

Ohio Utica Well Water Usage

Figure 1. Ohio Utica well water usage across 306 wells (Gallons Per Well)

How much freshwater has the unconventional drilling industry used to-date?

By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Given that Ohio’s largest conservancy district, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy (MWCD), is considering the sale of large stocks of freshwater and deep mineral rights to the Utica Shale drilling industry, we thought it would be helpful to take a “back of the envelope” first look at how much freshwater the gas industry has already used within the basin and how much it might use given current permitting trends.

Background

But first a little background… The MWCD is an 18 county political body that encompasses the Muskingum River basin in its entirety – roughly 19% of the state’s landmass (Figure 1). The Muskingum River Watershed (MRW), Ohio’s “largest wholly contained watershed,” contains nearly 19% of OH’s wetlands and 28% of the state’s lakes and reservoirs (Table 1).

Table 1. The number, minimum/maximum size, total area, and mean (±) size of wetlands, lakes, and reservoirs in the Muskingum River Watershed (MRW)

#

Min

Max

Sum

Mean

±

Wetlands (acres)

MRW

25,529

0.014

507

98,924

3.87

12.01

Ohio River

134,736

6.9*10-5

1,500

507,312

3.77

13.94

MRW as % of Ohio

18.9

202.9

33.8

19.5

102.7

86.2

Lakes & Reservoirs (miles2)

MRW

25

0.35

5.5

44.6

1.78

1.5

Ohio River

91

0.15

5,014

5,545

61

523

MRW as % of Ohio

27.5

233.3

0.1

0.8

2.9

0.3

The sustainability of the watershed’s freshwater stocks and flows is of concern to many, given climate trends and the fact that the MWCD, according to their website, is “…awaiting results from a U.S. Geological Survey analysis of water availability at several other reservoirs before deciding whether to approve a growing number of requests for water by other drilling companies.”

Water Use Trend

Our methodology examined rainfall, evapotranspiration, and usage of water by forests, crops, and humans. “When we account for all of these usages, as well as unquantified usages like watershed discharge and soil holding capacity, the remainder is what I will call available water.”

According to our analysis of 306 drilling, drilled, or producing OH Utica gas wells, the hydraulic fracturing process requires on average 4.6-4.8 million gallons of water per well(2). This is equal to 2.8-2.9 billion gallons of water to-date for the watershed’s 613 wells or 4.5-4.7 billion gallons across the state’s currently permitted 985 wells (Figure 1).

After looking at water use from this industry, the following water usage scenarios emerge:

  1. For just Muskingum Watershed gas wells – water use is equivalent to 2.47% of the watershed’s “available water” assuming a low discharge scenario, 2.50% for a medium discharge scenario, and 2.56% for a high discharge scenario.
  2. For all Utica gas wells in Ohio – water use is equivalent to 3.97% of the watershed’s “available water” assuming a low discharge scenario, 4.02% for a medium discharge scenario, and 4.11% for a high discharge scenario.
Put another way, these volumes equate to 4.44 and 7.14% of Muskingum Watershed residences’ total annual water usage.

A year from now – assuming two Utica permitting trajectories(3) – our calculations resulted in the following estimates:

(Note: The below projections assume the entirety of Ohio Utica wells permitted to date or 985 permits and an increase in Utica Well water usage of 220,329 gallons per quarter(4).)

  1. 25 permits per month for the next 12 months – equivalent to 5.40, 5.47, or 5.59% of the watershed’s “available water” by November 2014 when added to the currently utilized water detailed in part 1 above. This will be equivalent to 9.70% of human water usage in Ohio.
  2. 51 permits per month for the next 12 months – equivalent to 6.90, 7.00, or 7.14% of the watershed’s “available water”. This will equal 12.40% of human annual water usage in the watershed.

Ohio vs. Other States

Total horizontal drilling water usage across 59 Counties in 6 US states.

Figure 2. Total horizontal drilling water usage across 59 Counties in 6 US states (1*105 m3)

To put OH into perspective, we decided to compare the above water usage across 19 OH counties to identical data for 40 counties in 5 other states. In doing so we found that each county’s horizontal well stock has used an average of 2.82*105 m3 of water to date or 3,912 swimming pools and 119 golf course acres worth of irrigation, with the latter equivalent to 1.53 US golf courses. Six of OH’s counties come in over this average and the remaining thirteen below. Meanwhile, 10 of neighboring West Virginia’s 19 counties exceeded 2.79*105 m3 of water. OH and WV horizontal well water usage averaged across counties exceeds the Six State*Fifty-Nine County continuum average by 0.13 and 1.48*105 m3 of water, while the remaining four states fall short of the average by 2.02*105 m3 (Figure 2).

Total water usage across the 59 counties turns out to be a robust predictor of how the industry’s water needs relate to general public water usage accounting for 78.4% of the latter (Figure 3). However, this relationship isn’t as straightforward as one might expect – requiring a statistical technique called log transformation which is generally applied by statisticians to data that is “highly skewed…This can be valuable both for making patterns in the data more interpretable and for helping to meet the assumptions of inferential statistics.” Due to the “skewness” of this data set, the average and median industry water usage as a percent of the general public is 1.40% and 11.83%, respectively.

Horizontal drilling water Vs General Public's Water Requirements across 59 Counties in 6 US states.

Figure 3. Total horizontal drilling water usage across 59 Counties in 6 US states relative to the general public’s water requirements (1*105 m3)

OH Inter-County Utica Water Usage By The Numbers

Hydraulic Fracturing Industry Yearly Water Usage

  • Per well – 5.29 million gallons (Note: This is increasing by 149-220K gallons per quarter)
  • Total water usage is increasing by 36.993 million gallons per quarter, which means that within 5-6 years the industry will be using more than 1.1 billion gallons of freshwater per year
  • Per Square Mile – 10,355 gallons
  • Per Capita – 138 gallons Per Well Per Person; 2,612 gallons Per Person
  • Per Household – 358 gallons Per Well Per Household; 6,674 gallons Per Household
  • Per Well Foot – 821 gallons
  • Water Costs Per Well – $21,494 (Per capita resident water costs are $107.86 per year)
  • Water Usage as a % of Total Well development and production costs – 4.41%
  • The Ratio of Water as a % of Total Materials Used Per Well To Water Cost Per well – 27.25

Resident-to-Industry Ratios

  • a. Per Capita Resident Water Usage Per Year as % of Per Well Usage – 0.87%
  • b. Per Capita Water Cost Per Year as % of Utica Well Water Cost – 10.05%
  • Ratio of (b) to (a) – 11.86

References

[1] “The Muskingum River Watershed is comprised of three major subwatersheds – the Tuscarawas River Watershed in the northeastern, the Walhonding River Watershed in the northwest and the Lower Muskingum Watershed in the south. The Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers flow in a southern direction where they intersect at Coshocton, forming the Muskingum River.” Learn more

[2] The median per well volumes required in Oklahoma range from 3.0 million gallons for the state in totol to 4.2 million gallons for the state’s Woodford Shale horizontal wells according to a study by Kyle Murray at the University of Oklahoma.

[3] The two trajectories assume 25 and 51 permitted wells per month based on the entirety of Ohio’s Utica permitting period back to September, 2010 and the current 2013 year-to-date average, respectively.

[4] This number increases to 339,812 gallons per quarter if we remove Q3-2013 where our data is admittedly incomplete relative to the previous eight quarters. We did not include Q3-2010 or Q1 and Q2-20111 in our extrapolation because we only have data for 1, 2, and 2 wells, respectively.

[5] Mekonnen, M M, & Hoekstra, A Y. (2010). The green, blue and grey water footprint of crops and derived crop products Value of Water (Vol. 47). New York, NY: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE).

[6] Sanford, W E, & Selnick, D L. (2013). Estimation of evapotranspiration across the conterminous United States using a regression with climate and land-cover data. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 49(1), 217-230.