As a domestic energy boom driven by hydraulic fracturing spreads, so could strip-mining for sand needed for the controversial production process, introducing risks to water, air, public health and property values, according to a report issued Thursday.
Sand mining has exploded across the bluffs and farmland of western Wisconsin, touching off a groundswell of resistance from the region’s small towns that seek to better control the process and its effect. The demand for sand could open up areas of a dozen other states to sand mining too, from Maine to Iowa, including northern Illinois, according to the report.
Every year, hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater are produced by fracking operations across America. Some of that water gets stored in manmade ponds, some of it is injected underground, and some of it is treated and put back into rivers.
For the people whose drinking water systems are downstream of those rivers, scientists have some bad news.
Victoria Trinko says she hasn’t opened the windows to her home in Bloomer, Wisconsin, in more than two years. That’s around the time a mining company began churning up silica sand a half-mile from her family farm, filling the air with tiny particles and making it harder for her to breathe. “I could feel dust clinging to my face and gritty particles on my teeth,” Trinko recalls.
Silica sand is one of many ingredients used in the hydraulic fracturing process. During fracking, operators blast thousands of tons of sand and millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground to release oil and natural gas deposits stored in shale formations.
Using natural gas to produce electricity is a major part of the Obama administration’s policy on climate change, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in favor of renewables and natural gas-fired plants that emit less CO2.
But a new University of California-Irvine study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters suggests that the country’s push toward natural gas is not only a distraction from “decarbonizing” the U.S. and expanding renewable energy sources, it could also make climate change worse.
In his January State of the Union address, President Obama said that natural gas could be a low-emission “bridge fuel” that could allow the U.S. to help slow global warming. Demonstrators at Sunday’s climate protest in New York apparently didn’t get the talking points memo from the White House — many carried signs calling for an end to fracking.
The reality is that shale gas probably won’t have much effect on climate change either way, according to a new study published Wednesday. “If you increase the use of gas, that will actually delay the deployment of renewable energy,” said Christine Shearer of the University of California, Irvine, one of the authors of the study.
For the first time, Colorado residents, regulators and other stakeholders have access to water quality information gathered in real-time at oil and natural gas well sites in the Denver-Julesburg Basin.
Colorado State University researchers today unveiled the Colorado Water Watch, a monitoring system that collects groundwater quality data from oil and natural gas sites and uploads the information every hour to a CSU-run website.
In the oil drilling and refining heartland of Texas, the debate over U.S. crude exports is no longer a fight over whether a 40-year ban should be lifted. The question now is how soon it will end.
As Washington mulls reversing the ban amid a drilling boom that has swamped the U.S. Gulf Coast in oil, Texan lawmakers are already preparing for the prospect of crude oil exports from the state’s major ports, and assessing what it means for constituents.
Last November, the chairman, president and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. shared a bit of the wisdom that he’s earned over his career.
“I don’t want to say we would never do it,” Al Walker said on a call with analysts. “But a wise person in the oil and gas business told me one time there is one thing you never do, and you never sell mineral interests.”
A real-time system for monitoring water quality in the state’s oil and gas regions was unveiled Wednesday by Colorado State University researchers.
The system would enable state regulators, oil-gas operators and ordinary citizens to check water quality at monitored wells around the clock.
A top North Dakota public health official told a meeting of energy company representatives in Dickinson on Wednesday that more needs to be done to ensure environmental protections in the state amid its oil boom.
“Drill. Develop. Let’s get that oil, but let’s get it in a responsible manner,” said Dave Glatt, head of the state Department of Health’s environmental health division. He was one of several speakers at the annual meeting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, a lobbying group.
Penn State University said Wednesday that General Electric Co. will give the school up to $10 million to create a new center for natural gas industry research.
Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement that the center will produce tangible benefits to the industry, to communities that are affected by drilling or related activity, and to consumers.
The state’s propane industry is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to clear the way for a long-planned underground natural gas and propane storage facility in the Finger Lakes region near Watkins Glen.
Speaking at the annual conference of the New York Propane Gas Association in that city, President Rick Cummings said safety concerns, voiced by the region’s wine and tourism industry, are unfounded and urged the state Department of Environmental Conservation to issue permits.
Drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico has surpassed levels just prior to the 2010 BP oil spill, though questions and effects linger.
After the federal government instituted a six-month ban on deepwater drilling, signs of stress began to appear in south Louisiana’s once-booming economy.
While the moratorium affected a minority of Gulf rigs, the service companies based in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have increasingly specialized to suit deepwater operations.
A New Iberia judge has reversed a decision by the state Department of Natural Resources to grant a permit to Jefferson Island Storage & Hub for the proposed expansion of natural gas storage caverns on Lake Peigneur.
Save Lake Peigneur, a nonprofit group that’s been fighting the expansion of natural gas storage at Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish for almost a decade, filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that it failed to properly assess the potential environmental impact that two additional natural gas storage caverns would have on the lake and nearby groundwater.
The oil industry’s lead trade group released new standards on Thursday for testing and classifying crude shipped by rail after prior shipments were misclassified, including a train that derailed in Canada and killed 47 people.
As with earlier orders from the federal government, the industry standards leave it to individual companies to decide how often to test crude in order to gauge its danger.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed bills requiring companies to make new disclosures about train shipments of crude oil through the most populous U.S. state and about water used in energy production.
The transport law mandates that carriers release information about the movement and characteristics of crude oil and other hazardous materials to state and local agencies, so they can prepare emergency responses in case of accidents.
The top regulator for oil by rail shipments is stepping down.
Cynthia Quarterman, the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), has been on the job since November of 2009.
Her agency has come under intense scrutiny with the boom in shipments of Bakken crude oil by rail from North Dakota and a series of accidents, which raised fears about safety of the cities and towns through that the oil shipments are passing.
One of the final frontiers of oil and gas exploration, the Arctic is vast, freezing and potentially lucrative.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the area has 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources and 44 billion barrels of natural liquid gas.
Yet with the shale boom, a renewables push and proven oil and gas reserves currently satisfying energy demands, will the considerable expense, environmental risks and technical difficulties associated with Arctic exploration mean that the region’s resources are worth pursuing.
Energy firm Statoil has made a disappointing gas find in the Arctic, continuing an unsuccessful run of exploration drilling in the Norwegian part of the region, an area Statoil has called an “exploration hot spot” with high potential.
The company said it found between 5 billion and 20 billion standard cubic metres of gas or 30 billion to 120 million barrels of oil recoverable equivalent at the Pingvin prospect, a discovery it assessed as non-commercial.