The Gas Myths
December 2nd 2011 · 2 Comments
BY STEPHEN L. LOCKWOOD
The Utica Phoenix has published several articles concerning the unconventional and relatively recent technology of what is commonly known as “hydrofracking,” short for horizontal hydraulic fracturing of shale formations along lines formed centuries ago which sealed and stored the gases in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The Gas Industry would have us believe that its extraction is well tested, safe and without the escape of gases and without harmful long term effects.
Anthony R. Ingraffea, Ph.D.P.E. professor of Engineering at Cornell University and an expert on hydraulic fracturing spoke to a packed Clinton High School Auditorium on Monday, November 28, 2011. Both Assemblywomen Claudia Tenney and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi were present and acknowledged
It was a masterful presentation in which he at first beguiled the audience by asking questions to seek out its state of knowledge of hydrofracking.
Professor Ingraffea then stated he would not deluge the audience with a long lecture burdened with scientific facts but rather would pursue a more artsy/crafty approach and discuss the “Myths” promoted by the Gas Industry. He then debunked them one by one.
He chose just four myths. They were as follows:
Myth # 1–Fracking is a 60 year old well proven technology. Myth #2– Fluid migration from faulty wells is a rare phenomenon. Myth #3–Multi-Well Cluster Pads reduce the impact of hydrofracking and its harmful effects. Myth #4–Natural Gas is a clean fuel.
Myth # 1. The Truth according to Professor Ingraffea is that horizontal hydrofracturing is an unconventional technology which is still being developed and has not been scientifically studied for its effects except superficially in the last four years. Scientific studies require extensive efforts well-funded over cumulative periods of time.
While the Federal Govenment through the EPA is just beginning its study of the unconventional technology of hydrofracturing shale, the New York DEC without conducting its own scientific study is poised to end its moratorium and permit licensing of hydrofracturing in New York State.
But not everywhere in New York.
The DEC has decided to exempt the New York City and Syracuse watersheds (densely populated politically powerful areas) because it claims their water supplies are unfiltered. So there is an obvious concern at the DEC that hydrofracking may cause harm to the water supply in these areas. Many of us in Upstate New York have unfiltered water sources in the form of wells so why are we not exempted from hydrofracking? It seems New York State and its government through both its executive branch ( DEC) and legislative branch doesn’t feel the need to await the scientific study by the Federal government and the EPA. This is despite the falsity of the Gas Industry claims.
Myth # 2. The Truth is that fluid migration from faulty wells is common not rare. According to Professor Ingraffea, one (1) in twenty (20) wells fail by releasing gases such as methane, natural gas and fracking fluids into the Earth’s layers above, water aquifers, wells and the atmosphere. The horrid examples of contaminated wells in states like Pennsylvania and Colorado are chilling and should sound an alert to the people of New York and other states that we should not let our most vital of natural resources, Water, be polluted by the Gas Industry through the rape of Mother Earth for any reason, let alone private profit.
Myth #3. The Myth is the use of multi-well cluster pads is safer and causes less environmental degradation than smaller units. The Truth is that these multi-well clusters are designed to extract maximum amounts of gas over extended periods of time and instead intensify and prolong an intense industrialization in what was an otherwise bucolic setting leaving a permanent devastated footprint.
Myth #4. That natural gas is a clean fuel and we should therefore extract it even with unconventional and unproven technologies is at best a half-truth. In truth, natural gas is a fossil fuel which although cleaner than coal and oil still contributes hydrocarbons to the atmosphere and promotes global warming with all its current and anticipated untoward effects. The clincher, however, is that horizontal hydrofracturing releases, along with other gases, methane which is known as CH4 and contains 105 times the carbon dioxide content of natural gas. Methane flows upstream and downstream and is released during the hydrofracturing process. This is not to mention the added contribution of hydrocarbon pollutants released by the ongoing operations of gas retrieval through venting, flaring, burn-offs, and accidental disasters, all of which commonly occur.
Professor Ingraffea noted that in order to be economical a well pad for horizontal hydrofracturing had to be at least 80 acres. Yet, the economic model preferred by the Gas Industry would be an area of 640 acres from which they could extract a maximum amount of natural gas over long periods of time.
He then discussed Compulsory Integration. In June of 2005 the New York Senate passed Bill #S5553-B. It amended Title 9 of Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law to provide for the compulsory integration of private property. The law basically provides that with the explicit help of the DEC, a prospective gas well developer/operator (such as BP or Shell or their affiliates) can designate a spacing unit (any size would be permissible yet 640 acres would be preferred as most economical).
If the developer/operator controls by lease or ownership 60% of the land in a spacing unit, then the compulsory integration law provides that the other 40% of the landowners have to permit their lands to be hydrofracked. The non-participating landowners are given three options to participate in the gas mining operation yet they have no right to refuse to have their lands fracked and their gas extracted against their will. Professor Ingraffea next showed what the Town of Kirkland, New York would look like should the gas companies and DEC designate multiple spacing units in the township. There was an audible response from the audience.
To learn more about Compulsory Integration please see William C. Fischer’s White Paper entitled ‘A Critical Review of the Compulsory Integration Requirement, Title 9 of Article 23 New York Environmental Conservation Law’ submitted to the NYSDEC and published for the first time on-line in the Utica Phoenix at uticaphoenix.net. In an upcoming issue, the Utica Phoenix will discuss the constitutionality of the Compulsory Integration Law.
Professor Ingraffea provided his e-mail address and offered to share his power point presentation with anyone who contacted him. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. He also suggested the audience access the following websites for further reliable information on the subject of horizontal hydrofracturing and its effects: www.psehealthyenergy.org and www.earthworkaction.org/oil_and_gas.cfm.
The Utica Phoenix will continue this discussion and invites your comments and contributions. In the meantime, please read William C. Fischer’s article on Compulsory Integration on-line in the Phoenix (uticaphoenix.net) so you will be informed when we discuss the constitutionality of the Compulsory Integration Law in an upcoming issue of the Utica Phoenix.
Click below to read the full article on this timely and important article.
By Mark Ziobro