Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shale not sustainable... nor commercially viable

After 10 years of production, shale gas in the United States cannot be considered commercially viable. That’s the report from scientists meeting this past Monday in Denver, CO for the Geological Society of America. According to a report in Science News, the scientists report that while the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for "tight oil" is an important contributor to U.S. energy supply, it is not going to result in long-term sustainable production or allow the U.S. to become a net oil exporter.

Two recent studies – one of the global patterns of fossil-fuel production in the past decade, and the other of oil production patterns from the Bakken Field – show that “despite a tripling of prices and of expenditures for oil exploration and development, the production of nearly all countries has been stagnant at best and more commonly is declining.  

Drilling rates are sufficient to offset this decline – for now. But eventually the plays will play out, and production decline set in, likely before the end of this decade. J. David Hughes, president of the Canadian firm Global Sustainability Research Inc, puts it into perspective: “Tight oil is an important contributor to the U.S. energy supply, but its long-term sustainability is questionable. It should be not be viewed as a panacea for business as usual in future U.S. energy security planning.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Comment Period Open on that Fracking Infrastructure

We may not have any fracking – well, at least not horizontal hydraulic fracturing – going on in New York, but there’s plenty of infrastructure being built to transport, liquefy, and store fracked gas. And to ship it overseas – which will only drive those winter gas heating prices higher. Not only do these fracking infrastructure projects “pave the way” for future industrialized “fracked” drilling, but it reinforces our already entrenched dependency on fossil fuels. They also vent methane into our air – a climate-changing emission much more potent than carbon dioxide – and threaten public health and safety.

During this month, people in NY have an opportunity to comment on three projects:

  • The DEC draft rules for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), which would permit LNG facilities of any size throughout the state, promote massive industrialization, and endanger communities. If adopted, the rules would lift a prohibition on new LNG facilities in New York State  - a prohibition put in place in 1973 after an explosion on Staten Island killed 40 people.
  • The FERC review of the Natural Gas Storage expansion plan, which would bury natural gas in underground salt caverns and turn the Finger Lakes region into a major storage and transportation hub for gas. The project on Seneca Lake threatens the drinking water for 100,000 people.
  • The Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) port, near the entrance of New York Harbor. This proposed floating "port" would connect ships to onshore gas infrastructure and allow for the import and export of LNG.  It would also discharge toxic chemicals into a fishing area and wildlife migration route.  The scoping comment period for this mega-project ended in August, but Governors Cuomo and Christie can still veto it.

To help us learn more about the science and regulations for these projects, Sandra Steingraber has once again created a “30 Days of  Comments” website. Today's science lesson is about methane. The regulations don't mention anything about venting methane into the atmosphere, or about recapturing it. Why not, asks Steingraber. Why not indeed?