UK fracking revolution comes with big risks

 

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In what it has called ‘the starting pistol at the latest stage of the race’, the Telegraph newspaper has reported that fracking, or Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), whilst touted as the solution to our energy problems, does in fact come with big risks.

They state: “If all goes to plan, the UK’s 14th onshore licensing round will replicate the kind of shale revolution that has helped to power the US economy out of the financial crisis. But get it wrong and fracking in Britain, which comes with a fair share of environmental risk, will become too politically toxic for any future government to consider.”

To read the article in depth, click here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11810171/Britains-shale-fracking-revolution-comes-with-big-risks.html

Denmark’s first fracking site shut down

The Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) has placed a suspension of operations on Denmark’s first fracking site.
The farcking site in Northern Jutland, Denmark, was suspended 24hrs after drilling began. (image source: thelocal.dk)
The fracking site in Northern Jutland, Denmark, was suspended 24hrs after drilling began. (image source: thelocal.dk)
The contract for the site in Northern Juteland was first awarded in June 2014 French energy giant Total. However operations at the shale gas extraction site have been halted on the grounds that Total were using chemicals that were not declared in the preceding Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA).
The chemical in question is Null Foam, which is used in the fracking process to extract shale gas. As reported by Russia Today:
The chemical is not illegal, according to Henrik Nicolaisen, who leads the drilling project for Total.“We have been in dialogue with both the municipality and the Danish Energy Agency since February and we felt that we had a common understanding that the substance could be used,” he told DR, as cited by AFP.Environmental committee chairman of Frederikshavn Council Anders Brandt Sørensen said Total’s use of the non-approved product “makes [him] very mad”.“We will simply not accept this kind of violation of our EIA [environmental impact assessment],” he told broadcaster DR.
To read the article in full, click here.

Texas pass ban on hydraulic fracking bans

The U.S. State of Texas has passed a bill through Texas Senate that limits the ability of municipal powers to place bans on fracking related operations.

In other words, the Texas Senate has passed a ban on fracking bans.

Texas Senate Chambers (image source: eaglefordtexas.com)
Texas Senate Chambers (image source: eaglefordtexas.com)

As reported by EaglefordTexas.com:

The Senate voted 24-7 for House Bill 40 — also known as the Denton fracking bill. It reasserts state control over drilling while spelling out some limited powers that cities have in regulating surface operations. The bill will now go to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. The push for the bill came after Denton residents approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing in November.

Lawmakers have said that the bill is necessary to clarify state and local regulations and prevent a statewide patchwork of unreasonable ordinances that would threaten oil and gas production. The fight over who controls urban drilling began after Denton residents approved a ban, not on all drilling but simply on hydraulic fracturing. A grassroots group felt that the city and the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the industry, were not doing enough to protect them.

To read the article in full, click here.

Minister: methane extraction to go ahead in UK, despite drastically diminishing gas prices

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change Matt Hancock expressed his desire for Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction to proceed despite the fact that recent drastic diminishing oil and gas prices may make the energy extraction process even more unprofitable for both government and corporations.

Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party's business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.
Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party’s business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.

When asked by co-anchor Guy Johnston that current low oil and gas prices may postpone and delay the need to extract methane gas from the strata of the UK, Hancock denied any reduction in what he called a ‘neccessity’ to drill for methane gas as he looked to minimise any fear that gas prices were being hit as hard as oil prices.  In response, Johnston gently forced the Minister to confirm that it follows that gas prices diminish soon after oil prices. The minister firmly replied:

“The contracts are tied. This is a long term project for the UK, we’re right at the start of a long term project [that] has cross party support in the UK for the principle of getting this potential that could be enormous out of the ground. Geologists are clear that there is a huge quantity of gas deep underneath the UK. The question is how much of it we can economically recover. There are planning decisions this month…and later this year just to get the first extraction out….. It’s an exciting prospect. It is the duty of the government to [make sure] it happens.”

When challenged again by female co-anchor Francine Laqua on the fact that oil and gas prices are diminishing and that this would reduce the sense of urgency for unconventional shale gas extraction, the Minister replied:

“I don’t think that’s quite right, [as] the benefits are not only obviously just for getting the shale out of the ground for the companies involved, but also [for] the security of supply domestically.”

In an interview that did little to tackle scientifically proven environmental or social liabilities of the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction experienced elsewhere around the globe, the Minister further reconfirmed that significantly lower natural gas prices in the UK will not have any impact on the desire of the UK government to conduct the controversial process of fracking.

When Anchor Johnston, by way of analogy, stated that if methane was extracted at a price that was higher than the selling price, an economic loss would be incurred, inparticular if gas prices are tied to oil prices. The Minister for Energy and Climate Change stated in response:

“From the government’s point of view….the benefits remain…. In terms of companies who may be looking to take part, we’ve got to make the margins work….we need to change the fiscal regime [to make it] economic.”

Anchor Lauqua questioned if the government planned on giving any benefits to alleviate the [financial] burden [of lower sales price for oil and gas] for the drillers. To view the Minister’s measured response to Anchor Laqua’s question, you may watch the Bloomberg interview in full, click the link below.

UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change discusses methane extraction with Bloomberg News. 05/01/15.

The right honourable Matt Hancock not only serves as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, but also as Minister of State at the Dept. of Business, Innovation and Skills. Previously he gained a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge.

 

NASA: methane hotspot can be seen from space

It has been confirmed that a methane cloud above the south west of the United States can in fact be detected by satellite instruments that orbit the earth, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan and NASA.

The methane cloud currently hovers above the quadruple interstate area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, directly above America’s most productive geological methane basin, the San Juan Basin, where oil and methane gas is being extracted for energy consumption both domestic and foreign.

It has been concluded by both NASA and the University of Michigan that the methane released has been a result of methane extraction processes. The high emissions were recorded in 2003, prior to the advent of hydraulic fracturing in 2006. Parts of the oil and gas system were leaking even before fracking, said Eric Kort, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study.

This map shows anomalous U.S. methane emissions (that is, how much the emissions are higher or lower than average) for 2003-2009, as measured by SCIAMACHY. Purple and dark blue areas are below average. Pale blue and green areas are close to normal or slightly elevated. Yellows and red indicate higher than-normal anomalies, with more intense colors showing higher concentrations. The Four Corners area is the only red spot on the map. (Credit: NASA / JPL calltech / Univesity of Michigan)
This map shows anomalous U.S. methane emissions (that is, how much the emissions are higher or lower than average) for 2003-2009, as measured by SCIAMACHY. Purple and dark blue areas are below average. Pale blue and green areas are close to normal or slightly elevated. Yellows and red indicate higher than-normal anomalies, with more intense colors showing higher concentrations. The Four Corners area is the only red spot on the map.
(Image source: NASA / JPL calltech / Univesity of Michigan)

The permanent methane plume covers 2,500 square miles and is the accumulation of leaked methane, both accidental and deliberate. The methane released from the ground into the atmosphere is estimated at half a teragram (500 million kilograms) annually, about as much methane released by the United Kingdom across the oil, coal and gas industries combined.

The methane hotspot is the largest ever seen above the United States and is measured as more than  three times the ground level average.

References:

Kort, E.A., et al. 2014. Four corners: The largest US methane anomaly viewed from space. Geophysical Research Letters. [Online]. VOLUME 41 (9). [2 Jan 2015]. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061503/abstract

Dr Phillips, T (NASA). 2014. US. Methane ‘HotSpot’ Bigger than Expected – NASA Science. [online]. [1 Jan 2015]. Available from: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/09oct_methanehotspot/

Environment agency pension’s investment in fracking: ‘conflict of interest’

An independent investigation compiled by national newpaper, ‘The Independent’, has found that the Environmnetal Agency (EA), who are held responsible for regulating unconventional shale gas extraction across the United Kingdom of Great Britainaa nd Northern Ireland, have in fact invested their pension funds in the very energy extraction process that they are held responsible for regulating.

What has resulted from the investigation, is an accusation by the Independant of a conflict of interest between the Environmental Agency’s duties as environmental regulators, and the investments of their pensions in the industry it is charged with regulating.

The Independant report:

In the UK the EA’s pension fund – worth a huge £2.3bn – invests in companies investing in fracking, incineration and nuclear power, all of which the Agency is involved in regulating…….The pension details are contained in a response to a Freedom of Information request from the EA, which lists the companies it had a stake in as of March this year, its latest available audited information. And its investments are in marked contrast to the Agency’s public image of being a leading “responsible” investor that integrates “environmental, social and governance considerations into all decision-making.” The Agency champions its commitment that by 2015 “25 per cent of the fund will be invested in the sustainable and green economy”.

The Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston, Lancashire.
The Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston, Lancashire.

 

The Independent further state:

It is with issues such as fracking, incineration and nuclear that the EA is probably at its most vulnerable. Its investments could potentially open it up to legal challenges if the it were to grant permits to companies in which its pension pot has a financial interest.

The fund is investing in two companies financially intertwined with fracking giant Cuadrilla, the company that has been the subject of fierce protests in Lancashire and West Sussex. The first is Centrica, which is investing £60m in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire operations and the second is Riverstone Energy, which owns 44 per cent of Cuadrilla.

To read the article in full, click here.

 

 

XTO Energy fined $5.3million

On 22nd December 2014, XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the U.S’s largest natural gas company, has been fined by the US EPA $2.3 million for Clean Water Act violations related to its unconventional shale gas extraction activities in West Virginia. The US EPA fined XTO a further $3 million for restoration costs, bringing the final total charged to XTO, to $5.3 million. There is a very good reason why we say XTO have been fined the $5.3 million for unconventional shale gas extraction activities, and not fracking activities.

Due to the Bush-era legislation known as the Halliburton Loophole, fracking companies are seldom held accountable by federal agencies when it comes to water pollution, as the Halliburton Loophole legally exempts the fracking process from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. As a result, the US EPA are rendered impotent when it comes to regulating the actual fracking process and the chemicals used for injection into the ground.

However, what the US EPA have done, is fined XTO for environmental violations that exist outside the fracking process and the Halliburton loophole, in particular, violations committed by XTO which included the dumping of sand, dirt, rocks and other toxic fill materials into local streams and wetlands within the state of West Virginia, without a permit. It is these charges which are in violation of the Clean Water Act.

In total, XTO committed unauthorised discharges of dredged materials at eight sites across West Virginia, within Harrisburg, Marion and Upshur counties and the discharges are associated not with the hydraulic fracturing process (aka fracking), rather to related construction processes of well pads, freshwater pits, access roads, a pipeline, a compressor station pad.

XTO Activities and Operations in West Virginia, including Harrison, Marion and Usphur Counties which were included in the $5.3million settlement by the USEPA.
XTO Activities and Operations in West Virginia, including Harrison, Marion and Usphur Counties which were included in the $5.3million settlement by the USEPA.

And it is these environmental violations which have polluted approximately 5,300 linear feet of water streams and 3.4 acres of wetlands in West Virginia.

To view the US EPA settlement against XTO Energy in full, click here.

Previously, XTO Energy were charged with in early January 2014 for expelling tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste water at a Pennsylvania drilling site in 2010.

Tamboran launch legal action

The Impartial reporter have stated that Tamboran Resources will launch legal action against Stormont ministers Ms. Arlene Foster MLA and Mr. Mark Durkan.

On the 28th of October the Impartial wrote:

At the time, a Tamboran spokesman said: “After investing in excess of £3 million (US $5 million) to date, we are disappointed that DETI failed to consider the option of a temporary extension … This decision as it stands could close the door on a project that could deliver up to 50 years of secure energy supply, in excess of 2,000 jobs and billions of much needed investment in the local economy.”

To read teh article in full, click here.

Tamboran seek injunctions against MLA’s Durkan and Foster

The Impartial Reporter have reported that Tamboran Resources plan on taking out seperate injunctions against Mr Mark Durkan MLA of the Department of Environment and Mrs. Arlene Foster MLA of the Departmant of Enterprise Trade and Investment.

Tamboran Resources’ Petroleum Licence has not been extended and the fracking company is to take a judicial review against Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision on Belcoo quarry AND Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster’s decision not to extend their licence.
Tamboran Resources’ Petroleum Licence has not been extended and the fracking company is to take a judicial review against Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision on Belcoo quarry AND Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster’s decision not to extend their licence.

A spokeswoman from DETI tells Impartial Reporter.com that the six month extension granted to Tamboran in March “was granted by DETI and accepted by the Company, on the basis that it would enable Tamboran to complete Part I of its work programme by September 30, including drilling of a stratigraphic (test) borehole, and to decide whether or not to proceed with carrying out Part II of the work programme within the initial five year term of the Licence (31 March 2016) or to relinquish the licence.”
She concluded: “The company has not completed Part I of its work programme and Petroleum licence PL2/10 will expire on 30 September 2014.”

A Tamboran spokesman reveals that, following the Environment Minister’s decision, the company sought a second extension from DETI to allow them to take a judicial review. DETI refused.
The spokesman states: “Tamboran Resources can confirm that it has instructed its Lawyers to judicially review the decision by the Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan announced on 11th August to reject its submission to drill an exploratory borehole under existing Permitted Development rights…..We have consulted with counsel and we are also moving to a judicial review of DETI’s decision.”

To read the article in full, click here.