Just the Fracks, Maam: The TRUTH about hydrofracking and the next great American boom
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This means that several horizontal boreholes can be drilled off one well, like tributaries off a river, maximising the amount of oil and gas that can be recovered. Fracking can also be undertaken on a well that has already been drilled and for which conventional techniques were unable to extract more hydrocarbons. What chemicals are used? Under UK regulations, operators have to submit a list of the chemicals they will use to the Environment Agency, or they will be refused consent. In the UK, one of the most commonly used chemicals is diluted hydrochloric acid. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency found a median of 14 chemicals for each sample it took.
The most common were methanol an alcohol , hydrochloric acid, and hydrotreated light petroleum distillates a combination of hydrocarbons.
Yes, oil and gas made in the USA is surging. But does that really liberate us from the Middle East?
Shale formations will be fractured at depths of more than 1km below the surface in the UK, after new regulations were introduced in The Kirby Misperton one, for example, is about 3,m deep. Fracking transformed the US energy landscape, putting the country on course to becoming a net exporter of oil after output declined over the last three decades of the 20th century. That trajectory means it is now starting to create similar shockwaves globally.
The modern version of fracking came of age in the late s, unlocking oil and gas reserves across more than 20 US states. About half of US crude now comes from fracking. The boom has also been a boon for US householders, who have enjoyed falling gas prices to heat their homes and stable wholesale electricity prices. The US now has so much oil and gas that it has dropped a decades long embargo on exports and is looking to step up shipments.
Where else is fracking taking place? For several years, Europe was talked up as a new frontier for shale exploration. Poland was seen as one of the most promising prospects, attracting US companies such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon, as Warsaw hoped to ease its reliance on Russian gas.
But the geology did not prove as promising as hoped and, one by one, companies pulled out. Those studies and the release of the original Gasland in helped merge isolated local protests against fracking — in Wyoming, in Pennsylvania, even in the home state of modern fracking, Texas — into a national movement.
Josh Fox's Gasland II to expose power politics of fracking
Protests against fracking, fanned in part by Fox's first film, turned some of the big environmental groups off the idea that natural gas could be a "bridge fuel" to a cleaner energy future. But as Fox discovers in his second journey through America's Gasland, the rising protests and growing evidence of the risks of fracking have not yet translated into major policy shifts.
Barack Obama in his speech last week on climate change continued to promote natural gas as a "bridge" fuel from coal. New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is also pushing for gas, despite his concern for climate change.
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Fox blames the power of the oil and gas industry. Gasland Part II goes on to trace how initial hopes of imposing rigorous safety and environmental controls on the industry were frustrated by the industry's political and financial influence. Investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency into contaminated water wells at Dimock, Pennsylvania, faded away. The EPA also dropped its plans for an independent investigation of poisoned wells in Pavilion, Wyoming. Even the stories of poisoned water and flaring water hoses are being forced underground.
High prices spurred new supplies and restrained demand, making coordinated OPEC action to prop up prices almost impossible. Which pattern will we see in the face of rising U. Given the growing demand for oil in China, India, and elsewhere, the safest bet is on continued high prices, though slightly lower ones than would prevail without the new supplies. It would be foolish to rule out a crash. With record numbers of Americans out of work, hydrocarbon production is helping create much-needed jobs in communities from Pennsylvania to North Dakota.
Shale gas production alone accounted for an estimated , U. In a deeply depressed economy, new development can put people to work without reducing employment elsewhere. The same is not true, though, in a more normal economy. Unemployment rates are typically determined by fundamental factors such as the ease of hiring and firing and the match between skills that employers need and that workers have.
Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking | Environment | The Guardian
Wood MacKenzie, for example, claims that the energy boom could deliver as many as 1. That hardly means all the new oil and gas coming online is worthless. In the near term, it can support hundreds of thousands of workers who would otherwise be unemployed. In the long term, it should deliver a boost to the overall U.
The technology at the heart of the U. Drillers and their allies have often resisted new regulation, insisting that the industry is already heavily regulated at the state level and that fears of fracking are overblown. Executed properly, development of shale gas and oil can be done in ways that safeguard the environment and protect communities. But there are always bad apples and sloppy operators.
- Fracking hell: what it's really like to live next to a shale gas well.
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They require not only solid regulation, which often exists at the state level, but also strong enforcement and penalties to deter and punish violators, which too often do not exist. Operators that refuse, for example, to support mandatory disclosure of the chemicals they use in fracking inevitably raise suspicions. Industry is at its best when it helps craft regulations that protect people and the environment while allowing robust development to proceed apace. But those who instinctively oppose stricter rules are sowing the seeds of their own misfortune: Robust regulation might add a few percentage points to the cost of producing natural gas, but weak regulation will sap confidence, and if communities shut down drilling, the price of natural gas will rise a lot more.
Serious action to mitigate the problem will require moving close to zero carbon emissions over the long run. That will eventually mean little or no coal, oil, or gas consumption, unless the emissions produced by burning those fuels are captured and buried deep underground. Nor can we wait to start taking action: Because investments today can last decades, a meaningful strategy to curb U. So is more oil and gas production fundamentally at odds with confronting climate change?
New natural gas production is actually great news for climate change. Gas is largely displacing coal, and it produces only half as much carbon dioxide when burned. Furthermore, while new coal-fired power plants are expensive and thus tough to displace later, gas-fired facilities are much cheaper.
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That makes it easier to replace them as lower-carbon options, such as nuclear energy, solar power, or coal or gas plants that capture their carbon dioxide emissions, become more attractive. All of this means gas is better for the climate.
Oil presents a tougher problem.