Listening to NPR the other morning I heard a disturbing story about energy production in the US. On one hand, given the ongoing disaster in Japan, our country is turning away from nuclear, on the other hand, we are turning towards natural gas.
Hearing this has prompted me to find out more about energy production in the US. Rather than run this as one gigantic post, it will broken into a series, titled “American Energy 2011.” The series will begin with look at natural gas.
According to Need.org, natural gas is defined as a nonrenewable fossil fuel. It is produced in 33 states and it is also imported for heating and electricity purposes in the US. It is very accessible to the US population and is the 2nd largest producer of electricity after coal. It is literally everywhere. There is natural gas located under the Marcellus Shale reserves, which runs from Kentucky to upstate New York.
map from http://www.earthjustice.org
The map above shows drilling/fracking sites or potential sites, and the skulls (they look like black dots) are the sites of “fraccidents.” In producing anything, there are unintended consequences, and in the case of natural gas, I”m going hope that the effects of fracking are an unintended consequence. Natural gas is extracted by forcing highly pressured chemically treated water into the ground which frees the gas, here is a link to the staggering amount of chemicals that are used, http://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used. This water, which may be radioactive, is then released and finds its way into local water ways (read drinking water).
There is a plan in Pennsylvania, the focus of the NPR report, to add 50% more wells than exist today. The governor hopes to move quickly on this to create jobs for the residents of his state, he also hopes to make “Pennsylvania the Texas of natural gas.”
The governor of Pennsylvania’s plan to move forward with natural gas production is being held up by regulators who have temporarily barred the creation of new wells pending investigation into the environmental effects of fracking, specifically water contamination.
On April 19th, in LeRoy Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, there was a gas drilling emergency. Thousands of gallons of fluid spilled onto farmlands and into Towanda Creek. Neighbors and authorities, specifically the DEP are monitoring the water as it flows into the Susquehanna. Chesapeake Energy is the company in charge of the well.
In a Reuters article on April 26th there was some positive information,
- Chesapeake, one of Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producers, last week suspended all seven of its fracking operations in the state after the incident released thousands of gallons of drilling fluid into the surrounding area.
- On Monday Chesapeake said it replaced a damaged wellhead and gained control of the well that gushed the fluids.
- One analyst said the federal government may keep a close eye on fracking operations after Congressional hearings questioned the quality of the oversight.
- “Enhanced oversight from the federal EPA is to be expected,” Christine Tezak, an energy policy analyst at Robert W. Baird and Co, said in a research note on Tuesday.
The effects of the April 19th episode may be long felt but it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Pennsylvania has requested that the natural gas industry cease and desist from dumping the chemical soup into rivers by May 9th.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a leading industry group announced that its members were committed to halting the practice by the state’s stated goal of May 19.
For more information and to find out what you can do visit:
UPDATE: WGAL has started a series looking at natural gas and its effects. Watch the first episode here :Gas Rush: How Adequate Are Drilling Regulations? Part II – Video – WGAL The Susquehanna Valley.