Thursday, April 21, 2011

What The Frack?

Natural gas is often seen as a clean and safe alternative to most other domestic energy sources.  (Hey- nothing can go wrong when drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, right.....)  But the dark side of natural gas- hydraulic fracturing might just dampen your spirits.

Hydraulic fracturing or as the cool kids call it, fracking, (according to Wikipedia it may also be referred to as “frac jobs”) is a process that involved injecting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock, “fracturing” the rocks and releasing natural gas.  Advances in fracking techniques have helped generate an explosion in US natural gas production in the past few years, revolutionizing US energy markets.  With a surge in production, natural gas prices are dropping, making them cheap compared to oil.  According to the American Natural Gas Alliance, the US has more natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia has oil reserves.   Natural gas is also a cornerstone to President Obama’s energy policy.

But this past Wednesday, thousands of gallons of chemical-laced fluids were spilled when drillers lost control of a well in Northern Pennsylvanian near Canton in Bradford County.  The thousand of gallons of the drilling fluid escaped containment and proceeded to crossover farmland, running into local streams.  Residents of the nearby Leroy Township were evacuated, though the Chesapeake Energy Corporation said no one was hurt.  The cause of the breach is unknown, but according to the Chesapeake Energy Corp, crews have reduced its flow.

In the past, environmentalists and residents near natural gas drilling sights have complained that fracking can pollute water supplies, citing blowouts similar to the one that happened this week.  Together, these have raised calls for increased regulations on the process of acquiring natural gas.   And the fracking fluid spill of this week just stokes the debate about whether fracking should continue unabated in the US.

A day before, the State of Pennsylvania asked state’s natural gas industry to halt disposing of millions of gallons of contaminated frack water through plants that discharge into streams and rivers.  Apparently all of the plants were ill-equipped to remove the pollutants from the frack fluids, after recent water tests suggest that the discharges could harm drinking water supplies and human health.  In other natural gas producing states, the frack fluids are injected deep underground into disposal wells.   In PA, most drilling water is trucked from well sites to sewer authorities, where it is partially treated and then discharged to be drinking water.

Meanwhile in Arkansas, two natural gas exploration companies have agreed to shutdown their injection wells as researchers study whether their operations are linked to the over 1,000 unexplained earthquakes in the region.  Injection wells dispose of the frack water when it can no longer be re-used. 

I mean we're not ones to preach, but it being almost Easter and all, we feel the need to drop some insight on all ya'll. If coal is the devil and clean energy is God's gift to the O-Zone, where does natural gas fit in? It is absolutley not the alternative answer that moderate Democrats were lauding just a few short months ago. And the EPA is planning to release regulations on them shortly (the EPA  stating they may or may not or could or i don't know will at some point, maybe, if they feel so compelled to do something.....shocked). Coal is the cheapest answer to the instant headache you get when you open your energy bill every month, natural gas as a (safe??? read above post) alternative to coal is really dwindling by the day. So let's all take a moment and think about the so called "alternatives" as we light our candles in our dining room to save electricity costs tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment