Drilling Ahead

World Oilfield Forum

May 19, 2011 Tales of a Domestic Energy Advocate 002

New York is the third largest consumer among the United States of natural gas.  And it’s also the area from where most of the hot air arises when it comes to purposeful misinformation and blatant hypocrisy.  I don’t believe a correlation exists between the two, but I’m sure their legislators in Albany could be talked into spending more money the state DOESN’T have to study possible connections between the two and the anti-drill crowd could then include that argument in their already never-ending arsenal of reasons why they don’t want NG drilling in their state.  I will take this moment to remind you, these reasons, as ludicrous as they sound to those of us around the industry, have managed to keep a drilling moratorium in place for three long years now.

Some of you might have heard about the ATGAS well in Bradford County PA where workers lost control of the wellhead during fracturing of the well on April 19, and because of the massive rain torrents received this spring, it was determined some of the fluid probably leaked into the nearby river.  Before the incident was even a couple of hours old, the gloom-and-doom crowd was lamenting how many gallons of heavily chemically laced fluid might have gone into the stream and what ramifications it would have.  They played armchair quarterback, criticizing everything from the amount of time it took for officials to be contacted, to the engineering of the equipment and demanded if a moratorium in Pennsylvania isn’t going to be enacted, then even more regulations need to be put in place.  From initial reports, it appears the water pressure took out one bolt, which compromised the other bolts’ ability to keep the wellhead in place.  Initial water testing results show no environmental impact has been experienced by the river life, the amount of fluid lost is much, much less than original reports, and Chesapeake has released the chemicals used in the frac phase for this well onto fracfocus.com.  My very smart husband has run the numbers and the amount of chemicals used were minimal. 

Now, in comparison, did anyone hear what happened in Vestal, New York on Monday?  A 15-foot concrete wall responsible for holding 580,000 gallons of sewage material within three treatment cells, shattered without warning Monday, causing an unprecedented and unquantifiable release from Broome County's major wastewater treatment plant AND it dumped into a nearby creek.  Keep in mind, Broome County is a hot spot for pro versus no drill arguments.  On Tuesday, the failure had as of yet went unexplained and it was unknown the amount of wastewater that had found its way to the creek.  You would think the environmentalists who rally the cry “Drilling is Evil” might have been tempted to take on a new cause.  Nope, they hardly batted an eye, just kept right on using the same tiring arguments against drilling:  namely bad industry practices, use of dangerous chemicals, and improper oversight.  An inspection of the structure this year in February found at least 157 deficiencies at the plant, many of which were structural concerns probably as a result of inadequate construction management.  Partially treated wastewater (as far as I can tell, still unknown) and about 250 tons of “rock media” ran into the creek and a parking lot.  Only about half of the rock media is expected to be recoverable.  And while the plant continues to process the wastewater best as it can, the discharged water now has higher nitrogen content than previously.  One pro-drilling advocate, noticing the lack of concern and no noticeable decrease of the anti-drill activity, has deemed it selective outcry.

And while we are on a crappy subject – (feel free to roll your eyes!) Late last year a small company, Inflection Energy, approached the Village of Owego, NY, and offered to buy their effluent, their wastewater, for using in their fracing operations.  The debate which ensued shows it’s not just the hydraulic fracturing the anti-gassers oppose, but anything that does or could pertain to drilling.  They swept in like hawks to protect (read: sway opinion with their fear-mongering techniques) this little town from all the troubles that would ensue, with their major focus being on the increased truck traffic.  Never mind the amount of trucks going to and from the already existing industrial area or the fact there is an existing train depot where transport takes place.  In a press release dated March 22 this year, the lone supporter of the deal, Owego Mayor Ed Arrington, issued the following.  Reminding his constituents that Inflection was responsible for all start-up costs, he stated, “The only way Inflection could recoup their cost was to buy water (from the town) and pay property rental (to the town) for access to the river.” He also expanded on what the loss of the deal would mean to village taxpayers. “Federally mandated upgrades… to the Village Wastewater Treatment Facility (in order to bring them into compliance with the new Chesapeake Bay water quality standards) have an estimated cost of 7.2 million dollars. What that means to the taxpayers is that without the deal with Inflection Energy … sewer bills could increase by approximately 40%, this is in addition to the 38% increase implemented in 2010… the village taxpayers have lost the potential to receive 50.5 million dollars [over the next 10 years].” http://owegopennysaver.com/index.php/2011/03/27/owego-board-votes-t...

Speaking of the Chesapeake Bay (quickly), the AG of Maryland, in another waste of taxpayers’ money and the ever wonderful political posturing of which only an avid anti would engage has decided to sue Chesapeake Energy over the aforementioned incident in Bradford County, just in case some of the frac chemicals wind up in the Bay.  Truly folks, for those of you who are fans of its reading material, some of this sounds like something from The Onion.  But, even if I wanted to, I don’t think I possess the necessary imagination to even start making some of this stuff up.  I DO know, for much longer than drilling has been occurring in the Marcellus, there has been a long-standing understanding that you don’t eat more than two fish per month caught out of local rivers.  It seems over the years, the waterways been subjected to considerable amounts of mercury.

I’ll leave you with one other water related anecdote and then call it good for this post.  The Delaware River Basin is in or is the watershed for NYC.  It covers three states and a small sliver of it might lie within a provable Marcellus region.  Shortly after catching wind that drilling could conceivably occur within the basin, the Delaware River Basin Commission took it upon itself to rewrite the DRBC’s regulations on industrial activities.  The new draft regulations would effectively prohibit ALL gas drilling.  For once, the two sides agreed the DRAFT regulations were unsatisfactory, the pro-drilling side arguing they were overstepping state regulations, and the opponents arguing they weren’t restrictive enough, because they didn’t ban drilling all together.

One of the major quarrels in this region is the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing is “too much” and will eventually be detrimental to the streams and rivers.  The argument is set forth in such a way by the other side, they would have people believing water withdrawn to be used for fracing (apparently only fracing – other withdrawals are OK?) cause the rivers to dry up.  One interesting, trivial (to them) piece of information they tend to leave out; leaks in the Basin’s aqueduct are responsible for the loss of 10 to 35 million gallons of water EACH DAY!

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