(Photo by Penn State via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Peter Behr
Another link in an industrial chain Ohio hopes to see growing around the Utica Shale play was added Tuesday with the opening of a factory in Youngstown that builds natural gas processing equipment.
Houston-based Exterran Holdings Inc. said it built the 65,000-square-foot plant in northeast Ohio to be close to the Appalachian shale gas and oil plays. It has been supplying the region’s gas and oil operators from its Texas and Oklahoma plants.
“Our customers are actively participating in the development and production of oil and gas in this region, including the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, making this a natural geographic fit for us,” said Exterran President and CEO Brad Childers. The $13 million plant will ship its first completed units in about three weeks and will have 100 employees at full capacity, the company said.
A map of Ohio’s bedrock geology. (via Ohio DNR, click to view original)
More than a year after a string of earthquakes prompted Ohio to enact tougher rules on disposal wells for fracking wastewater, researchers are still working to understand the extent of the risk.
Seismologists say the state has generally done a good job mapping and monitoring its seismic activity, but there is still much work to come.
The link between the wells and earthquakes has strengthened in recent years, with Ohio regulators connecting as many as a dozen man-made temblors to the injection of gas-drilling wastewater deep into the earth. In response, officials have implemented new rules designed to adequately prepare parts of the state for future drilling activity.
The new policies determine the strain wastewater injection puts on fault lines. With the region’s financial future so heavily reliant on fracking, Ohio is also attempting to better understand the network of geological faults that encompass this underground economic boon, and the potential danger they represent.
Open pit coal mining in Germany. (Photo by Rene Schwietzke via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Arthur Max
Europe’s declining competitiveness with U.S. industry has its leaders worried, but they admit having no hope of matching the shale revolution that is powering a revival of manufacturing across the Atlantic.
For Europe to remain in the game, energy taxes must be held in check and no new taxes levied, said the European Union’s energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger.
Instead, Europe must use its energy more efficiently and the European Union’s 27 member countries should open their energy markets to cross-border competition, Oettinger said at a news conference last week in Brussels.
With its conventional gas fields nearly depleted and gas prices four times higher than in the United States, Europe would like to develop a thriving shale gas industry, but that seems unlikely in the near term.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan surprised observers last week by announcing support for a two-year moratorium on fracking. (Associated Press)
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s statement last week that he supports a moratorium on fracking has thrown both industry and environmental groups for a loop.
Many had thought Madigan supported the fracking regulatory bill introduced last month and widely described as the strongest in the nation.
Now people close to the issue are not sure if Madigan has had a change of heart; they also speculate he was trying to pressure industry groups to agree to significant extraction (or severance) taxes for fracking.
Such taxes were indeed added to the bill as an amendment during a committee hearing Thursday. The committee was expected to vote on Friday whether to move the amended bill to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber, but that meeting was postponed.
Like the environmental provisions of the regulatory bill, the taxes apply to fracking for both gas and oil.
(Photo by Marc Macleod via Creative Commons)
What does it take for an early-stage company with a potentially game-changing technology to snag the investments they need to make it in today’s clean-energy marketplace?
At a pitching session on Monday night before hundreds of people at the annual conference of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), leaders of eight start-up companies vied to find out.
What they learned was that even a good idea and a working concept aren’t necessarily enough to get venture capitalists to part with their money.
At the event, each company leader gave a three-minute pitch to a panel of four experienced clean-energy investors, and, after some Q&A, the investors offered some tough judgments—and advice to help the company attract the cash it needed to grow.
Illinois Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday to announce proposed new fracking regulations. (Associated Press / Seth Perlman)
Environmental leaders are calling a bill introduced Thursday in the Illinois legislature potentially the strongest measure nationwide for regulating hydraulic fracturing, also commonly known as fracking.
The legislation — called the “Bradley bill” after its sponsor, Rep. John Bradley — included nearly all the provisions that leaders of major environmental groups had expected after months of discussions with industry, legislators and the state’s attorney general.
“But there’s a caveat when saying (a fracking bill) is the ‘strongest in the nation,’” said Jennifer Cassel, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC). “That’s not saying all that much – we don’t think the floor is high enough. It doesn’t mean we’re doing the most protective standards that could possibly be done.”
A representative of the oil and gas industry also described the bill as “not perfect by any means.”
(Photo by Randy von Liski via Creative Commons)
Illinois legislators are expected to introduce a bill in coming days or weeks that would regulate hydraulic fracturing in the state.
Known as Democratic Rep. John Bradley’s bill, it is expected to be shaped by months of discussions that have taken place among environmental and industry leaders and legislators. Last year, legislation that started with support from both environmental and industry groups died after undergoing various permutations, including the addition of a two-year fracking moratorium.
“We’re 85 percent there in terms of where the environmental groups, industry and the Attorney General’s office want it to be,” said Tom Wolf, executive director of the Energy Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “But the last 15 percent can sometimes be very difficult.”
A worker on a natural gas rig in the Piceance Basin in Colorado. (Photo by EnergyTomorrow via Creative Commons)
There’s no question that widespread extraction of shale gas will have a significant economic impact. The scope of that impact, however, will likely be more difficult to pin down than industry projections might suggest.
A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Century Energy Institute says the extraction of “unconventional” shale oil and gas through horizontal hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – has meant a job boom even in states that don’t actually have shale deposits, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035.
The study was released in two phases in October and December, and a third phase is forthcoming.
Skeptics with environmental and citizens groups have questioned the numbers and also the benefits that these jobs actually provide to local communities. Many industry jobs are not filled by local residents, and a boom town effect, including escalating cost of living and other social problems, has been documented in places where an extraction industry rapidly arises.
They also say the study doesn’t account for the economic impacts of possible environmental problems and copious water use, or impacts on other industries and quality of life.
(Photo by EnergyTomorrow via Creative Commons)
By Henry Henderson
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce last week released a pretty, remarkably rosy sounding report, speculating on the potential impacts that fracking might have on Illinois’ economy.
It is, as I say, remarkable stuff. “Natural gas development could create more than 45,000 jobs” according to the “first comprehensive look at Illinois jobs” that could be created when fracking comes.
Having a look at the report, I was disappointed to find that it’s not really all that comprehensive. Or persuasive. If you happen to consider the facts….
Right off the bat, on page two, there is a long list of what the report doesn’t cover, which includes “any environmental impacts, costs, or benefits,” along with costs of ramping up and down of drilling in impacted areas or potential impacts of volatile natural gas prices to employers or to electricity bills).
That eliminates pretty much every issue currently under discussion in the contentious national debate over fracking (which is the controversial practice of injecting vast quantities of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals deep into the ground at high pressure to crack open little pockets of oil and natural gas trapped in shale rock formations). And by my reckoning, that also eliminates this report from being a particularly realistic evaluation. So, the “comprehensive look” is by its own description, narrow and divorced from any really meaningful context.
A truck hauls water to a drilling operation in rural Ohio in 2011. (Photo by Susy Morris via Creative Commons)
Each year, tanker trucks carrying fracking fluid or fracking wastewater log hundreds of miles on Ohio’s rural roads. What if one crashes into a car and tips, injuring and spilling fracking fluid on the car’s passenger?
Or what if gas-laden wastewater explodes, destroying an on-site impoundment and drenching onlookers with the chemical-laden water?
Accidents like these have happened before, and they can expose people to fracking fluid or wastewater, which holds a cocktail of potentially hazardous chemicals.
Would doctors treating the accident victims know what they’d been exposed to?
Under a 2012 Ohio fracking law, maybe not, says Melissa English, development director of Ohio Citizen Action, a Columbus-based ratepayer and environmental advocacy group (and a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News).
English is among a group of environmentalists and health professionals who say the law makes it nearly impossible for doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians to get the chemical information they need in time to protect patients. They also say it imposes what amounts to a gag order on doctors who do receive this information, preventing them from telling other doctors the identity of the chemicals.