Fracking Promises New Oil, Gas Boom

Discovered: 17 Bakkens Stacked On Top of One Another
Is This the Next Big American Oil Field… Again?


By Brian Hicks
Thursday, March 14th, 2013

At around 6 o’clock on the morning of May 28, 1923, an oil well named after the patron saint of the impossible blew.

The well sprayed oil over the top of the derrick and covered a 250-yard area around the site…

On that morning, the Permian oil boom in Texas was born.

The name of the well was Santa Rita No. 1.

According to official state records in Texas, between 1917 and 1919, more than 5,000 drilling permits were issued for the Permian Basin. However, no exploration occurred… until August 23, 1921, when — just four hours before its permit was set to expire — the Santa Rita No. 1 was spudded.

Drilling continued for almost two years at the drill site before they struck the gusher.

For the next 50 years, the legendary Permian Basin dominated the world.

It has pumped out 35 billion barrels since Santa Rita No. 1 started spewing.

The field peaked in production between 1973 and 1974, as predicted by Shell geologist M. King Hubbert.

At its height, the Permian was pumping out over 1.7 million barrels per day.

When the Permian peaked, it marked the end of American oil domination and ushered in OPEC. And for the next 40 years, OPEC would have a stranglehold on the world’s energy economy.

But that was that was four decades ago.

A lot of things have changed — and quite dramatically…

Thanks to the revolution in hydraulic fracturing, the Permian is expected to regain its stature in the global oil market. It is set to become the king.

Oil and gas companies are rushing into West Texas like army ants. And it’s easy to see why.

“That would be the equivalent of 10 Eagle Ford shales stacked on top of each other. It’s 17 Bakkens placed on top of one another.”

That’s how a new American shale play is being described. That’s how big it is.

The industry-respected, Houston-based Hart Energy Magazine says: “There’s just oil all over the place,” and estimates the new field could produce more than 1.65 million barrels of oil per day within seven years.

At that daily production, this single oilfield would produce nearly four times more oil than OPEC member Ecuador. It would represent 66% of all of Mexico’s oil production (at its current rate)!

It’s a modern-day black gold rush. And it’s the hottest play in America — hotter than California’s Monterey… hotter than Texas’ Eagle Ford… and even hotter than North Dakota’s booming Bakken.

Pipelines: Keystone XL


The Tar Sands Disaster


published 3/31/13

IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor.

Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines.

Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.

The most obvious reason is that tar sands production is one of the world’s most environmentally damaging activities. It wrecks vast areas of boreal forest through surface mining and subsurface production. It sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers, turns it into toxic waste and dumps the contaminated water into tailing ponds that now cover nearly 70 square miles.

Also, bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.

There is a less obvious but no less important reason many Canadians want the industry stopped: it is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state.

Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.

Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.

Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.

But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.

The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.

Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.

The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.

This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.

President Obama rejected the pipeline last year but now must decide whether to approve a new proposal from TransCanada, the pipeline company. Saying no won’t stop tar sands development by itself, because producers are busy looking for other export routes — west across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, east to Quebec, or south by rail to the United States. Each alternative faces political, technical or economic challenges as opponents fight to make the industry unviable.

Mr. Obama must do what’s best for America. But stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada’s economy and the erosion of its democracy.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, who  teaches global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”



More Facts on Fracking: Research on effects of fracking favor drilling

The Facts on Fracking
Some of the local effects of drilling and fracking have gotten a lot of press but caused
few problems, while others are more serious. For example, of the tens of thousands of
deep injection wells in use by the energy industry across the United States, only about
eight locations have experienced injection-induced earthquakes, most too weak to feel
and none causing significant damage.

The Pennsylvania experience with water contamination is also instructive. In Pennsylvania, shale gas is accessed at depths of thousands of feet while drinking water is extracted from depths of only hundreds of feet. Nowhere in the state have fracking compounds injected at depth been shown to contaminate drinking water.
In one study of 200 private water wells in the fracking regions of Pennsylvania, water
quality was the same before and soon after drilling in all wells except one. The only surprise from that study was that many of the wells failed drinking water regulations before drilling started. But trucking and storage accidents have spilled fracking fluids and
brines, leading to contamination of water and soils that had to be cleaned up. The fact
that gas companies do not always disclose the composition of all fracking and drilling
compounds makes it difficult to monitor for injected chemicals in streams and groundwater.

Pennsylvania has also seen instances of methane leaking into aquifers in regions where
shale-gas drilling is ongoing. Some of this gas is “drift gas” that forms naturally in deposits
left behind by the last glaciation. But sometimes methane leaks out of gas wells
because, in 1 to 2 percent of the wells, casings are not structurally sound. The casings
can be fixed to address these minor leaks, and the risk of such methane leaks could further
decrease if casings were designed specifically for each geological location.

The disposal of shale gas brine was initially addressed in Pennsylvania by allowing the
industry to use municipal water treatment plants that were not equipped to handle the
unhealthy components. Since new regulations in 2011, however, Pennsylvania companies
now recycle 90 percent of this briny water by using it to frack more shale.

In sum, the experience of fracking in Pennsylvania has led to industry practices that mitigate the effect of drilling and fracking on the local environment.

And while the natural gas produced by fracking does add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through leakage during gas extraction and carbon dioxide release during
burning, it in fact holds a significant environmental advantage over coal mining. Shale
gas emits half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy as does coal, and coal burning also
emits metals such as mercury into the atmosphere that eventually settle back into our
soils and waters.

Europe is currently increasing its reliance on coal while discouraging or banning fracking.
If we are going to get our energy from hydrocarbons, blocking fracking while relying
on coal looks like a bad trade-off for the environment.

So, should the United States and Europe encourage fracking or ban it? Short-run economic interests support fracking. In the experience of Pennsylvania, natural gas prices fall and jobs are created both directly in the gas industry and indirectly as regional and national economies benefit from lower energy costs.

Europe can benefit from lessons learned in Pennsylvania, minimizing damage to the local environment. The geopolitical shift that would result from decreasing reliance on oil, and more specifically on Russian oil and gas, is one that European politicians might not want to ignore.

And if natural gas displaces coal, then fracking is good not only for the economy but
also for the global environment.

But if fracked gas merely displaces efforts to develop cleaner, non-carbon, energy
sources without decreasing reliance on coal, the doom and gloom of more rapid global
climate change will be realized.

Susan Brantley is distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental
Systems Institute at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the U.S. National
Academy of Sciences. Anna Meyendorff is a faculty associate at the International Policy Center
of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and a manager at Analysis
The views expressed in this piece are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of Pennsylvania
State University, the University of Michigan, or Analysis Group.

Can Fracking Be Regulated in NY to Ensure Safety?

Why ‘Safe’ Regulation of Fracking in New York Is a Fiction

Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised that he will only allow fracking if regulations can be developed to assure “it be done safely,” which is often asserted, recently, for example, by outgoing Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu.  Other government officials, including President Obama, have made similar statements, along with journalists such as Tom Friedman.

But the perennial promises of safer regulations fail to account for fracking as the next in an ever-growing and ever more toxic series of health-damaging industrial outputs that people inhale, eat, or absorb into their skin, guts, and brains.

When industry has blocked the EPA from studying or regulating 70,000 chemicals, (from BPA and flame retardants to potent neurotoxins), since 1975, why would regulating fracking be possible?

In Pennsylvania , where all of the impacts of unregulated fracking are on full display, suburban Philadelphia Republican State Senator Stewart Greenleaf has recently called for a $2 million health impacts study of fracking-related health symptoms, now that these have become more prevalent. Just when Pennsylvanians most need health care for these and other ills, Governor Tom Corbett has decided to economize by refusing to participate in the Affordable Care Act, despite the supposed fracking sparked economic boom with its promised yields of untold wealth for the state and its citizens.