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Thursday, September 20, 2012

A waterless fracking technology myth? UPDATE: Yep

In posting about the potential of waterless, chemical- free fracking technologies, I've written repeatedly that any new technology must be proven and accepted by the natural gas industry; its impacts must be understood; and regulations governing its use must be developed.  In other words, every new technology that aims to solve the vexing problems of water and chemical use in unconventional gas drilling must have its tires thoroughly kicked.

Apparently, in the case of one such “technology,” it doesn’t take much of a kick for the wheels to come off.

In a post on August 27, I mentioned dry or “exothermic” fracturing as one possible developing technology.

“For weeks, a com­pany called Chimera Energy Corp. has been issu­ing news releases tout­ing the emer­gence of its “exother­mic non-hydraulic extrac­tion” tech­nol­ogy. The firm says the process elim­i­nates the need to use chem­i­cally treated water to extract oil and gas locked in tight under­ground for­ma­tions, and in releases Chimera says it’s mov­ing to test the tech­nol­ogy in Mex­ico through a con­tract with that nation’s state-owned energy giant, PetrĂ³leos Mex­i­canos, or Pemex.
How­ever, com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Pemex offi­cials turn up no record of any such con­tract with any com­pany named Chimera Energy, or with that company’s sole exec­u­tive, listed on Chimera’s web­site as Charles Grob.”

Aug. 18, 2014 update: reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Chimera Energy and four individuals with securities fraud. Chimera, indeed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EU lawmakers urge governments to adopt tough rules on shale gas based on USA experience

Hot on the heels of three reports from the European Commission on shale gas development, Platts reports that members of the European Parliament's Industry and Energy Committee on Tuesday urged national governments to adopt "robust regulatory regimes" to guide future shale gas exploration and production.

Platts reports that the members were voting on an "own initiative" report that sets out their views on shale gas, but does not have any legal force.

The committee press release reads:

Each EU country has the right to decide for itself on whether to exploit shale gas, said the Energy Committee. Member states should have robust rules on all shale gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing of rock ("fracking"). MEPs also advise the EU to learn from US experiences [emphasis mine], with a view to using environmentally friendly industrial processes and "best available technologies". 

The Commission recently concluded that EU rules adequately cover licensing and early exploration and production of shale gas but further expansion may require changes to EU legislation, MEPs note.

Looking ahead, MEPs called on the Commission to help evaluate the economic and environmental impact of unconventional gas in the EU.

Domestic gas consumption is currently on the rise in the EU, with imports projected to reach an annual 450 billion cubic metres by 2035. New sources of natural gas could help diversity of supply but other measures are needed to reduce dependence on imports, such as boosting take-up of renewables and energy efficiency, say MEPs.

The Energy Committee resolution was adopted with 32 votes in favour, 23 against and 1 abstention.

On Wednesday the Environment Committee will vote on a separate resolution on the environmental aspects of shale oil and shale gas, including on transparency regarding chemicals used and the risks of groundwater contamination.

The eyes of the world continue to focus on America’s shale gas boom.  This fact underscores the global implications of our enacting the best protections and policies. Clearly, the world does not view us as having reached that goal yet.

Quoted today in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on natgas exports

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports today on the complicated issue of natural gas exports and the political and global trade issues that further complicate it. I’m quoted in the article.

If shale gas is responsibly produced – and we are not there yet, in my view  - the current production boom presents our nation with an enormous opportunity to grow our economy; to increase energy security in the electricity production, manufacturing, and transportation sectors; and to protect the climate, the environment, and public health. But we will not necessarily achieve or sustain these multiple wins by blindly following free market economics and Adam Smith’s invisible hand, which will lead natural gas producers to chase the highest prices for gas, which are right now in Europe and Asia.  

Low domestic gas prices are primarily driving the current shift away from coal for electricity production in the U.S..  Exporting gas will raise those prices and could halt the shift.  To be sure, shale gas booms around the globe may change the market dynamics to some degree, and there are geopolitical issues that complicate matters.  But it is clear that higher natural gas prices will impact a shift to natgas as the fuel of choice for electricity production and as a transport fuel, and will impact the reviving manufacturing sector in multiple ways.  

What are the risks to all of these hopeful trends if the US begins to export significant quantities of natural gas?  Some studies by the Department of Energy are underway.  We need as a nation to think this through now – before export terminals are built – and to commit to an enlightened US energy policy that uses abundant, low-price, domestic natural gas as a short, wide bridge to a renewable future that is backed up by gas. That path offers the United States the most promising route to a clean, sustainable, high growth future.