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Friday, December 27, 2013

Does fracking-enabled fuel switching save water?

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have estimated that fracking for natural gas actually saves water in the drought-prone and water-stressed Lone Star State - a counterintuitive conclusion for a process that consumes four to six million gallons of water for every frack job.

The study's gross calculation of water savings may be correct, and the answer to the question posed in the title of this blog post is yes - IF water use is narrowly defined. However, there are important nuances to consider here.  Consumptive water use for power plant cooling ultimately returns the water withdrawn to the overall water cycle - though it clearly has localized impacts. But as much as 80 percent of the water used in the fracking process remains underground - permanently removed from the water cycle.  I have yet to see an analysis of the cumulative impacts of that fact on the overall water cycle.

Clearly, the impacts of hydraulic fracturing are complex. This UTA study points out that end-uses need to be considered.

The finding - significant as it is - doesn't negate the myriad other water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing – from earthquakes to impacts on public health.

Nor, in my view, does it undermine the business case for waterless fracking.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pennsylvania's Marcellus questions

While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision on Act 13  may not slow the natural gas industry's pace, will the industry accept it

Will it double down and launch another push to have its way with the Keystone State? 

Will the gas industry shoot itself in the foot again and press for conditioning receipt of anemic impact fee payments on passage of industry-friendly model ordinances?

Will Pennsylvania's elected officials be so shortsighted as to go along with them again - at their mutual peril?

Or will the industry - along with the Governor and the General Assembly - acknowledge the wisdom of Pennsylvania's Constitution?

There is a better way to engage with municipalities. 

There are better ways to engage with Pennsylvania.

What will the natgas industry do?

The answer to these questions will shape Pennsylvania's future in profound ways.