From New York to Nkandla shale gas is a ‘game-changer’

This article first published July 15 in Daily Maverick – South Africa’s leading online publication


15 JULY 2014 07:58 (SOUTH AFRICA)

From New York to Nkandla, shale gas is indeed a game-changer

Shale gas has been hailed as a game changer worldwide, but many of the numbers being crunched are outdated – and the reality is a little more sobering. It’s worth picking up on US shale gas hype and bringing it down to earth in the Karoo.
Since 2011, there have been some incredible statements from oil and gas executives, but the uncontested winner must come from Chris Faulkner: “There is enough oil and gas underground (in America) to supply America for an almost endless amount of time.”

Oil industry mouthpiece, RIGZONE speculates on SA fracking

An online article July 8, by oil and gas industry mouthpiece RIGZONE proclaims “SOUTH AFRICA EDGES CLOSER TO KAROO SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT” Peppered with inaccuracies, and drawing on phrases like ‘rolling blackouts in South Africa in May of this year’, the article regurgitates the industry speculation that we have heard in this country since January 2011. Here is the article. My reply to RIGZONE on their own online comment section may not be published, and is set out underneath the RIGZONE article.

A Rigzone nonsense
















I believe that the article is poorly researched, and as one would expect biased towards the oil and gas industry that supports your publication. As proof, I mention just one point that jumps out of the text. ‘300 000 to 700 000 jobs over 25 years. (485tcf)’ Anyone who has done their homework knows that South African scientists long ago reduced that figure from 485 to 40tcf – so any estimates based on 485 are irrelevant – much like the industry hype and speculation over Monterey. No Sir, those backing shale mining in SA may feel that it is edging closer, but actually the news on shale gas globally is not good and is building a strong body of evidence against SA moving ahead under the current circumstances. Jonathan Deal, CEO, Treasure Karoo Action Group, South Africa.

B Rigzone nonsense-1

Cuadrilla’s consultant’s hype over California shale turns out to be hot air

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Write-down of two-thirds of US shale oil explodes fracking myth

Industry’s over-inflated reserve estimates are unravelling, and with it the ‘American dream’ of oil independence
An oil field over the Monterey shale formation in California

An oil field over the Monterey shale formation in California: 96% reserve downgrade undermines claims that fracking is solution to the world’s energy needs. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Next month, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will publish a new estimate of US shale deposits set to deal a death-blow to industry hype about a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking unconventional oil and gas.

EIA officials told the Los Angeles Times that previous estimates of recoverable oil in the Monterey shale reserves in California of about 15.4 billion barrels were vastly overstated. The revised estimate, they said, will slash this amount by 96% to a puny 600 million barrels of oil.

The Monterey formation, previously believed to contain more than double the amount of oil estimated at the Bakken shale in North Dakota, and five times larger than the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, was slated to add up to 2.8 million jobs by 2020 and boost government tax revenues by $24.6 billion a year.

Industry lobbyists have for long highlighted the Monterey shale reserves as the big game-changer for US oil and gas production. Nick Grealy, who runs the consultancy No Hot Air which is funded by “gas and associated companies”, and includes the UK’s most high-profile shale gas fracker Cuadrilla among its clientspredicted last year that:

“… the star of the North American show is barely on most people’s radar screens. California shale will… reinvigorate the Golden State’s economy over the next two to three years.”

This sort of hype triggered “a speculation boom among oil companies” according to the LA Times. The EIA’s original survey for the US Department of Energy published in 2011 had been contracted out to Intek Inc. That report found that the Monterey shale constituted “64 percent of the total shale oil resources” in the US.

The EIA’s revised estimate was based partly on analysis of actual output from wells where new fracking techniques had been applied. According to EIA petroleum analyst John Staub:

“From the information we’ve been able to gather, we’ve not seen evidence that oil extraction in this area is very productive using techniques like fracking… Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates.”

The Intek Inc study for the EIA had relied largely on oil industry claims, rather than proper data. Hitesh Mohan, who authored the Intek study for the EIA, reportedly conceded that “his figures were derived from technical reports and presentations from oil companies, including Occidental Petroleum, which owns the lion’s share of oil leases in the Monterey Shale, at 1.6 million acres.” Mohan had even lifted his original estimate for the EIA to 17 billion barrels.

Geoscientist David Hughes, who worked for the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years, said:

“The oil had always been a statistical fantasy. Left out of all the hoopla was the fact that the EIA’s estimate was little more than a back-of-the-envelope calculation.”

Last year, the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) published Hughes’ study,Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, which conducted an empirical analysis of oil production data using a widely used industry database also relied on by the EIA. The report concluded that the original EIA estimate was “highly overstated,” and unlikely to lead to a “statewide economic boom…. California should consider its economic and energy future in the absence of an oil production boom.”

A spokesman for the Institute, Tod Brilliant, told me:

“Given the incredible difference between initial projections of 15 billion barrels and revisions to 600 million, does this not call into account all such global projections for tight oil?”

As I’d reported earlier in June last year, a wider PCI study by Hughes had come to similar conclusions about bullish estimates of US shale oil and gas potential, concluding that “light tight oil production in the USA will peak between 2015 and 2017, followed by a steep decline”, while shale gas production would likely peak next year. In that post, I’d pointed out previous well-documented, and alarmingly common, cases of industry over-estimates of reserve sizes which later had been questioned.

Analysts like Jeremy Leggett have said, citing exaggerated oil industry estimates, that if reserve and production reality are indeed significantly lower than industry forecasts, we could be at risk of an oil shock as early as within the next five years.

The latest revelations follow a spate of bad news for industry reassurances about the fracking boom. New research published this month has found that measured methane leaks from fracking operations were three times larger than forecasted. The US Environment Protection Agency therefore “significantly underestimates” methane emissions from fracking, by as much as a 100 to a 1,000 times according to a new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study published in April.

The Associated Press also reported, citing a Government Accountability Office investigation, that the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management had failed to adequately inspect thousands of oil and gas wells that are potentially high risk for water and environmental damage.

Despite the mounting evidence that the shale gas boom is heading for a bust, both economically and environmentally, both governments and industry are together pouring their eggs into a rather flimsy basket.

According to a secret trade memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the Obama administration and the European Union are pushing ahead with efforts to “expand US fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration”, as well as exports to the EU, under the prospective Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, Zero Point. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @nafeezahmed.

FRACKNATION co-director exposed by anti-fracking lobby group

Phelim McAleer, co-director of pro-fracking film, FrackNation published an article of what, in his view, constitute the ten biggest lies about fracking. Not one to mince his words, McAleer, drawing on his personal experience of fracking during the production of FrackNation pointed at those opposed to fracking as liars.

His viewpoint was quickly endorsed by some, including local Opinionista Ivo Vegter, who had the following to say on Twitter about McAleer’s article:

Vegter McAleer alliance

Treasure Karoo Action Group has responded to McAleer’s article and by default to Mr Vegter’s assertion that the article contains ‘substantive points that the TKAG can’t answer‘. We assert that McAleer himself is either a poorly informed filmmaker, who may have followed an industry-created script or a liar. We assert too that any person, having sufficient knowledge of shale gas mining to write and debate on the topic, who aligns themselves with McAleer’s article is either misinformed, or also a liar. We assert finally, that the TEN BIG FAT LIES published by McAleer have been answered.
In closing, we share a Tweet by McAleer on December 6 2013.

McAleer Mandela Joke





Click on the link below to read McAleer’s lies and TKAG’s response.

Co-director of FrackNation caught lying about fracking

Ten big fat lies about fracking



The director of FrackNation explodes the myths put about by fracktivists.

Phelim McAleer, an Irish filmmaker based in America whose pro-fracking movieFrackNation is described by the New York Times as ‘meticulously researched and provocative’, has had his fair share of run-ins with ‘fracktivists’. Here, he picks apart the 10 biggest lies told by the anti-fracking lobby.

1) Anti-fracking activists are nice people who love debate

Actually, far from being liberal, open-minded souls bringing truth to power in a kinder, gentler way, anti-fracking activists have chosen a new disposition: angry! I guess no one told the fracktivists that just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we can’t get along. Watch Vera Scroggins, for example.

Vera, an anti-fracking, Sierra Club-endorsed activist from Pennsylvania, adds to the ‘dialogue’ with such constructive comments as:

‘You’re a freak.’
‘You’re a male prostitute.’
‘You’re an Irish freak. Go drink some alcohol.’
‘Go get drunk and be a drunken Irish freak.’
‘You’re an alien. You look like a f***ing alien.’

Or take actor and activist Alec Baldwin. In the run-up to a debate about fracking in the Hamptons that he was taking part in, following a screening of the anti-fracking movie Gasland, Baldwin approached the New York Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) to see if it could suggest a speaker who was not as anti-fracking as the other speakers on the panel. IOGA suggested me as an independent voice, a journalist with an international perspective who has researched fracking for over two years in two continents. But suddenly Baldwin was no longer interested in debate or diversity of opinion, and he vetoed me from the panel. Then, a few hours later, he popped up on Twitter and posted the following:

@phelimmcaleer Come debate me, Phelim, you lumpy old gas whore. Who’s paying you?
— ABFoundation, 1 June 2013

@phelimmcaleer Phelim, you are a dreadful filmmaker. But come debate me, you tired old bullshitter.
— @ABFalecbaldwin, 1 June 2013

Sean Lennon – son of peace activists John Lennon and Yoko Ono – thought that someone who disagreed with him on fracking was a good ‘argument for abortion’.

Or, if you’re still not convinced, just peruse the comments on my movie’sFacebook page left by anti-fracking activists. Such pleasant people!

2) Everyone hates fracking

From news coverage, you would think that everyone in America hates fracking. Even the name sounds awful. Who could support such a terrible practice?

Well, it turns out that just about everyone who lives with it loves it.

Dimock, Pennsylvania is one place where all journalists reported that everyone hates fracking. Yes, there were 11 families in the village involved in a very lucrative lawsuit with an oil-and-gas company, and the journalists always interviewed them. But they completely ignored a petition signed by 1,500 people in the community who said their water was fine and had not been affected by fracking. What is 11 out of 1,500? Less than 1%. It’s the 99% who support fracking.

There is one other group that is opposed to fracking in Pennsylvania – the New York elite. This coalition of grumpy hipsters and celebrities have holiday homes in Pennsylvania, or they’re concerned that if a new industry brings wealth and progress to PA then the ‘traditional’ (read poor) way of life there will be destroyed.

So once or twice a year, the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon and Yoko Ono get bussed in from the city to meet disgruntled locals, and then are chauffeured back to their gas-heated homes after another day of successfully blocking natural-gas development.

If you want proof positive that communities love fracking, look no further than the ballot box. Consider this US Businessweek report on the 2012 election: ‘Anti-fracking candidates in the Southern Tier [New York] were beaten up and down the ballot after intense campaigns, some of which were framed as referendums on shale-gas development.’

At least 20 anti-fracking candidates were rejected by New York voters (New York is supposed to be the heartland of anti-fracking sentiment). But hey, keep protesting, fracktivists – after all, democracy is for the little people, and you can walk all over them on your way to your next starry TV interview about the ‘evils’ of fracking.

3) Fracking is brand new and untested

Pop quiz: how long has fracking been around? Here are your choices:

a) Since 2010
b) Since 1990
c) Since 1975
d) Since 1960

Sorry, you’re wrong. Trick question. The first fracked well was in 1947! And more than one million wells have been fracked in the US since then (2.5million worldwide). In terms of industrial processes, it doesn’t get much older or more thoroughly tested than fracking.

4) Fracking makes your water flammable

No lie about fracking is more widely believed than this old canard. It was popularised by Josh Fox in his HBO-funded documentary, Gasland. In it he shows a man who can light his tap water on fire, supposedly because of fracking.

I asked Josh about reports that some people could light their water before fracking occurred. He didn’t like this question.

He eventually admitted that he knew people could light their tap water on fire decades before fracking ever started but chose not to include this fact in his documentary because ‘it wasn’t relevant’.

There are three places in the US called Burning Springs, and there are historical records of people lighting their water since the 1600s.

5) Fracking contaminates drinking water

If fracking doesn’t make your water flammable, it must at least contaminate it with dangerous chemicals, right?

Not according to Lisa Jackson, the former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and no friend to big business. She testified before Congress that there have been zero proven cases of water contamination due to fracking.

That’s right – one million fracked wells later, there are no examples of contaminated water anywhere. Zero. This is the anti-fracking playbook. Scare people, get media attention. And when the science comes in debunking the scare story, move on to the next scare story.

6) Fracking uses a lot of dangerous chemicals

Fracking fluid is 98.5% water, 1% sand, and 0.5% chemical additives. Some of these additives are also used in making ice cream! Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, drank fracking fluid to prove its safety to his local residents.

But these are still chemicals and we should be scared of them – that is the cry of the fracktivists. But water is a chemical. Coffee has a whole bunch of chemicals in it. Everything is a chemical. Don’t be duped by bad science (like the people these American comedians convinced to ban the scary sounding ‘dihydrogen monoxide’).

7) Fracking causes breast cancer

In his short film, The Sky is Pink, Josh Fox claimed that a spike in breast cancer in Texas was a result of fracking. Turns out he was wrong. Again. (Seems like a theme for Josh.)

The Associated Press interviewed leading cancer researchers who all concluded: there was no spike.

Did Fox apologise for scaring women and families? No. He’s an environmental activist. The media don’t ask him difficult questions or demand that he clears the record. Less than a year later, HBO released Gasland Part 2, Fox’s sequel about the dangers of fracking. There was no mention of breast cancer in it, and he has never withdrawn his original claim. This is the anti-fracking playbook. Scare people, get media attention. And when the science comes in debunking the scare story, move on to the next scare story.

8) Fracking uses a ton of water

Even fracking fans have a hard time swallowing the water stats for fracked wells: the EPA estimates that fracking used between 70 and 140 billion gallons of water in 2011. That sounds like a lot of H2O. Unless you have a lawn.

Americans use 20 times more water on their lawns than they do on fracking.

9) Fracking should be banned because it causes earthquakes

One of the scarier arguments against fracking is that it causes earthquakes, especially if you live in a tectonically charged US state, like I do. Yet all activity under the ground affects the earth, and if you don’t like this fact then you should also campaign to ban supposedly eco-friendly hydro-power, which actually hascaused earthquakes (but they only affected Indians, so environmentalists don’t care – just so long as the energy created was ‘sustainable’).

But the biggest cause of man-made earthquakes is the environmentalists’ favourite power source: geo-thermal. It seems that some earthquakes are more equal than others.

10) Fracking destroys the landscape and disturbs bucolic rural America

The process of fracking (which is separate from drilling) is noisy and looks messy – for a few days. Then the land is reclaimed and the industry moves on to the next area. All the scary photos of huge machinery and big trucks are taken during this initial process. Which is a bit like photographing the building site of a half-built house and saying all house-building should be banned. As a filmmaker, my biggest problem was trying to film working gas wells in a way that would look interesting. They are tiny and often hidden behind hills or behind bushes and trees.

Oh, and fracking does create traffic. That claim is true. Locals call this ‘jobs’. They generally like it. They may complain sometimes but they know that the only thing worse than traffic in rural America is no traffic.

Phelim McAleer is co-director of FrackNation.

Coming out clearly and unsurprisingly, on the side of the pro-fracking lobby, McAleer, proclaims ten ‘big fat lies’ that in his view are propagated by anti-fracking activists.

This critical review of his claims is intended as a factual evaluation.

Lie No. 1 Anti-fracking activists are nice people who love debate

I’m not sure that the adjective ‘nice’ is relevant to a debate on any subject, nor whether it is incumbent on debaters to ‘love’ debating. Having led an anti-fracking campaign in South Africa for three years, it is not my experience that any serious environmentalist, or debater for that matter, relies on being ‘nice’ to score rhetorical or actual victories.

Nevertheless, accepting, for the time being, McAleer’s application of ‘nice and ‘love’’ and the supposed claim thereof by the anti-fracking camp, prompts me to share just one of my own experiences with you.

The following Tweets about me were posted (by a pro-fracker) around April 15th, when I was in San Francisco to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa. They were posted by Nick Grealy, aka @shalegasexpert, who hails from London and professes to ‘working to de-risk the aboveground in shale energy.’

Grealy, at the time of these tweets proclaimed on his Twitter profile that ‘Shale gas is far too important to be politicised’. It is relevant that Grealy had never met or spoken to me personally and so had no personal knowledge of me, or of my political persuasion.  I quote the Tweet and then explain what material (if any accompanied it).

Tweet 1: “Saw this and thought of @timelesskaroo” (The published picture was a signboard from decades ago in South Africa, posted at public facilities, and saying (reserved for white people).

Tweet 2: “Bury gas and bury black people, the @timelesskaroo way”.  (the link is to a video in which I was interviewed by BBC London).

Tweet 3: “Part of the Karoo that J Deal wants to keep timeless. And reserved for the those (sic) with more interest in the earth. (The picture is of a slum dwelling in SA)”

Tweet 4: “The $150,000 prize for @timelesskaroo is dedicated to preserving the earth. Especially this part of it? (Another picture of a slum dwelling)”

Tweet 5: “The new apartheid: Greens v everyone else … “(Same link to the BBC interview, now using Apartheid)”

Tweet 6: “The Truth behind @tonybosworth South African pals (link not working). …”

Tweet 7: “@goldmanprize The majority view from South Africa on your sickening support for Jonathan Deal. (Link no longer available, but appears to have been about the pro-fracking group – Karoo Shale Gas Forum.)

Tweet 8:“Thanks to Street View we can [sic] what @goldmanprize is preserving in Graaf-Reinet via a $150K prize to @TimelessKaroo” (Another view of a street in a poor area).

Tweet 9: “SA fracking warrior is the Green de Klerk, not Mandela @goldmanprize @RHarrabin @tonybosworth … “(Another link to the BBC video, this time juxtaposing me as De Klerck with President Mandela.)

Tweet 10: “@tonybosworth Torturing is what your mates in South Africa do to keep people in poverty.”

The point here is to reveal that in every individual or collective ego, one may identify and expose aspects that are not ‘nice’, and of course to dispense with McAleer’s absurd statement by saying that – for every Baldwin he can find, I can find a Grealy. And that’s no lie.

Lie No. 2 Everyone hates fracking

McAleer doesn’t offer a source for this statement. But let’s accept that he heard it or read it (and can provide the source). I have never, and would never rely on such an obscure statement to support my view on fracking. What does interestingly emerge from McAleer’s views on ‘lie No 2’ is that he may unwittingly or knowingly have propagated a lie of his own. I quote: “Well, it turns out that just about everyone who lives with it loves it,” claims McAleer. Using the town of Dimmock, PA, some NYS election results and a sweeping statement of his own about grumpy hipsters and celebrities against fracking, McAleer conveniently ignores the more than 210 current (and growing) bans, restrictions or moratoria in various countries around the world, on fracking or parts of the shale gas mining process.

McAleer, would do well to substantiate his allegation in defense of ‘lie No2’ by telling readers within the context of his statement what he means by “just about everyone.” Is that 99 out of 100, 500 out of a 1000, 3 out of ten, all the people in one street? No Mr. McAleer, I don’t believe your claim, or the claim that everyone hates fracking. I wonder if this factual void is a benchmark for the truthfulness of your film?

Lie No. 3 Fracking is brand new and untested

Once again, we’ve never used that line in the way that you present it, and although I have heard it used, it certainly does not represent the mainstream and informed anti-fracking view. Your ‘quiz’ just went ‘pop.’ Why? Simply because you disingenuously seek to do exactly what the real liars (the oil and gas industry do), when referring to fracking. Simply put, a ‘good ole boy’ wildcatter in Texas in 1947, using dynamite to frack a well is a long stretch from high-volume, horizontal, slickwater fracking that has been commercially practiced for less than 15 years. McAleer also claims 2.5 million fracks (1.5 million outside of the US) – proof please?

Here, in the interests of sparing you further embarrassment, should you choose to repeat this tripe, are some facts, with the sources:

Plain, early and rudimentary fraccing

Hydraulic fracturing was introduced in the United States in 1949 by Stanolind Oil. Carl T. Montgomery and Michael B. Smith, NSI Technologies[1] in ‘Hydraulic fracturing – History of an Enduring Technology’, write: “Fracturing can be traced to
the 1860s, when liquid (and later, solidified) nitroglycerin (NG) was used to stimulate shallow, hard
rock wells in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Although extremely hazardous, 
and often used illegally, NG was spectacularly successful for oil well “shooting.” The object of shooting a well was to break up, or rubblize, [sic] the oil-bearing formation to increase both initial flow and ultimate recovery of oil. This same fracturing principle was soon applied with equal effectiveness to water and gas wells.”

“In the 1930s, the idea of injecting a non-explosive [sic] fluid (acid) into the ground to stimulate a well began
to be [sic] tried. … [B]ut it was not until Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation (Amoco) performed an in-depth study to establish a relationship between observed well performance and treatment pressures that “formation breakdown” … became better understood. From this work, Farris conceived the idea of hydraulically fracturing a formation to enhance production from oil and gas wells.”

“The first experimental treatment to ‘Hydrafrac’ a well for stimulation was performed in the Hugoton gas field in Grant County, Kansas, in 1947 by Stanolind Oil. … [D]eliverability of the well did not change appreciably, but it was a start. In 1948, the Hydrafrac process was introduced more widely to the industry in a paper written by J.B. Clark of Stanolind Oil. A patent was issued in 1949, with an exclusive license granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company (Howco) to pump the new Hydrafrac process.”

“Howco performed the first two commercial fracturing treatments— … in Archer County, Texas—on March 17, 1949. In the first year, 332 wells were treated. Treatments reached more than 3,000 wells a month for stretches during the mid-1950s. The first one-half- million-pound fracturing job in the free world was performed in October 1968, by Pan American Petroleum Corporation (later Amoco, now BP) in Stephens County, Oklahoma. In 2008, more than 50,000 frac stages were completed worldwide at a
cost of anywhere between USD 10,000 and USD 6 million. It is now common to have from eight to as many as 40 frac stages in a single well.”

The chronology of high-volume, horizontal, slickwater fracturing

It is accurate to say that hydro-fracking has been done for over sixty years[2]in the United States. It is inaccurate to infer that the relatively new process of high-volume, horizontal, slickwater fraccing has been practiced for over 60 years. There is ample evidence to prove that the advent of modern-day ‘fraccing’ in the United States is recorded as coming into commercial production during the 1990’s. “The first horizontal shale gas well was drilled in 1991; the first slick water fracture took place in 1996; and the use of cluster drilling from one pad in 2007.”[3]

SourceWatch[4] confirms:

“According to Slate, the US DOE subsidized George P. Mitchell’s Mitchell Energy “to drill its first horizontal wells, covering any costs beyond a typical vertical well, and the federal government provided unconventional gas tax credits. The Bureau of Economic Geology created high-resolution images of rock surfaces that yielded information about their porosity. Union Pacific Resources, the Fort Worth-based exploration and Production Company, shared its superior method for hydraulic fracturing. DOE’s Sandia Labs contributed micro seismic fracture mapping software that helped the operator make adjustments to improve the flow of gas. Mitchell put it all together, and by the time he sold his company to Devon Energy in 2002, the idea of extracting natural gas from shale was about to turn from technological pipe dream to very real economic powerhouse.”

[SourceWatch quotes]: “According to Cornell University engineer Anthony Ingraffea, only in the last two decades have four different technologies made it possible to fracture deep shale rock formations one to two kilometers underground. They include directional drilling (wells that go down a kilometer and then extend horizontally for another kilometer): the use of millions of litres of fracturing fluids including sand, water and toxic chemicals; slick water (the use of gels and high fluid volumes at 100 barrels a minute) and multi-well pad and cluster drilling (the drilling of six to nine wells from one industrial platform).”

McAleer’s lie No. 3 about lie No. 3 dispensed with.

Lie No. 4 Fracking makes your water flammable

McAleer rightfully points out this highly contested issue. There is no doubt that methane has and does occur naturally in water aquifers in many countries around the world. Shrewdly, McAleer focuses on instances relating to Josh Fox’s controversial film, but chooses to ignore evidence from independent tests that show increased methane levels in areas where natural gas drilling has taken place. I don’t forward this observation as defense of the statement that ‘Fracking makes your water flammable’ as there are most certainly places where drilling has taken place where people are not lighting their water on fire. However, the opposite (as McAleer seems to suggest by labeling this statement a lie) i.e. Fracking does not make your water flammable is similarly untrue.

McAleer’s lie No 4. About methane in water up in hot air.

Lie No. 5 Fracking contaminates drinking water

Assuming that he has banked the last point, (on flammable water) McAleer, points those opposed to fracking as desperately seeking proof of some other nefarious side effect of fracking. “If fracking doesn’t make your water flammable, it must at least contaminate it with dangerous chemicals, right?” McAleer quotes Lisa Jackson from the EPA, but conveniently fails to place in context for the reader, the many non-disclosure agreements signed between gas drillers and people who have left the homes that they used to live in. Some of the homes within 30 minutes drive from the where the star of Fracknation lives.

But the self-administered coup de grace in connection with this ‘Lie number 5’ is this statement from McAleer’s own pen: ‘That’s right – one million fracked wells later, there are no examples of contaminated water anywhere. Zero.’ Rewind. Did you write one million fracked wells? What happened to 2.5 million?  

McAleer sets the scene for his next exposē by suggesting that science has debunked the ‘scare story’ and so anti-frackers, ‘move on to the next scare story’.

6) Fracking uses a lot of dangerous chemicals

McAleer faithfully repeats the proportions of water, proppants and chemicals quoted by the gas drillers. Linking the word ‘chemical’ with such acceptable substances as coffee, toothpaste and ice-cream, McAleer quotes Governor Hickenlooper (whose state is currently facing a plethora of fracking bans – from all those people ‘who live with fracking and love it’) as having consumed fracking water on TV. Now, sure as God made little apples, McAleer, Hickenlooper and anyone possessed of basic skills of deduction and reasoning know full well that if three samples of fracking flowback water are selected from three different states in an independent, random and scientifically-monitored selection process, neither Hickenlooper, nor McAleer, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger would chug it down. And that’s the truth! McAleer neglects to point out that .5% by volume in a 5 million gallon (20 million liter frack job) will be around 25 to 30 tons of liquid and solid chemicals. That’s an awful lot of toothpaste, coffee and ice cream Phelim.

Lie No. 7 Fracking causes breast cancer

Well, perhaps the lie could be rephrased to say, “If you are exposed to sufficient dosages of fracking related chemicals via air, water, direct, or secondary contact, it may result in breast or other cancers.”

Dr. Theo Colborn, (who surely must be known to one able to write so authoritatively on fracking as McAleer does) has written and lectured widely on the human health and environmental threat posed by endocrine disruptors and other industrially produced chemicals at low concentrations in the environment.

Dr. Colborn serves as the President of TEDX and holds the academic rank of Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. TEDX’s programs and finances are overseen by a Board of Directors, whose specialties include public health service, environmental policy development and analysis, environmental advocacy, medical ethics, philosophy and children’s environmental health.

In the experience of Treasure Karoo Action Group, TEDX[5] reports are peer-reviewed.

Perhaps the so-called lie should be turned around – seeing as it is framed as a lie: ‘fracking doesn’t cause breast cancer’? Who would be lying then?

Lie number 8 Fracking uses a ton of water

Oh, my word! Is McAleer writing for primary school children? Even people that live in other countries can do the math on that one. The documented issues surrounding water and fracking, wherever the technology is taking place, are well known, and by attempting to sweep them under the carpet with such a meaningless comparison, McAleer exposes himself as an inexpert liar.

Lie No. 9 Fracking should be banned because it causes earthquakes

No lie. But that’s not the only reason that fracking should be banned. Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas have their own case studies by scientists from both sides of the debate. The link between fracking and earthquakes under certain circumstances and parameters is conclusive. It does not automatically follow that seismic activity is a reason for a blanket global ban on fracking. In areas where additional man-induced seismic activity could result in earthquakes that may damage property, aquifers or endanger human life, there is a good reason to ban it in that location. Not clever to hang the whole point on an extreme, Phelim.

Lie No. 10 Fracking destroys the landscape and disturbs bucolic rural [sic] America.

One statement (excluding the tautology) that I am prepared to support, with a proviso. Fracking destroys the landscape where it takes place and disturbs ‘bucolic’ rural America.

McAleer endeavours to skillfully dismember fracking from shale gas mining by writing: ‘the process of fracking (which is separate from drilling) is noisy and looks messy – for a few days…’ He goes so far as to write that ‘working gas wells’ are ‘tiny and often hidden behind hills or behind bushes and trees’.

Perhaps I could make use of this opportunity to supplement the No. 10 lie with one that McAleer, based on his text, appears to suggest: “You don’t need any part of the shale gas mining process to frack – you just arrive with a big pipe, frack the ground, take the gas and go.”

Enough already. If any serious pro-gas adult is prepared to align themselves with the TEN BIG FAT LIES of McAleer, they deserve to be treated with the same derision and amusement afforded the stars of Dumb and Dumber and Beavis and Butthead.

It is remarkable that the director of a film so enthusiastically endorsed by oil & gas and Opportunista’s would place his supporters in the position of defending his (may I use the word again) tripe. Anyone with experience in the issues of the global shale gas debate that is prepared to endorse and propagate what McAleer has written here is either stupid or a big fat liar.

[1] Montgomery, Carl T and Smith, Michael B.

[2] Shell South Africa Country Chairman, Bonang Mohale, on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell in SA 2011. Claim repeated frequently by Shell executives in South Africa.

[3] Andrew Nikiforuk, “Shale Gas: Myth and Realities,” The Tyee, Jan 7, 2013.

[4] SourceWatch is a publication distributed by the The Center for Media and Democracy.

[5] <


In an unsurprising role reversal, a pro-fracker has weighed in to my review of Phelim McAleer’s article. It appears that it’s not only anti-frackers who are angry. In one fell swoop @informedblackmn has demonstrated that McAleer’s first point (Lie No. 1) is as believable as his claim that he is ‘an independent voice, a journalist with an international perspective who has researched fracking for over two years in two continents’. Read on to follow the whole story.

Jimmy 2Jimmy 1


‘It is exactly this type of untruthful statement…

November 8, Howick, Kwa-Zulu-Natal. 2013 Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practice.

Nigel Rossouw, Shell, SA, Upstream talking on Shell’s water requirements for fracking exploration and later, production.

Shell SA is able to draw water once off, use, it, recycle it and use it for the next gas well. This according to Shell SA Upstream Project Manager, Nigel Rossouw. Rossouw was representing the oil and gas giant and claimed that the company could draw water once and use that same water for following wells.

Read this verbatim quote from Shell Environmental Planner – Nigel Rossouw

One of the things to remember, also, is that we estimate, understanding …, just using available data, that we estimate that we use in the region of 1000 to 2000 cubic metres of water, per gas well, OK, that’s for exploration, that figure, increases to about 10 000 cubic metres when we’re in full production, the other thing to remember is that we don’t need a constant source of water, uh, for the, for the exploration and production, we recycle and treat this water and re-use it for the, for the next gas well, so there isn’t this constant supply of water, constant demand that we, that we need for, for water, we need water kinda almost once off and we use it, treat it, recycle it and use it all the time for the next uh gas well.

In plain language Shell claim that they draw water once, use it, recycle it, treat it and use it for the next gas well, and so ‘there isn’t this constant demand for water.’

For this to be true, Shell would recover all of the injected water, treat all of it and start the next well with the same water, and again, and again.

Clearly, this is impossible. It calls to mind the deliberate untruths told by Shell SA Chairman to the public that Shell is so good at recycling fracking fluid that they can recycle 95% of the water and that when they are finished it is so clean that communities can use it to wash streets and water golf courses.
In conclusion: What are we dealing with?
(a) A senior Shell manager who is briefed to address a critically important group of people and who simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about?
(b) A deliberate untruth to make the water issue appear as a non-issue?
(c) None of the above. (watch this space for the official corporate spin)
It is exactly this type of untruthful statement*, in public, to the public addressing a very serious issue about I which have complained numerous times. TKAG regards Shell, and Shell’s misinformation to South Africans*, including the leaders of this country, as being responsible for the euphoria about the ‘game-changing’ shale gas. This while international bans in significant jurisdictions mount on a daily basis.

The industry too, has developed a new habit of referring to water in 1000’s of cubic metres. So of course 1 or 2 thousand cubic metres sounds much less than 1 or 2 million. Cubic metres mean very little to the man in the street – imagine going into the grocery store and asking for one 1 thousandth of a cubic metre of milk. Or pulling into any filling station and asking the pump attendant for 90 thousandths of a cubic metre of diesel?

Apart from this, the figure of ten thousand cubic metres of water in a production well is well on the side of optimistic. Wells in Marcellus, which are shallower than those expected in the Karoo routinely use between 5 and 7 million GALLONS of water or about 20 to 24 MILLION litres.

*Voice recording of the statement available on request from

*TKAG requested a national debate with Shell in any public forum, at Shell’s convenience.

Related articles

US Oil industry forces EPA to bury evidence

Despite claims by SA Pro-frackers that there is no evidence of environmental damage, transcript shows deliberate concealment

Efforts by lawmakers and regulators to force the federal government to better police the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have been thwarted for the past 25 years, according to an exposé in the New York Times. Studies by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on fracking have been repeatedly narrowed in scope by superiors, and important findings have been removed under pressure from the industry. The news comes as the EPA is conducting a broad study of the risks of natural gas drilling with preliminary results scheduled to be delivered next year. Joining us is Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, a firm that tracks environmental spills and releases across the country, based in Ithaca, New York, where fracking is currently taking place. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Efforts by lawmakers and regulators to force the federal government to better police [the] natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have been thwarted for the past 25 years, according to an exposé in the past week in the New York Times. Studies by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking have been repeatedly narrowed in scope by superiors, and important findings have been removed under pressure from the industry, according to the Times. For example, last year, the EPA planned to call for a moratorium on fracking in the New York City watershed, but the advice was removed from the publicly released letter sent to officials in New York. The news comes as the EPA is conducting a broad study of the risks of natural gas drilling, with preliminary results scheduled to be delivered next year.

AMY GOODMAN: Walter Hang is the president of Toxics Targeting, a firm that tracks environmental spills and releases across the country. He’s joining us from Ithaca. And joining us viaDemocracy Now! video stream is Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland. In it, Josh travels the United States to meet people whose lives have been impacted by natural gas drilling. The film was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

But let’s start with Walter Hang. Walter, talk about the significance of this exposé and the information about the industry thwarting EPA’s efforts to regulate fracking for over a quarter of a century.

WALTER HANG: Well, the most important thing is that the natural gas industry has said all along that there’s never been a confirmed problem with horizontal hydrofracking in Marcellus Shale. They’ve said this practice has been used for decades, it’s safe, it’s not problematic. The first installment of the New York Times series basically brought to light that in the autumn of 2008, there was so much natural gas drilling wastewater being dumped into municipal treatment plants along the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, and these plants were not designed, constructed or maintained in any way to take out the very high salt content, the toxic chemicals associated with petroleum, or the radioactive nucleotides. And so, this contamination was going into the river in such incredible volumes that essentially it impacted a 70-mile stretch of the river, and 850,000 people didn’t have any drinking water. Subsequent studies show that actually the water became brackish. They started to find salt-loving diatoms flourishing in the water.

And so, this is when basically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tried to recommend to the state of New York, don’t go forward with horizontal hydrofracking in New York, where there’s been ade facto moratorium against that practice for two-and-a-half years, until you deal with the wastewater hazards, until you safeguard New York City’s drinking water. And that’s when the recommendation came: no drilling in the watershed. And amazingly, they actually proposed to allow the drilling in the rest of upstate New York, so that the Department of Environmental Conservation could essentially get experience regulating this practice. But then none of those recommendations made it into the final document submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation. So this is an incredible revelation about how the EPA knew about these problems, didn’t tell New York, and that’s why we’re calling for these regulations to be withdrawn, the scope revised, so that, for the first time, this kind of practice can be adequately safeguarded.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Walter, what kind of public attention was there when the drinking water of 800,000 people in Pennsylvania was endangered? Did the EPA or any of the other environmental agencies in the state of Pennsylvania sound a warning to the public about it?

WALTER HANG: Well, basically, it was just a catastrophic crisis that had never happened before. There had been a drought during that time. And so, they tried desperately to release water from big reservoirs, and basically none of that worked. But the key thing is, they never really spelled out that this problem with high total dissolved solids in the river was associated with wastewater treatment plants taking up to 40 percent of their influent as natural gas drilling wastewater. So it was never really made clear. For example, in New York, when this 700-page document came out about how the state was proposing to regulate natural gas drilling wastewater, there’s not a single mention about this crisis. So it’s really never come to light, until the New York Times got these incredible internal EPA documents.

And that’s how come we’re now saying to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, expand the scope of this proceeding, go back to the drawing board. You know, there’s so much that’s been hidden from public review that it’s just really a shocking situation. It’s really an outrage. And I’m sure that the Mayor of New York is going to be extremely unhappy to find out that EPA was so concerned about this practice that they proposed to keep it off-limits from the watershed and then didn’t finally make that proposal known.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the industry that is putting pressure, that has thwarted the EPAfrom regulating fracking for a quarter-century. Who are they?

WALTER HANG: Well, it’s basically the biggest corporations on the planet. It’s the oil and gas industry. It’s basically that they want to tap into this giant underground reserve of natural gas, the Marcellus Shale formation. It’s the biggest reserve, arguably, on the entire planet. They think that they’re just going to wallow in money. It’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” And they’re spending incredible amounts of money trying to influence decision makers to allow this practice to go forward. And in New York, for example, yesterday in the legislature, the halls were reportedly overrun with lobbyists from the natural gas industry. They’re watching the bread being taken from their mouths, potentially, and so they’re going to be trying to do everything that they can to essentially allow this practice to go forward.

But let me note that the drilling in shale with horizontal hydrofracking is essentially regulated by the states. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t issue the drilling permits. For example, in New York, the State Department of Environmental Conservation issues the permits. So it’s really the call of Governor Cuomo. It’s the call of the other governors. If they want to make this practice safe, if they want to require financial surety, if they want to require that this wastewater is dealt with properly, all they have to do is read those internal EPA documents, which say you can’t accept this wastewater unless the treatment plants are specifically equipped to take out the radionucleotides, the toxics, the high salt. In New York, for example, there isn’t a single publicly owned treatment plant that accept that. And in little Ithaca, New York, where I live, the Cayuga Heights wastewater treatment plant accepted three million gallons of this drilling wastewater and discharged it into the southern end of Cayuga Lake, about a mile upgradient from the drinking water intake for 30,000 people.

So when all of these facts begin to come to light, when the influence of industry begins to come to light, people are just, you know, jumping up and down and saying, “What can we do?” And the answer is, they have to lean on the officials. They have to call Andrew Cuomo., there’s a coalition letter. More than 3,500 people have signed this letter. And it’s basically saying to Andrew Cuomo, start over again with these draft regulations. There’s an executive order that Governor Paterson signed just before checking out of office, and he basically said we’ve just got to open up the proceeding, we’ve got to address all the issues that the state authorities tried to exclude at the behest of the industry.

And if we want to make this an honest process, if we want to make sure that this extraction mining is properly regulated, there’s no better time than right now. We’ve never seen these documents before. I’ve been doing this work for 34 years. All of those internal communications, as you know, are excluded from Freedom of Information, so this is really a cornucopia of documents revealing how the EPA thinks. And that’s how come, for the first time, we know what they wanted to do, to their credit, to protect the environment. And in fact, there’s even one document that said that the authorities didn’t want EPA to write down what their best hopes were, because if it ever came to light, the public could hold their feet to the fire to implement it. So this is a tremendous opportunity to regulate an industry that’s really never been regulated before.

And the epicenter of that fight is in New York, because there’s not one horizontal hydrofrack Marcellus Shale well in New York, and it isn’t going to be allowed until these final regulations are adopted. So, I urge every one of your listeners, go to, sign the coalition letter to Andrew Cuomo, look at the alerts, and then call him. Call Lisa Jackson. Call EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, and just express your outrage, express your anger, and say, “We want this process to be open and honest. We don’t want this practice, basically, in New York to turn out to the way it turned out in Pennsylvania.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Walter, specifically about all of these — this trove of internal documents that the Times obtained, there clearly has been a raging battle within the EPA between the scientists and the various political appointees from different administrations over the years on this issue. In terms of — one of the things you mentioned was the whole issue of radioactivity in some of the wastewater. Could you specifically talk about that and the battle that’s gone on within the agency on that issue?

WALTER HANG: I think that the thing that most impressed me was how you could read these technical recommendations from the scientists within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and they recognize — they said it right there in the documents — these are elevated concentrations of toxic radionucleotides. And there has to be a program, essentially not only to protect the environment, protect the public health, but actually to protect the workers. And so, they made their recommendations. They were totally blunt: you have to regulate what’s called the flowback wastewater, which is what they use to fracture the rock, and then it comes back up out of the well. But they also said you have to regulate what’s called the brine. And this is the wastewater that comes out of the well for the entire lifetime of the well. And a Marcellus Shale horizontally fracked well can produce for 30 years. So they were very clear. They really recognize that the levels were high. They recognize that there was a lot more data. But again, as was noted in the Times piece, they came right up against the issue of the politics, of the money.

So again, for the first time, you can see a PowerPoint that was made to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters on August 9th, 2009. You can see exactly what this EPA scientist, Amy Bergdale, presented to the powers that be at the top. You can see how she talked about the radionucleotide hazard. You can see how she identified a mine void dumping. So not only were they spreading this on the roads, they were actually dumping it into abandoned mines that weren’t equipped to, again, break down or remove the radionucleotides, the toxics, the high salt. And most importantly, she revealed this problem in 2008 along the Monongahela River. So I invite all of your listeners, go to the New York Times website, look at these documents, or look at some of the selected documents that Toxics Targeting has posted. You can read them, and we’ve highlighted the sections that are the most telling. And it’s just unbelievable. I mean, people are going to be shocked. They’re going to just be so angry that the government tried to do the right thing and then basically ran up against the barriers of internal politics.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Walter Hang. He’s the head of Toxics Targeting. He’s speaking to us from Ithaca College.