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

TO ACCESS THE EMBEDDED LINKS FOLLOW THE DAILY MAVERICK LINK BELOW

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WINNING OVER CRITICS AND INFLUENCING PEOPLE.
15 JULY 2014 07:58 (SOUTH AFRICA)
OPINIONISTA JONATHAN DEAL

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

  • JONATHAN DEAL
Shale gas has been hailed as a game changer worldwide, but many of the numbers being crunched are outdated – and the reality is a little more sobering.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.”

It’s a case of this news is bad news for Shell and the ANC


 

Odds mounting against fracking in South Africa and elsewhere

http://bit.ly/1jYi98S

This article is the first in a series of timelines detailing global developments in and around shale gas mining – the links will address media reports and occurrences in 2014. Separate and dynamic posts on 2013, 2012 and 2011 will follow. The current year will be updated regularly. Comment is welcomed, and submissions considered for addition to the table. AFTER VIEWING A LINK, USE YOUR BROWSER ‘BACK TO’ OPTION TO RETURN TO THIS POST

Global occurrences and media related to shale gas mining – 2014

June 27 | International film maker Jeffrey Barbee and earth Focus Report on Fracking in South Africa, UK and Poland
June 20 | Global Alliance launched
June 20 | SA Zoning laws threaten fracking
June 19 | Opposition mounts to SA mining law amendment
June 20 | New Mining Minister seeks to delay changes
June 19 | US State health employees muzzled on fracking
June 16 | US fracking industry takes it on the chin
June 17 | Fracking company Range Resources ordered to disclose chemicals
June 17 | Fracking in SA – profits for big business and costs for the citizens?
June 10 | The increasingly dislocated economics of oil production
June 10 | German officials pushing for fracking by 2015 face stiff opposition
June 08 | US inspections fail to keep pace with fracking – place environment at risk
June 08 | President Obama expresses frustration with climate change deniers – cites science
June 08 | Up to 10% of British Columbia Natural Gas Wells spewing methane – report
June 06 | US shale boom is over – cornucopians with egg on face
May 30 | SA legal firm counts SA energy from shale as worth 310 years
May 27 | Are the frackers going broke?

 

 

Energy independence from shale up in smoke?


The shale mining fraternity, still reeling from the release of a Scientific Report on the effect of shale gas mining – released by the Canadian Council of Academies has been dealt another blow with the news that the golden energy goose of California has been reduced by 96% – by the US Energy Information Administration. The industry and its proponents in government and commerce have long been warned about the overhyping of shale gas assets in the US. Even in South Africa, the original estimates by the USGS, of 485tcf have been downgraded by South Africa’s own scientists to a ‘best case extraction scenario of 40tcf.

U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

Economy, Business and Finance Petroleum Industry Energy Resources Upstream Oil and Gas Activities
The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves
An earlier estimate assumed Monterey Shale oil deposits were as easily recoverable as those found elsewhere

Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California’s vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national “black gold mine” of petroleum.

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation’s oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation’s need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.

The energy agency said the earlier estimate of recoverable oil, issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government, broadly assumed that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

The estimate touched off a speculation boom among oil companies. The new findings seem certain to dampen that enthusiasm.

Kern County in particular has seen a flurry of oil activity since 2011, with most of the test wells drilled by independent exploratory companies. Major oil companies have expressed doubts for years about recovering much of the oil.

The problem lies with the geology of the Monterey Shale, a 1,750-mile formation running down the center of California roughly from Sacramento to the Los Angeles basin and including some coastal regions.

Unlike heavily fracked shale deposits in North Dakota and Texas, which are relatively even and layered like a cake, Monterey Shale has been folded and shattered by seismic activity, with the oil found at deeper strata.

Geologists have long known that the rich deposits existed but they were not thought recoverable until the price of oil rose and the industry developed acidization, which eats away rocks, and fracking, the process of injecting millions of gallons of water laced with sand and chemicals deep underground to crack shale formations.

The new analysis from the Energy Information Administration was based, in part, on a review of the output from wells where the new techniques were used.

“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,” said John Staub, a petroleum exploration and production analyst who led the energy agency’s research.

“Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates,” Staub said.

Compared with oil production from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, “the Monterey formation is stagnant,” Staub said. He added that the potential for recovering the oil could rise if new technology is developed.

A spokesman for the oil industry expressed optimism that new techniques will eventually open up the Monterey formation.

“We have a lot of confidence in the intelligence and skill of our engineers and geologists to find ways to adapt,” said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn. “As the technologies change, the production rates could also change dramatically.”

Rock Zierman, chief executive of the trade group California Independent Petroleum Assn., which represents many independent exploration companies, also sounded hopeful.

“The smart money is still investing in California oil and gas,” Zierman said.

“The oil is there,” Zierman said. “But this is a tough business.”

Environmental organizations welcomed the news as a turning point in what had been a rush to frack for oil in the Monterey formation.

“The narrative of fracking in the Monterey Shale as necessary for energy independence just had a big hole blown in it,” said Seth B. Shonkoff, executive director of the nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy.

J. David Hughes, a geoscientist and spokesman for the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute, said the Monterey formation “was always mythical mother lode puffed up by the oil industry — it never existed.”

Hughes wrote in a report last year that “California should consider its economic and energy future in the absence of an oil production boom from the Monterey Shale.”

The 2011 estimate was done by the Virginia engineering firm Intek Inc.

Christopher Dean, senior associate at Intek, said Tuesday that the firm’s work “was very broad, giving the federal government its first shot at an estimate of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale. They got more data over time and refined the estimate.”

For California, the analysis throws cold water on economic projections built upon Intek’s projections.

In 2013, a USC analysis, funded in part by the Western States Petroleum Assn., predicted that the Monterey Shale formation could, by 2020, boost California’s gross domestic product by 14%, add $24.6 billion per year in tax revenue and generate 2.8 million new jobs.

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

 

WWF and SAFM host a debate on fracking. Will President Zuma tune in?


Decisive Debate

Full Canadian scientific report released amongst industry furore


As the full report on fracking – issued by the Council of Canadian Academies was released, the oil and gas industry – quite predictably are running around trying to do damage control.

Typical industry response as in the quote from David Pryce of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was “We would not agree with that. The fact that we’ve been in this business for decades in the natural gas business and 10 years in the business of hydraulic fracturing, we’ve got a great deal of experience in this place.”

The sheer audacity of such a statement in the face of this report can only be based on one underlying fact – they make their money out of oil and gas production. Of course they would not want to ‘agree’ with the report. Moreover, to make such a statement on the day that the full report is released suggests a careless arrogance, and begs the question:

“How can the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers make a judgement call on a report that they have not yet even read through, let alone studied”?

Having downloaded the report (available here) I provide an excerpt detailing the scientists and specialists involved in authoring and releasing the report, as well as the reviewers and the final protocol observed in the compilation, review and release of the report. In my view, this is a substantial body of work that cannot be brushed aside by political leaders.

“The report should be viewed by the ANC and the organs of the South African Government charged with responsibility, or involved in any decisions on Minerals and Petroleum as a serious reason to step back from the euphoric rush to pursue shale gas mining in this country under the current circumstances.” – Jonathan Deal

HERE FOLLOWS THE NAMES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THE EXPERT PANEL: [emphasis of specialisation added for ease of reference]

Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction

John Cherry, FRSC (Chair), Director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research, Associate Director of G360 – Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)

Michael Ben-Eli, Founder & Director of the Sustainability Laboratory (New York, NY)

Lalita Bharadwaj, Associate Professor, Toxicologist, School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)

Richard Chalaturnyk, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Maurice B. Dusseault, Part-Time Professor of Engineering Geology, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

Bernard Goldstein, Professor of Environmental and Public Health, GraduateSchool of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jean-Paul Lacoursière, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, QC)

Ralph Matthews, Professor, Department of Sociology, the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC); Professor Emeritus of Sociology, McMaster University

Bernhard Mayer, Professor of Isotope Geochemistry, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

John Molson, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology of Fractured Porous Media, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Laval University (Québec, QC)

Kelly Munkittrick, Director, Monitoring, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (Calgary, AB)

Naomi Oreskes, Professor, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Beth Parker, Director, G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)

Paul Young, FRSC, Vice President (Research) & Professor of Geophysics, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

This list of specialists, and the openness with which the report has been treated is in direct contrast to the conduct of the South African Department of Minerals which conducted an insular and secret investigation, releasing a document to the South African Cabinet, which lead to that body authorising the Minister of Minerals to lift the moratorium on shale gas mining in South Africa, under the conclusion that ‘Shale gas mining can be done safely.” – Jonathan Deal

HERE FOLLOWS THE NAMES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THE REVIEWERS AND THE PROTOCOL APPLIED:

“Report Review

This report was reviewed in draft form by the individuals listed below — a

group of reviewers selected by the Council of Canadian Academies for their

diverse perspectives, areas of expertise, and broad representation of academic,

industrial, policy, and non-governmental organizations.[emphasis added]

The reviewers assessed the objectivity and quality of the report. Their

submissions — which will remain confidential — were considered in full by

the Panel, and many of their suggestions were incorporated into the report.

They were not asked to endorse the conclusions, nor did they see the final

draft of the report before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this

report rests entirely with the authoring Panel and the Council.

The Council wishes to thank the following individuals for their review of

this report:

Tom Al, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB)

Stefan Bachu, Distinguished Scientist, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (Edmonton, AB)

Paul Jeakins, Commissioner and CEO, BC Oil and Gas Commission (Victoria, BC)

René Lefebvre, Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) (Québec, QC)

Karlis Muehlenbachs, Professor of Geochemistry, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

M. Anne Naeth, Professor, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Robert Page, Director, Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Kent Perry, Vice President, Onshore Programs, Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (Houston, TX)

Edward Sudicky, FRSC, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

Jason Switzer, Co-Director, National Projects and Consulting Group, Pembina Institute (Calgary, AB)

Report Review xi

The report review procedure was monitored on behalf of the Council’s Board

of Governors and Scientific Advisory Committee by Dr. John Hepburn, FRSC,

Vice-President, Research and International, University of British Columbia. [emphasis added]

The role of the report review monitor is to ensure that the panel gives full and

fair consideration to the submissions of the report reviewers. The Board of the

Council authorizes public release of an expert panel report only after the report

review monitor confirms that the Council’s report review requirements have

been satisfied. [Emphasis added] The Council thanks Dr. Hepburn for his diligent contribution

as report review monitor.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, O.C., President and CEO

Council of Canadian Academies

Canadian report on shale gas mining is a warning for the ANC


Breaking news from a leaked Canadian report on fracking reveal serious concerns underpinned by scientific investigation. The report commissioned in 2012 by former Canadian environment minister Peter Kent, has been developed by the  Council of Canadian Academies, ‘an arm’s-length scientific body to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.

Many of the impacts, risks and conclusions drawn in the report have since 2011, been hi-lighted by TKAG and other South African stakeholders in formal communication to the South African public and various departments of the South African government as well as the Cabinet of South Africa.

Despite these caveats, now convincingly echoed from afar, the ANC has made it clear that they will be pursuing shale gas mining in SA – “The development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences.” [President Jacob Zuma in his State of The Nation Address in Cape Town http://bit.ly/1o5LGRo]

Among the risks and concerns mentioned in a pre-release of the report, are the following excerpts:

[…publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate...]
[… Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development …]
[… Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts…]
[… Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive…]
[… While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts…]
[…The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable …] 
[… Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution …]

This report – soon to be available in an unabridged version is a vindication of the position that those opposed to shale gas mining have held in SA since 2011. Scientific documents of this nature, readily available to the ANC and its heads of Department will greet the organisation in Court when it has to justify its position and action in pushing this technology into South Africa in the manner in which it has stated it will do.

“The ANC and its ministers still have an opportunity to avoid a blunder on a global scale – or they can pugnaciously forge ahead with their stated intention to let fracking loose in South Africa.” – Jonathan Deal

Here is an abridged version of the report and a link:http://bit.ly/1iBPISf

FURTHER COMMENT / ADDITIONAL DATA : Jonathan Deal 023-358-9903  jonathan.deal@treasurethekaroo.co.za or Jeanie Le Roux – 072-959-1818 research@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Fracking’s greatest risk is water contamination: leaked report

APTOPIX Fracking A Closer Look

A landmark report commissioned by Environment Canada has found water contamination to be the greatest threat posed by the shale gas extraction method known as fracking.

The “Expert Panel on Harnessing Science & Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction” report finds publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate while pointing to a long list of potential negative environmental effects — of which water contamination is the most worrisome.

“Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development,” says the report’s executive summary, a copy of which was obtained by iPolitics Wednesday.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions, seismic activity, socioeconomic disruption and poor scientific monitoring also pose a problem for shale gas extraction, an established industry in British Columbia and Alberta but with potential in eastern provinces, the report says.

Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts, says the report’s conclusion.

“Well-targeted science is required to ensure a better understanding of the environmental impacts of shale gas development,” it says. “Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive.”

The report focuses specifically on shale gas extraction, which has been made possible thanks to advancements in two technologies: horizontal drilling along shale rock formations and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Shale deposits have been identified around the world, but North America is ground zero for the so-called ‘shale boom’.

Adequate regulation of shale gas fracking has been a pressing question for the industry, which has been the target of documentaries and environmentalist campaigns in the U.S. over the past several years.

The anxiety over shale gas fracking eventually led former environment minister Peter Kent to commission the report in 2012. He asked the Council of Canadian Academies, an arm’s-length scientific body Ottawa occasionally turns to for advice, to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.

The council encountered a scientific field riddled with unknowns.

“While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts,” the report says.

A lot of information isn’t known, and a lot that is isn’t public, says the report. “As a result, many pertinent questions are hard to answer objectively and scientifically.”

Despite the knowledge gaps, the consensus among the panelists is that water contamination is the greatest threat. The report says a gas leak into groundwater poses the highest risk, which could happen if the gas travelled around the well or if it leaked through an improperly installed casing.

“The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable,” the report says.

There’s a second potential route for contamination, the report says. Fracking takes place inside rock about 1,000 meters below the surface and involves the breaking up of shale to release pockets of natural gas. The region where fracking occurs is much deeper than the groundwater level, but if there are pathways in the shale rock there’s a risk that natural gas — along with the fluids and chemicals used in fracking — could leak into groundwater, says the report.

“The migration of gases and saline fluids through these pathways over the long term could result in potentially substantial cumulative impacts on water quality,” it says. But, “There is no known case of hydraulic fracturing fluid migration from deep shale gas zones to groundwater level directly through the rock.”

The climate change impacts of fracking could be positive if fracking leads to natural gas displacing more carbon-intensive fuels like coal, the report says.

But if the shale boom takes investment away from renewable power, it could make things worse, it says.

Potential seismic effects are minimal, but a greater threat comes from the storage of wastewater in emptied-out gas pockets, it says. The council says seismic monitoring can reduce impacts.

Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution, the report says. A general lack of social acceptance and trust is also undermining the public’s understanding of shale gas, it says.

“Psychosocial impacts have also been reported,” it says. “Lack of transparency and conflicting messages can lead to the perception that industry or authorities are not forthcoming, which can augment concern about individual quality of life and contribute to feelings of anxiety about the future.”

The provinces, which have varying degrees of regulation when it comes to fracking, are ultimately responsible for making sure the industry operates responsibly, the report says. There will be governance challenges, however, given the disparate impacts of the industry on those near the operations and those who benefit, it says.

B.C. is nurturing the exploration of its shale gas with the aim of becoming a hub for the export of liquified natural gas. Quebec and Nova Scotia currently have moratoriums on fracking while New Brunswick is updating regulations for the divisive shale gas operations happening there.

The federal government — which has some jurisdiction over the shale gas boom through its regulation of toxic chemicals, emissions and fish habitat — has been sponsoring research programs on fracking’s impact while waiting for the Council of Canadian Academies report.

The report will be released officially in full tomorrow.

/ENDS