Frakkin' awesome....the technique previously used for gas could increase the yield of existing US oil reserves to unimagined size, with incredible implications for as yet unknown reserves as well.
Let's make sure the process can be done safely, get it figured out, and let the leases flow. It's time to start expanding supply instead of constricting it.
A new drilling technique is opening up vast fields of previously out-of-reach oil in the western United States, helping reverse a two-decade decline in domestic production of crude.
Companies are investing billions of dollars to get at oil deposits scattered across North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and California. By 2015, oil executives and analysts say, the new fields could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.
This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.
"That's a significant contribution to energy security," says Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Credit Suisse.
Oil engineers are applying what critics say is an environmentally questionable method developed in recent years to tap natural gas trapped in underground shale. They drill down and horizontally into the rock, then pump water, sand and chemicals into the hole to crack the shale and allow gas to flow up.
Because oil molecules are sticky and larger than gas molecules, engineers thought the process wouldn't work to squeeze oil out fast enough to make it economical. But drillers learned how to increase the number of cracks in the rock and use different chemicals to free up oil at low cost.
"We've completely transformed the natural gas industry, and I wouldn't be surprised if we transform the oil business in the next few years too," says Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, which is using the technique.
Petroleum engineers first used the method in 2007 to unlock oil from a 25,000-square-mile formation under North Dakota and Montana known as the Bakken. Production there rose 50 percent in just the past year, to 458,000 barrels a day, according to Bentek Energy, an energy analysis firm.
It was first thought that the Bakken was unique. Then drillers tapped oil in a shale formation under South Texas called the Eagle Ford. Drilling permits in the region grew 11-fold last year.
Now newer fields are showing promise, including the Niobrara, which stretches under Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas; the Leonard, in New Mexico and Texas; and the Monterey, in California.
"It's only been fleshed out over the last 12 months just how consequential this can be," says Mark Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources, the company that first used horizontal drilling to tap shale oil. "And there will be several additional plays that will come about in the next 12 to 18 months. We're not done yet."
Environmentalists fear that fluids or wastewater from the process, called hydraulic fracturing, could pollute drinking water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency is now studying its safety in shale drilling. The agency studied use of the process in shallower drilling operations in 2004 and found that it was safe.
This is not breaking news. Nothing new in that article. Fracking for oil has been in the news for awhile. The research re effects is a work in progress Too early to say whether fracking is practicable and safe in enough places to fulfill the optimistic forecast of that article.
Yeah, I'm not big on the idea of fracking either. Way too easy to pollute our underground aquifers.
-------------- "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
If the technique must involve injecting tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into the ground, year after year, for who knows how many years, then a blanket ban sounds pretty good.
Oil, gas 'fracking' risk detailed February 1, 2011
WASHINGTON - Twelve companies may have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act when using diesel fuel to extract oil and gas in 19 states, House Democrats charged Monday.
A yearlong investigation into hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" - a process to get oil and gas from deep inside the earth - by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce found oil and gas companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or fluids containing diesel fuel into the ground in 19 states between 2005 and 2009.
An 11-page letter signed by committee leaders was sent to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Although the House investigation did not find any evidence of contaminated drinking water, committee Democrats and the EPA worry about how close to water supplies some fracking that used diesel fuel - which has proven harmful to human health - took place.
"We've been told for some years that the companies were not putting diesel in the fracking fluid. This is the first time that the evidence has come out that they have had a blatant disregard for that," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. said. "This is a widespread and concerning problem."
According to the article, in 2005, the EPA mandated that anyone using diesel fuel in fracking obtain a permit from the EPA.
Blatant disregard for rules, regulations, the EPA and known science is cause for an immediate suspension (not a ban) to any practice that the EPA mandates permits for (if the permits have not been obtained), until processes acceptable to the EPA can be put into place, a permit obtained, and certainly fines issued.
On the other hand, according to the article, a permitting process has not yet been put in place by the EPA, so there's no way to obtain a permit.
I'm interested to know the background on the permitting issue - have the oil & gas companies tried to work with EPA in getting a permitting process into place? Has the EPA simply dragged their feet? Oil & gas companies have scientists on the payroll, and scientists outside the industry are watching, too. I wonder what the delay is?
It looks to me like (my own opinion) the Companies are getting what they can before there is a permit process, which is likely to be costly and time-consuming for each drill site. Not sure if it can be considered illegal if there's no permit to apply for if a permit is required.
-------------- "...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."
What needs to happen is both sides need to be held to a reasonable standard...the EPA should not be able to require permits they don't even have a process for, and 'immediate suspension' should not be allowed to run so long it is a defacto ban, just without calling it a ban.
Drillers need to be observing the existing rules and trying to work with the reasonable requirements of the EPA instead of stonewalling them in return by merely doing what they wish when they know they're in violation. There's no excuse for continuing to use faulty practices in areas where they are already resulting in known damages.
-------------- Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
It looks to me like (my own opinion) the Companies are getting what they can before there is a permit process
Ya think? It might be the normal way of conducting business for the oil and gas industry.
New technology is developed, regulations to safeguard the citizens and environment take years to implement, the industry races to utilize the new technology and reap profits, tossing aside all ethical and common sense safety and environmental practices, and lying about it during the entire process.
When bad practices are discovered -- either by chance or by accident a la BP oil spill -- both sides of our government cry foul, the oil and gas lobbyists continue the flow of money to the government, and if there any sanctions they amount to a slap on the wrist.
Our citizens and environment are left poisoned, and oil and gas increase their earnings per share. Our unquenchable thirst for oil continues.
Welcome to the world.
-------------- “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.”
— Harry S. Truman
Blue Dome, yeah, I get it. But in reading the one article I've read on the subject, it doesn't look like they're doing anything legally wrong - if the article is correct and the whole story is told (no way to obtain a permit, and no way for EPA to deny a permit) that's the fault of EPA. Morally, yeah, it's wrong as hell. There are probably some scientists out there who should have their titles take away, and citizens should demand better of EPA.
The Obama Administration (and those before it) have been trying to come up with a Federal uniform standard of best available science standards (Washington state's has a Bill currently in legislature), and incidents like this, BP, and Hanford are prime examples of why this needs to be put on a burner other than the back one (did you read the Hanford article a few weeks ago? The White House is having DOE practices investigated on that one - and since it's a CERCLA program, they don't have to abide by NEPA)
-------------- "...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."
. . . it doesn't look like they're doing anything legally wrong - if the article is correct and the whole story is told (no way to obtain a permit, and no way for EPA to deny a permit) that's the fault of EPA.
Don't be so quick to blame the EPA unless you can confirm that legislation empowers the EPA to regulate fracking. Groundwater issues have typically been within the purview of state and local regulators, although the Safe Drinking Water Act federalized some of that regulation (over the cries of states rights fearmongers). But I'm not sure what the SDWA covers. I'm pretty certain that the Clean Water Act does not cover groundwater.
Reading between the lines, it appears that EPA is determining whether fracking pollutes waters which are in EPA's jurisdiction (SWDA?). That is, it appears that EPA's hands are tied until it determines that fracking pollutes water within the EPA's jurisdiction. The petro extraction industry is lobbying to have fracking regulated at the state and local level, where it's cheaper and easier to influence the regulators.
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