Proper Assessment of Shale Oil

by Catherine Parsekian

According to the results of a study done in China by Li et. al (2016), there is no method for measuring oil potential in shale reservoirs that includes both residual oil contents in the rocks as well as hydrocarbon expulsion and migration conditions. Li and his colleagues developed soon an index for determining oil potential. If the index is greater than zero, then some of the oil has migrated to external reservoirs which means that it has poor shale oil potential. Li et. al. argue that because current methods include absorbed, as well as free hydrocarbons, they are overvaluing the shale oil and not looking at oil that can readily be used. The method developed in this paper has multiple parameters and is a more comprehensive measurement since it takes into account oil saturation, free oil content, and shale oil expulsion. Continue reading

Shale Gas Fracking Causing Friction in the UK

by Dominique Curtis

Controversy in the UK community has sparked over shale gas. Whitmarsh (2015) discusses how shale gas is the newest project the UK government has suggested to help reduce their reliance on energy ports. The community has questioned the UK’s method of fracking to extract the shale gas because fracking is known to use large amounts of water and the chemicals used in the process are toxic. Researchers and the UK government have tried to explain the great benefits that shale gas will have on the economy and the environment while attempting to pacify the communities’ concerns. Environmental groups still protested about how fracking will contaminate and decrease the availability of water supply, and cause erosion and changes in the temperature of the water in aquatic habitats. Continue reading

Hydraulic Fracturing History

This is a guest post by Faith Munsell, 

Meeting the energy needs of our planet’s seven billion people while protecting the environment at the same time is a balancing act.

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking,” or “fracing”) was somewhat uncommon until 2003, when energy companies broadened natural gas exploration to shale formations in West Virginia, Texas, Utah, Maryland, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled in 2004 that hydraulic fracturing was not threatening to water supplies, and not long after, the Bush administration excluded the practice from the Safe Water Drinking Act. Continue reading

The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy?

by Emil Morhardt

Barack Obama has been busy during his last days in office writing well-documented policy articles for major publications. Barely a week before turning over the Presidential reigns to Donald Trump he has commented in some detail in Science about how, in his view, the clean energy horse has left the barn and is unlikely to be stopped even by it’s most fervent detractors (Obama, 2017). He cites four reasons for believing this. The first is that as the US economy has grown, emissions have fallen; since 2008, the amount of energy consumed per dollar of GDP has fallen by 11%, the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy has fallen by 8%, and the CO2 emitted per dollar of GDP has fallen by 18%. Furthermore, worldwide the amount of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were essentially the same as 2014, despite economic growth. He also points out that carbon pollution is increasingly expensive. Given the rhetoric of the incoming administration, though, this reasoning alone doesn’t appear to assure continuing in the same direction. Continue reading

In Canada, unlike the American Midwest, Earthquakes are Induced Directly by Fracking, rather than by Wastewater Reinjection

by Emil Morhardt

The seismicity induced by oil and gas operations in Oklahoma generally appears to be caused by reinjection of wastewater coming out with oil and gas rather than the increase hydraulic pressure from fracking directly. Not so in western Canada where much less wastewater is produced and injected, but there is nevertheless considerable induced seismicity tightly clustered in space and time near hydraulic fracking sites, according to Xuewei Bao and David W. Eaton (2016) writing in Science.

The figure from the paper (above) shows locations of seismicity in northwestern Alberta, anda from 1985-2016. The locations of the largest earthquakes are shown by date. Continue reading

Court Case in Desoto Parish

by Nelson Cole

It was recently discovered my grandfather signed to join in a lawsuit just before he passed away. The lawsuit is a dispute regarding who owns the mineral rights (i.e. the oil & gas) under the 300 acres: the Whorton Family (and others) or an oil exploration company who leased the mineral rights in 1982.

At the trial court, the Whorton Family won. In the attached appellate decision, the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and sent the case back for a full trial on the issue. The explanation for the court’s decision and analysis of the energy companies actions are provided below. Continue reading

Louisiana Oil and Gas Association

by Nelson Cole

An article written by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) clearly explains the process of horizontal fracking in sedimentary shale rock located over 10,000 feet below the Earth’s surface. The article addresses all concerns that local land owners and communities could have. This article should be referred to those who have concerns regarding horizontal fracturing. I found the information to be very helpful when providing it to my own family. My father’s family owns close to 250 acres of land in Desoto Parish, Louisiana and with my grandfather recently passing my father and family join many other landowners and residents in having concerns of being exploited by major gas companies who are rapidly increasing production in the northwest region of Louisiana. Continue reading

Hydraulic Fracking in Abita Springs, Louisiana

by Nelson Cole

Near Abita Springs, Louisiana; Helis Oil and Gas Company has been granted permission to use hydraulic fracturing to reach gas 13,000 feet underground (Louisiana Advocate). Local residents hoped to cancel the wetlands permit that was issued to Helis Oil in January 2015, requesting instead that they search for alternative destinations. After a year of delay on January 12th federal Judge Carl Barbier rejected the community’s efforts on a basis of what he felt to be a “lack of merit.” According to Barbier, the plaintiff (community residents) failed to suggest alternative drilling sites. Also, Helis provided “clear evidence that there were no other locations in the state that did not involve wetlands” (Louisiana Record). Thus because all other drilling sites are in wetlands the judge evidently felt this one should be permitted to be as well. Continue reading

Risks that Hydraulic Fracturing Poses to Water Sources

by Alex Frumkin

There has been a rapid increase in shale gas development in the united States due to the increase in use of hydraulic fracturing to access these shale beds. The rise of hydraulic fracturing has lead to intense public debates about the potential environmental and human health effects from hydraulic fracturing. Vengosh at el. (2014) identifies four potential areas of risks for water resources from hydraulic fracturing: contamination of shallow aquifers due to stray gas contamination, contamination of surface water and shallow groundwater from spills, leaks, and/or the disposal of inadequately treated shale gas wastewater, accumulation of toxic and radioactive elements in soil near disposal or spill sides, and the over extraction of water resources that could induce water shortages. To be able to fully understand the water contamination risks associated with hydraulic fracturing there needs to be an in depth investigation of the hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry, and isotopic tracers for identifying what the cause of the water contamination is. Continue reading

Distance: a Critical Aspect for Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing

by Alex Frumkin

Hydraulic fracturing is the process used to access than one-half o the U.S.’ natural gas supply and is rapidly changing the energy supplies in the United States. The popularity of unconventional drilling is increasing over the past decade, and scientists are continuing to analyze the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. While public concerns are encouraging scientists to continue to evaluate the possible adverse effects related to hydraulic fracturing, Ming et al. (2014) focus on understanding the current research of these environmental impacts within a spatial content. The authors set out to better understand what the environmental impacts related to how close an area or home is to an active fracking well. They find that there are five key areas that are more likely to be impacted due to proximity to a gas well. These five areas are that the closer drinking and groundwater are to a fracking site the more likely the water is to be contaminated, that residents living nearest to fracking wells will experience higher human health risks, high density gas emissions are detected, small earthquakes are more frequent and common near a fracking well, and that there are changes to the landscape characteristics. These assessments are imperative for better understanding the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on both the environment and on human’s health. Continue reading