Fracking consumes incredible amounts of water, toxic chemicals and speciality sand

Fracking industry water use rises as drill lengths increase — Marcellus region shows smallest increase in water use but quadruples frack waste from 2011-16

From an Article by Jon Hurdle, State-Impact Penna., August 15, 2018

Water use for fracking by oil and gas operators in the Marcellus Shale region rose 20 percent between 2011 and 2016 as longer laterals were drilled to fracture more gas-bearing rock, even though the pace of well development slowed in response to low natural gas prices, a Duke University study said on Wednesday.

The rise was the smallest of any of the six U.S. regions studied, including the Permian Basin area of Texas, where water use surged by 770 percent over the period.

The study also said the volume of fracking waste water produced in the Marcellus – which includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia, eastern Ohio and southern New York, where fracking is banned — rose four-fold to 600,000 gallons in 2016, forcing energy companies to rely increasingly on holding the waste in underground injection wells.

But the Marcellus waste water increase was also significantly smaller than other regions, where it rose as high as 1,440 percent during the period, the report said.

Although fewer new wells were drilled during the period than in the early stages of the fracking boom, more water was needed because longer wells required the fracturing of more rock, said Andrew Kondash, the paper’s lead author. The median water use per Marcellus well rose to 7.4 million gallons in 2016 from 6.1 million gallons in 2011, Kondash said.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows the fracking industry is having an increasing impact on water resources after more than a decade of operation, said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,” he said in a statement.

The study, titled “The Intensification of the Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing,” was based on six years of data from industry, government, and nonprofit groups on water use and waste-water production at more than 12,000 wells in major shale gas and tight-oil producing regions.

The data were used to model future water use and waste-water volumes, and concluded that if oil and gas prices recover to levels last seen in the early 2010s, water and waste water volumes could surge by as much as 50 times in unconventional gas-producing regions such as Pennsylvania by 2030.

Even if gas prices stay at current low levels, the model predicts large increases in water and waste-water volumes by 2030, Kondash said.

Natural gas futures have traded below $5 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange for most of the last eight years amid plentiful supply from the Marcellus and other major U.S. shale reserves. On Monday, the contract ended at $2.93, and has shown little movement this year.

The Duke study is in line with one by Pennsylvania State University in 2015 showing that fracked wells in Pennsylvania used about three times as much water in 2014 than they did in 2009 as drilled laterals extended to an average of 7,000 feet from 2,200 feet.

Those wells produced about three times as much gas and three times as much waste water, said Dave Yoxtheimer, an extension associate with the university’s Marcellus Center for Research and Outreach, and a co-author of the study. He said there has been a roughly ten-fold increase in gas production in the Appalachian Basin since 2010.

The use of water per foot didn’t change much over the Penn State study period, but the big extension of laterals underground consumed a lot more water, he said. “Certainly as you see longer laterals and greater production you’ll use more water and generate more brine,” Yoxtheimer said.

The longer laterals have been enabled by improvements in technology, said John Quigley, former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and now director of the Center for the Environment, Energy and Economy at Harrisburg University.

Demand is also fueled by the fact that some 80 percent of water used in fracking remains underground, even though more of it is being recycled, he said, arguing that increased use of injection wells to hold frack waste water threatens ground water and increases the risk of seismic activity, as seen in some locations where minor earthquakes have been reported near injection sites.

Quigley said pressure on water supplies for fracking is likely to intensify if climate change brings droughts, as predicted, possibly forcing energy companies to curtail fracking. That outlook may improve the prospects for adoption of waterless fracking technologies that use CO2, LPG or nitrogen instead, he said.

The Duke report echoed the concern about the sustainability of fracking in arid regions such as the U.S. Southwest where groundwater supplies are stressed or limited.

Duke’s Vengosh said the report, after more than a decade of the so-called fracking boom, provides a more accurate picture of the industry’s water use than earlier studies which used only the early years of the boom to conclude that fracking didn’t use any more water than other energy sources. “We now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources,” he said.

An industry representative said officials will review the Duke report in light of the industry’s current practice of managing fracking waste by reducing, recycling, treating and disposing of it in an environmentally sensitive manner.

“Throughout each step the focus is on environmentally sound and responsible methods of disposing of generated waste materials,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, a division of the American Petroleum Institute.


Response Comment from Anthony R. Ingraffea, August 16, 2018

In shale gas and oil, it has always been about SCALE: the stuff is so damn stingy you have to bludgeon it. Generation I wells used 3-5 millions gallons of water and 1-2 hundred pounds of sand per foot of lateral; gen II Wells, 5-10 million gallons, 500-1000 pounds of sand per foot; current gen III Wells, 10-30 million gallons, a ton of sand, and the laterals are now longer than 2 miles long. EIA forecasts a million more such wells in the next 20 years: you do the math. Might as well just transport The Fingerlakes and much of Wisconsin underground.

Getting so absurd that one needs a calculator with only scientific notation to run the numbers: 10 trillion gallons of water, 20 trillion pounds of sand. Think about the carbon footprint of acquiring and transporting it….

We have solutions to this nonsense.

Best, Tony Ingraffea, Physicians-Scientists-Engineers for Healthy Energy


See also: The Need to Protect Fresh and Brackish Groundwater Resources During Unconventional Oil and Gas Development | PSE | Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy


Reason is slow and difficult to achieve on pipelines

New Atlantic Coast Pipeline suit takes aim at FERC approval, which underpins the whole project

From an Article by Robert Zullo, Virginia Mercury, August 16, 2018

A federal court in Richmond that has served as a major legal battlefield this summer over federal and state permits for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines got a new case added to its docket Thursday.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a challenge to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the federal approval that underpins the entire project and conveys the right to seize land from uncooperative property owners along the 600-mile route.

The new suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, the same court that has vacated several key permits for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

In response to the court’s action, FERC ordered construction halted last week on the ACP, developed by a group of energy companies led by Dominion Energy. On the same day, in a 2-1 vote, the agency’s commissioners denied a request for rehearing on the certificate.

At least two of FERC’s four sitting commissioners say the pipeline isn’t in the public interest. The fifth, Robert Powelson, left FERC this month.

In a dissent, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, who also voted last year against issuing certification for the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will cross into Pittsylvania County, said the ACP remains contrary to the public interest and that FERC should have explored more opportunities for co-locating the two projects.

Photo in original article: The Lewis F. Powell Jr. federal courthouse in Richmond is home to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which struck down a key approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Monday. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)
“I disagree with the commission’s approach to evaluating system and route alternatives, particularly in light of the recently-issued Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit) decision which vacated the National Park Service’s federal authorization allowing the ACP Project to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway,” LaFleur wrote, adding that she also took issue with how FERC treats climate and environmental effects.

Another commissioner, Richard Glick, abstained from the vote “solely to enable those parties challenging the certificate to have their day in court.”

Glick added that if he had voted, the rehearing order would have failed on a 2-2 vote and the “appellate courts would not have had jurisdiction to review the commission’s decision to grant the certificate.”

FERC has come under scrutiny for its use of “tolling orders” to prevent opponents of the projects it certifies from getting into court to fight them.

“I share many of the concerns articulated in Commissioner LaFleur’s dissenting opinion and I do not believe that the ACP Project has been shown to be in the public interest,” Glick wrote. “It is fundamentally unfair to deprive parties of an opportunity to pursue their claims in court, especially while pipeline construction is ongoing.”

The SELC and their allies have argued that the gas from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline isn’t needed for utilities, as the companies pushing the projects have insisted.

Gas-fired plants in Virginia and North Carolina are already connected to the existing system and testimony at the Virginia State Corporation Commission indicates that Virginia ratepayers could be on the hook for nearly $2.4 billion in extra costs because of the pipeline. FERC has guaranteed a 14 percent rate of return for the project, which could cost more than $6.5 billion.

‘”At a time when clean, renewable energy is affordable and abundant, the only reason to lock us into decades of dependence on climate-disrupting fracked gas is that polluting corporations are making billions of dollars off it. It’s a shame that we have to go to court to force FERC to do its job, but we are committed to using every available avenue to stop the ACP and all the other coal, oil and gas projects that threaten our climate and communities,” said Joan Walker, a representative with the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign,” in a statement.

Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The company has said it is “already working with the key agencies to resolve the issues in FERC’s order so we can resume construction as soon as possible.”


The Oil & Gas Industry Should Provide More Support for Education & Environment

August 17, 2018

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Grandma Puts Car on Blocks Before MVP Pipeline in Monroe County WV

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Pipeline Companies Unsympathetic to Concerned Local Residents

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ACP and MVP Should Be Permanently Halted — TNC Goes Off the Rails (Again)

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When the MVP Pipeline Runs Afoul of Government Rules? Authorities Change the Rules

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‘Climate Change … In Real Time’: California’s Frightening Fires Are the Nightmare Scientists Long Predicted

August 12, 2018

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Considered Opinion on Gas Pipelines and Eminent Domain in WV & VA

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Suicide More Likely With Increased Air Pollution Including Particulate Matter

August 10, 2018

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