Thursday, July 7, 2011

France becomes 1st country to ban fracking

Just as New Jersey recently became the first state in the country to ban fracking, we are learning that France has become the first country in the world to ban it.

The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.

The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country's lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.

The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill's critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.

Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.

[This article, by Davide Castelvecchi, appeared June 30, 2011 in the "Observations" blog on Scientific American's website.  To read the remainder of the article in its entirety, please click HERE.]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wellsboro family struggles with well contamination

"One morning the salamanders in their pond, where the water was 'pristine' according to tests done prior to drilling, began to die...."

The following article by Cheryl Clarke appeared in the Sun Chronicle on July 2, 2011:

A Charleston Township family's experience with natural gas drilling has become the latest story of contaminated well water associated with nearby drilling, in the ongoing Marcellus Shale saga, according to family member Jeremiah Gee.  Gee and his parents, Denise and Jerry, live next door to land that has been leased to Shell Appalachia for drilling, and last winter, a gas drilling site appeared about 100 yards from a pond on their property.  It now is known as the "Vandegrift 290" well site.

Gee, a doctorate candidate at Penn State University, said shortly thereafter the family noticed a change in its well water.  "We noticed that early on our faucets were sputtering, and the water was milky looking," Gee said.  The reason it looked like milk, he said, is "because there were a billion tiny gas bubbles in it, and if you set it on the counter, it clears up."  The gas bubbles also can be heard and seen in the Gee's water well, he said.  "If you open the casing you can see the gas bubbling in the well," he added.  Though there are no other contaminates in the well water-yet "we are not drinking the well water at this time," Gee said. "If you took a match out and dropped it in the well casing right now you would get a boom."

Gee said six natural gas wells have been drilled from the one pad, and "we noticed this after the completion activities began.  They call the whole process of completion activities a cycle," he said he was told by Shell officials. "They go to the end of a horizontal hole, perforate it, frack it, plug it and then move back and repeat the process a dozen or more times so," he added.  Shell had just started perforating two of the bores when the Gees noticed a difference in their water.  "Gas started bubbling in the 'cellars,' a deep culvert put around each well head to prevent gravel from collapsing the hole," Gee said. "It is not supposed to do that; the gas is supposed to be in the casing," he added.

DEP informed
Gee said Shell did not stop operations on the wells until the fact that his family could light their tapwater on fire was brought to the attention of the state Department of Environmental Protection.  Shell began taking steps to "mitigate" the problem last week.  Gee said the family has spoken to everyone involved with Shell from "the average Joe on up to the operations manager," with less than satisfactory results.

To read the remainder of the article in its entirety, please click HERE.