Category Archives: Natural Gas

To Frack Or To Freak? The Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing On Our Environment

By: Robert Miles, July 2013

Hydraulic fracturing drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming with mountain range in background.
Drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline (Linda Baker)

Natural gas produced from shale formations, commonly referred to as “shale gas”, has become increasingly important in the energy supply market for the U.S. and worldwide. Obtaining natural gas from shale reserves was not considered economically feasible until recently because of low permeability of the shale rock formations. New developments in hydraulic fracturing technology have led to a boom in domestic shale gas production since massive scale utilization in 2003. The United States has experienced economic benefits via revenue and job creation in predominantly rural areas while simultaneously increasing the energy security of the U.S. by decreasing dependence on foreign oil supplies. However, the resounding question remains: at what cost? In order to realize the implications of this question we first need to understand some basics about the hydraulic fracturing process and the uncertainties that continue to surround the shale gas industry. In this report I will primarily focus on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and well development, but it is important to realize that direct impacts on the environment can and will extend to affect human health.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a stimulation process used to extract natural gas, and in some cases oil, from deep shale reserves 5,000-8,000 feet below the ground surface. This process allows energy companies to access previously unavailable energy sources in states that have deep oil and gas reserves. The fracking process involves pumping a mixture of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into a well, which fractures the surrounding rock formation and props open passages that allow natural gas to freely flow from rock fractures to the production well. Once the well is developed, the carrying fluid can then flow back to the ground surface along with the gas.

Continue reading To Frack Or To Freak? The Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing On Our Environment

Enhanced Geothermal Systems promise dispatchable zero carbon power

Icelandic Geothermal Power Plant by Scott Ableman at Flickr

Geothermal energy is the Earth’s own internal heat. It’s a huge potential resource, but so far it’s seen only very limited use. Traditional geothermal power can only work where there are naturally existing hydrothermal systems that bring the heat of the interior to the surface. A new technique called enhanced (or engineered) geothermal systems (EGS) may make geothermal power much more widely available. If it can be scaled up commercially, EGS will enable us to create hydrothermal systems anywhere there’s hot rock not too deeply buried — which includes a large swath of Colorado. This is potentially significant in the context of creating a zero-carbon electrical system because like hydroelectricity, and unlike wind and solar, geothermal power can be dispatchable: you can turn it on and off at will. This makes it a great complement to intermittent renewable power, as it can be used to fill in the gaps then the wind’s not blowing or the sun’s not shining.  It remains to be seen whether it’s technically feasible, and if so at what price, and on what timeline, but it’s certainly worth investigating.

Continue reading Enhanced Geothermal Systems promise dispatchable zero carbon power

USGS: Recent Earthquakes “Almost Certainly Manmade”

A recent study done by the US Geological Survey (USGS), published by Seismological Society of America, states that the recent increase in hydraulic fracturing may be directly correlated to the increased number of earthquakes.

According to the study led by US Geological Survey geophysicist William Ellsworth, the recent surge of earthquakes since 2001 near oil and gas extraction operations is “almost certainly man-made.” In 1991- 2001 oil and gas companies drilled 245,000 wells in the U.S. compared to 405,000 wells between 2001 and 2010 — a 65% increase.

Between the states of Alabama to Montana there were 134 earthquakes last year, which is a sixfold increase compared to the levels of earth quakes in the 20th century. The scientists believe that the increase in earthquakes is because of the increase of drilling sites along with the increase of fluid being injected into the ground.

For the USGS study visit here

For original article, please visit: The Environmental Working Group 

Public Hearing on Boulder County Fracking Moratorium: March 1st, 4pm

The Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on March 1 to consider terminating, renewing or otherwise amending the temporary moratorium that has been placed on Boulder County’s processing of applications for oil and gas development in the unincorporated county.

As part of this proceeding the commissioners will consider the need for staff to continue evaluating, drafting and processing appropriate amendments to the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Code governing future oil and gas development.

*What*:  Public hearing on oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County
*When*:  Thursday, March 1 at 4 p.m.
*Where*: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, Boulder County Courthouse, third floor, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

Residents and other interested parties will then have time to comment (three-minute limit per individual speaker). Comments may be also submitted to commissioners@bouldercounty.org.

On Feb. 2 the commissioners approved a temporary moratorium on the processing of the required development plans for local oil and gas permits under the county Land Use Code (Resolution 2012-16<http://www.bouldercounty.org/apps/newsroom/articlefiles/2986-Resolution%202012-16.pdf>) and released a statement<http://www.bouldercounty.org/apps/newsroom/templates/bc.aspx?articleid=2986&zoneid=1>detailing their concerns about the potential for significantly expanded oil and gas drilling within the county.

Visit http://www.bouldercounty.org/dept/landuse/pages/oilgas.aspx for more information.

Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap Unveiled: Thurs, 2/16, 7pm

Clean Energy Action is pleased to present:

The Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap: A Strategic Plan to Make Colorado the National Leader in Solar Thermal Development

with Laurent Meillon, co-founder of the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado.

Thursday, February 16, 2010; 7-9 pm
Refreshments at 6:30

West Boulder Senior Center;
909 Arapahoe Avenue Boulder, CO 80302

The Presentation:

The newly-released Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap, conceived of by the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado, is a strategic plan to make Colorado a global leader in solar thermal development. Adoption, installation, manufacturing, and research & development of solar thermal technologies could boost Colorado’s economy, generate jobs, and help build a sustainable energy future. Solar thermal technologies are promising alternatives to environmentally hazardous fossil fuel-burning heating sources.

Colorado is strategically poised to seize national leadership in the solar thermal industry—and the vast economic benefits that come with it. Due to Colorado’s dramatic daily temperature swings, abundant sunshine, cold groundwater, and annual heating loads, solar thermal heating technologies perform better in Colorado than in any other state according to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Please join Clean Energy Action for a special presentation by Laurent Meillon on the Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap, the economic and environmental benefits of this technology, and the path forward for solar thermal development.

To view the Roadmap, click here.

Speaker Bio:

Laurent Meillon is a co-founder of STAC, the Solar Thermal Alliance of Colorado, a joint venture of CRES and COSEIA to create a long-term roadmap for solar thermal in our state. Meillon is also the director of Capitol Solar Energy, a Colorado business with 30 years of continuous focus on solar thermal. Capitol Solar Energy focuses on the design, installation and service of solar thermal systems, ranging from simple domestic hot water systems, to more complex residential combination systems addressing hot water, space heating and a pool or spa, to even larger commercial or multi-family solar thermal systems. Since receiving an MBA from Madison, WI and through his 20 year professional career, Meillon has focused on business development in various industries, as well as environmental activism.