Hydraulic Fracturing a Continuing Innovative Disruptive Technology – Eliciting a Wide Range of Citizen Response and Potential Regulatory Outcomes

Several years back, the U.S. Congress urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. I have read the “draft” report, as well as many commentaries. It must be underscored that it is still a draft report awaiting comments and further steps before finalization.

It only makes sense to supplement this draft with knowledge gained from additional published texts on this subject. This post synthesizes available scientific literature and data to assess the potential for hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas to change the quality or quantity of drinking water resources, and identifies factors affecting the frequency or severity of any “potential” changes.

One notable passage, which has been held up as dispositive evidence by folks of highly varying positions reads as follows: “We conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources.” The report went on to note, “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

I have read and am currently reading again four excellent texts regarding the technical, technological, legal and sociological aspects related to hydraulic fracturing and related technologies. This is an effort to understand what will be the most likely application of the study’s conclusions in policy at the local, state, regional, national levels and ultimately in the final determinative cauldron of the marketplace. I hope to write extensively about the continued deployment of hydraulic fracturing, in tandem with other key technologies and continued process improvements and unforeseen new disruptive technologies. Below is a quick summary of these texts.

“Just the Fracks, Ma’am: The TRUTH About Hydrofracking and the Next Great American Boom” – 2012
By Greg Kozera

Just the Fracks, Ma’am does exactly what its title suggest – explaining the fracking process in non-technical terms so a person with limited knowledge or experience with hydraulic fracturing and its complementary technologies can easily understand the process. It’s an ideal starter piece to understanding what can be a very technical process.

“Lobbying, Business, Law and Public Policy” – 2015
By Mark Fagan, an Adjunct Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and also a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm Norbridge.

In a deep literature search on federal lobbying compliance, I came across this interesting book. Most notably, in pursuit of the efficacy associated with “active learning” employed in the classroom, the book has students seek a deeper understanding of lobbying registration, reporting and compliance by completing a number of assignments applied to the subject of hydraulic fracturing. The end goal is for students and readers of the book to better understand public policy development, especially the role of lobbying.

“Beyond the Fracking Wars” – 2013
By The American Bar Association

This is a guide for lawyers, public officials, planners, and citizens to meet a need for information about unconventional hydrocarbon development. This is less focused on the technical rigors of the regulatory process or operational procedures and is more about the macro understanding of hydraulic fracturing held by the lay public.

“Wastewater and Shale Formation Development: Risk, Mitigation and Regulation” – 2015
Edited by Sheila Olmstead, Ph.D.

This is a carefully selected collection of independent essays, brought together in book format. With the goal of providing a highly detailed and nuanced review of the most critical technical issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, this is very poignant and timely, especially as to handling the associated waste streams and allegations of induced seismicity from the use of the EPA sanctioned Class II Underground Injection Control Wells (“UIC”), but often attributed to drilling and hydraulic fracturing instead.

I expect to post much more frequently now that a core body of information has been reviewed. I look to make a contribution to the discussion by mixing what I am learning through deep study along with the insights to come from responses from you the reader.

Have you read anything of interest that brings a richer understanding of the industry and the challenges and opportunities?

————–

By Scott Rotruck

Scott Rotruck

Scott Rotruck

Posted in drinking water, Environmental, hydraulic fracturing bans | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Northeast Natural Energy, LLC – Making History for the Future of Energy

Entrepreneurs are a special breed. The good ones have that special blend of vision, timing and risk tolerance most others lack. The really good ones find a way to use their special talents to make their communities a better place to live and work. Mike John is a really good entrepreneur.

As we all know, the shale plays across the United States have been game changers. This was recently noted by former United States Secretary of State, George Shultz, in a 2014 book he edited titled Game Changers: Energy on the Move. They have created wealth and opportunities unimaginable a decade ago, and history is being made in the Marcellus Shale every day. And thanks to Mike John, a truly unique initiative is underway near Morgantown, West Virginia.

The greater Morgantown area, the region, West Virginia and the nation all will benefit tremendously from the entrepreneurial instincts of Mike John. Mike is a Lewis County native, longtime oil and gas industry leader, and the founder and CEO of Northeast Natural Energy, LLC (“Northeast”).

Mike has assembled a superb team of industry veterans along with the best and brightest newcomers to engage in a truly groundbreaking public, private and academic partnership.

Click here to read our entire article about Northeast and their partnership with West Virginia University, The Ohio State University and The United States Department of Energy.

Posted in natural gas drilling research study, Northeast Natural Energy, public/private/academic partnership | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome! A Message from Scott Rotruck

Welcome!

I am Scott Rotruck, Director of Energy & Transportation Services at Spilman Thomas & Battle. I am excited to serve as the new editor of this blog – focusing on the energy sector broadly, but with an immediate focus on oil and gas and its supply chain across the Marcellus and Utica Shales. These footprints align well with Spilman’s seven regional offices.

For the past several years, we have regularly posted industry news to this blog, and we will continue to do so. I hope to use my 37-year background in rail, truck and pipeline transportation, coupled with a long stint in regulatory and government relations in coal, natural gas and oil and now as an investor in solar, to encourage a diverse conversation. The ever-evolving topics of energy development and utilization are quite interesting, along with the economic, environmental and national security goals that must remain our guiding beacons.

I have had the wonderful privilege of diverse appointments by the last four West Virginia Governors to chair several key economic development entities. It has also been an honor to be on the founding board of the Power of 32, which focuses on community and economic development in 32 counties in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. I believe this gives me a unique perspective on the growing energy industry and all that it impacts.

I was also fortunate after working a few years as Economic Developer and Senior Advisor to the President at West Virginia University, to have taught a class for seniors, housed in the WVU College of Business & Economics. I learned a tremendous amount in those five years, which today I am hoping to repay for the privilege.

So what does that mean for Spilman and this energy-focused blog? I promise to try to facilitate the most inclusive conversations we can have toward the productive end of optimizing development of our great shale resources, while remaining true to the principle of developing an “all-of-the-above energy strategy.” I may share breaking news or a book I found of interest. I may share my thoughts on a recently passed law or an informative resource I think readers should tap into.

My promise focuses on three things….

  • This blog will be timely.
  • This blog will be succinct.
  • This blog will be highly informative.

And, if there is a topic you would like to see addressed, please let me know. Information and insight are what Spilman can bring to the table. My goal is to provide both.

Thank you for reading and look for a new post in the near future.

————

By Scott Rotruck

Scott Rotruck

Scott Rotruck

Posted in Marcellus and Utica Shale gas news, Scott Rotruck | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Latest News Regarding the Marcellus and Utica Shales?

The March issue of Spilman’s e-newsletter The Shale Play Today is now available.

Articles and updates include:

  • the latest on West Virginia’s Aboveground Storage Act,
  • how much Utica Shale production is up,
  • the role U.S. LNG may play in a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions,
  • the chemical industry’s benefits from the U.S. shale industry, and
  • how state forest lands in north central Pennsylvania are proving to be prime areas for the Utica Shale.

Click here to read the entire e-newsletter.

Posted in Marcellus and Utica Shale gas news, The Shale Play Today | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Downturn In Prices Affecting Everyone, Except Pipeline Builders

Even with the spending cuts being put in place by oil and gas companies, pipeline builders are weathering the storm.

According to Frank Nieto, senior editor of Midstream Business and a Marcellus Shale researcher, “Pipelines are kind of like owning a toll booth on a highway – once you build them, you’re going to get guaranteed rates; they don’t build them unless you have subscribers.”

What’s being built? And, where? Click here to read the entire Marcellus.com article.

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EnLink Midstream Partners’ CEO Sees Marcellus and Utica as “The Best”

At the recent Hart Energy Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference, EnLink Midstream Partners’ CEO Barry Davis said the Marcellus and Utica Shales are positioned for significant growth – despite the recent downturn in prices.

Davis said they are focusing on the best of the best plays – including the Marcellus and Utica.

According to Davis, in terms of economic return and price resiliency, parts of the Marcellus and Utica shales hold 10 of the 19 top spots on the oil and gas side.

Was it all good news for the Marcellus and Utica? Click here to read the entire Pittsburgh Business Times article.

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Pennsylvania Shale Gas Sets Another Record

In the second half of 2014, Pennsylvania gas drillers produced more than two trillion cubic feet of gas. This record-setting production of four trillion cubic feet of gas for all of 2014 is 30 percent higher than 2013.

These astounding levels of production were unheard of just a few short years ago. According to David Yoxtheimer, a researcher at Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, “Basically, we’re seeing a trillion cubic feet of growth per year. I think if you were to even ask the industry if they were to be expecting that…they would not have guessed those kinds of rates of increase.”

Even though many drillers are electing to drill less this year, they still expect to produce 30 percent more than the year prior.

However, two things could cause a wrinkle in increased production – lower prices and new taxes.

Click here to read the entire TribLive Business article.

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Now is the WOTUS of Our Discontent…..

As published in IOGA of West Virginia newsletter, January 2015

By John C. (Max) Wilkinson
Counsel
Vice Chair of the Environmental Practice Group

Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC

“Waters of the United States” or “WOTUS” in the esoteric taxonomy of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), is a term with which many are becoming increasingly familiar. This deceptively simple phrase is anything but simple in its application.

The oil and gas industry is increasingly experiencing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) proclivity finding CWA jurisdiction through WOTUS interpretation. New proposed regulatory language issued by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”), makes WOTUS even broader.

On April 21, 2014, the EPA and the USACE jointly proposed rules revising the definition of WOTUS in seven categories. They also created a new definition of a tributary.

What are the proposed rules on WOTUS? What is the significance? What is the impact?

Click here to read the entire article.

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Methane Emissions from Fracking Are Decreasing

The University of Texas has published a study that shows methane emissions from natural gas production, including fracking, are less than previously thought – 10 percent lower than a 2013 study found.

Since a small number of sites account for the majority of emissions, researchers stated current technologies may be especially effective in managing methane leakage.

This study corresponds with similar findings released by the U.S. EPA.

Click here to read the full article.

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Washington County and 59 Million Cubic Feet Per Day – Success in the Utica

Range Resources has a project in Washington County, Pennsylvania that is producing 59 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. This project is producing significantly more than the previous record-setting well in Tyler County – producing 46 million cubic feet per day.

The success in the Utica has been coupled with several companies pulling out due to the downturn in gas prices. However, according to Range Resources President and CEO Jeff Ventura, “We are very excited about the initial test results of our Utica/Point Pleasant well. Given our 400,000 net (acres) in the area, coupled with existing well control and 3-D seismic, we believe this translates into significant potential.”

Click here to read the entire The Wheeling Intelligencer article.

Posted in Range Resources, Utica Shale | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment