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A New Take on the Frac Debate: LP…

November 23, 2011

It has reached the point where the Industry v. Environmental Activism debate needs to come to an understanding rather than talking past one another.

Neither entity is going anywhere so the conversation needs to be increasingly progressive instead of an “all or nothing” list of demands. This is the only way that this could be remotely fruitful.

So…Environmental Activists oppose Hydraulic Fracturing because of their concerns with Industry practices, policies, transparency, etc. Great. They are entitled to have those concerns. Some companies need the regulatory hammer to fall on them in order for these concerns to be addressed. Some are doing a great job at acting responsibly.

It is necessary for what I do that I understand both sides of the coin in the Hydraulic Fracturing debates so I can best work to address many of the criticisms on the stimulation practice. This is difficult because how statements are made has been a growing issue in it of itself.

So I want to start with some suggestions. I want to offer some clarification for those that may be visiting this issue for the first time or for those who would like to know more about this issue: This is not a conclusion.

I am not advocating Propane Gel Fracturing as the end all be all of the Industry. I do believe that it is proof of the Industry’s Innovative abilities to address issues that those concerned have about Hydraulic Fracturing.

Fractivists are concerned with water in some of the following ways.

1.) They are concerned about the amount of water that is used to Hydraulically Fracture a well. They argue that the water usage is excessive and they feel that it is a waste because they hold waters sacred.

2.) They are concerned with the contamination of potable water in aquifers, streams, lakes, and any other watershed in the country.

3.) They are concerned with the flow-back water that comes out of the well after stimulation and what is carried back to the surface as a result.

4.) They are opposed to what they feel is inadequate flow-back water treatment and return.

5.) They are concerned with road destruction as a result of the water trucks trafficking to and from the site.

Well, this is where it gets pretty goofy to me because it looks as if many activists are not interested in nor do they understand the state of affairs.

The Rolling Stones wrote a song in 1969 called “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on their Let It Bleed album.

Industry is not going to leave the table but they will attempt to alleviate concerns so that both parties can be amiable because regulations require them to do so.

If policies are being made to regulate Industry, then activist voices are being heard. There is no regulatory policy that forces them to ask better questions or to celebrate progress.

LP (Liquid Propane) fracturing is a method created by a company called GasFrac whereby LP is used for fracturing instead of water. This practice is not without its concerns and is relatively new but this practice has the potential to eliminate many of the problems Environmental Activists have with Hydraulic Fracturing. I am confused about the response from the Environmental community concerning this practice. They seem to oppose it as well.

Why?

LP Fracturing basically eliminates the “millions of gallons of water” used in Hydraulic Fracturing process and eliminates the truck traffic needed to transport that water to and from the well site.

LP Fracturing eliminates the flow-back of frac water because LP reverts to a gaseous form once the Frac job is done, leaving all of the “radioactive” and other potentially harmful substances in the ground. Propane gas is not an effective vehicle for transporting these substances. It also greatly reduces the need for water treatment and waste pits. This is a good prospect for those in New York. You can benefit from the process and have a process in place that deals with water related concerns.

Criticisms are typically standalone issues taken with a subject. I can have a friend named Lenny but hate that he curses like a sailor. If Lenny stops cursing like a sailor, then I no longer have grounds to dislike something that he does. If I dislike Lenny as a person, period, then I probably won’t associate with Lenny at all.

If the ground for the criticism is removed, then, the criticism should be done with, right…? Unless I choose to focus on all of Lenny’s faults.

This is how I think activists are treating industry. They dislike Lenny. It doesn’t matter what he does.

They don’t seem to care about progressive policies, regulations, or the positive impacts of Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing. They never mention the benefits because that would be conceding a point, the one that states that Shale Gas is beneficial and that it is important. They dislike industry as a rule and push for policies that would eliminate Industry completely.

Natural Gas has the potential to cause some serious good in this country.

Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, had no problem saying this.

She actually said the following in an interview on Maddow:

Listen, as and environmentalist, I actually think natural gas is important to our country. I do think that it is a positive big change for us. It has immediate benefits from a pollution side immediate benefits from an energy security side, what we have to be able to say to people is that in the process of getting this natural gas, we’re not going to screw up your groundwater or your drinking water or your air, there are air impacts potentially as well. Now states are stepping up and doing a good job, so, I always say it doesn’t have to be EPA that regulates the 10,000 wells that might go in but there needs to be standards and they need to be transparent and when it comes to the chemicals in the Frac’ing fluid I think that’s a fair point, people want to know what’s being injected into their water.”

At that point, Environmentalists may say “A Ha!”, she said “people want to know what’s being injected into their water.” Those of us in industry would have loved the statements I put in bold above while Environmentalist would love those statements in plain Italics.

By the way, I bet she misstated her final statement. I would like to hear her clarify for both parties’ sake.

She also said a lot of what Industry folks have been saying about the potential for Shale Gas, a prospect impossible without Fracturing. Lisa Jackson knows this. So, unless she is loony, she also understands that all of the potential for Shale Gas rests in the hands of Hydraulic Fracturing, and she believes states are doing a good job at stepping up and regulating.

I don’t know that the rest of the environmental community got that. I think they keyed in on her other statements about fluid disclosure and the like.

What about the good?

LP Fracturing alleviates most of the concerns for those who hate fracturing because of what they believe is water abuse but I immediately hear about the negatives of LP fracturing from folks on Twitter like @TXSharon. I want to know what the “Drilling Reform” statement means on her blog. LP Frac’ing is a reforming of how Hydraulic Fracturing is done. It is not elimination however.

I am increasingly convinced that this is not a progressive conversation. It doesn’t matter how industry deals with issues that Fractivists bring to the table. It will never be good enough, to their liking, unless they get everything that they want.

Well, that is not real life.

What do all these Water Keeper organizations exist for? LP eliminates a lot of the concerns. This moves in their direction but now I am hearing about the problems with LP Fracturing.

This is no way to create policy.

I don’t believe that Federal Regulation will ever be the answer either. Folks in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, West Virginia, Wyoming, and North Dakota are not protesting the way that those in New York protest. Do LP Frac’ing in New York and Texas.

That is why each state needs to regulate according to the stance of the individuals in that state. What I can say is that I believe Industry is progressive.

I don’t think Environmentalists believe that.

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