Hydraulic Fracturing For Natural Gas Development Gets Added Regulatory Scrutiny
Shawn Fiorentino inspects his mother Norma's well after a methane explosion in Norma's front yard in Dimock PA. Image credit:The Times-Tribune
Wall Street Journal is covering the latest governmental reactions to hydraulic fracturing: a.k..a. "fracking" for natural gas development. We covered Exxon-Mobil Corps. acquisition of the largest such gas producer, XTO Energy Inc. See Speed Saves: Fastest Way To Low-Carbon Electricity Is To Hit The [Natural] Gas Pedal for details.
WSJ now reports that "Exxon negotiated the right to back out of its deal [to aquire XTO] if Congress passes a law to make hydraulic fracturing illegal or "commercially impracticable."" In addition to this week's Congressional hearing on this drilling technique, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New York, are in full regulatory mode, fearful of degradation that might impact vital water supplies. Not to mention exploding water wells (as pictured). Where might this added scrutiny lead?In spite of recently being characterized as one who would more fittingly write for Fox News, I'm calling this one like I see it. We're much better off with Exxon-Mobile drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale than relying on small wildcatters who lack management systems and expertise in regulatory compliance. A bigger, more practiced firm will ensure that adverse impacts are avoided - bypassing situations where vital aquifers are at stake - and properly manage drilling wastes.
As a BP exec I quoted earlier said:
Gas is far and away the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, generating at least 50 percent less carbon per kilowatt hour than coal, and almost zero sulfur oxides, mercury and particulate ash. And because gas-fired power stations can be easily switched on and off (unlike those fired by coal), it is the ideal complement to intermittent power sources such as wind and solar.It's either find an acceptable way to extract the natural gas in Marcellus Scale deposits or keep relying on coal for that much longer.