A Short Introduction to the Risks of Natural gas and hydraulic fracking

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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE
RISKS OF CHEAP NATURAL
GAS AND HYDRAULIC
FRACKING
ED WARD P. RICHARDS, JD, MPH
DIRECTOR, PROGRAM IN LAW, SCIENCE, AND PUBLIC HEALTH
CLARENCE W. ED WARDS PROFESSOR OF LAW
LSU LAW SCHOOL
HTTP://BIOTECH.LAW.LSU.EDU
HTTP://SSRN.COM/AUTHOR=222637
THE RISKS
Climate Risks
Local Environmental Risks
Economic Consequences of Petro-states
ECONOMIC CLIMATE
RISKS
Displacement of alternative energy, including nuclear
Reduction of incentives for energy efficiency
Development of energy intensive industries dependent on
cheap energy
Co2 Leakage
DIRECT GHG RISKS
CO2 LEAKAGE
Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent GHG emitted in
the US by human activities.
Much more powerful than CO2, but shorter lived
20 X more effective than CO2 over 100 years
72 X over 20 years
Leakage is estimated to be as low as 1.5% and as high as
6.2%–11.7% (NOAA study - ref 1)
Over 20 years, a 1.5% leakage makes methane worse for the
climate than coal.
Higher leakage levels do progressively more damage.
WHY WOULD WE
WASTE METHANE?
1) Methane is not valuable right now, so engineering
controls can cost more than the incremental value of the
gas lost.
2) Smaller companies value short term return more than the
long term value of the field
3) Huge infrastructure compared to traditional drilling,
which will be very expensive to close out and maintain
when the fields are depleted
4) No effective mechanism to assure long term
responsibility since many fields are developed by small
producers
5) No effective monitoring and regulation of CH4 so little
incentive to prevent leakage.
LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL
RISKS
Aquifer pollution by fracking fluids, either directly or through
injection wells
Surface water pollution by fracking fluids through improper
disposal
Noise and air pollution.
All of these are preventable through best practices
All subject to same economic factors and failed regulation.
The history of the oil and gas business is not one of
everyone using best practices and cleaning up after
production is over.
ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES
OF PETRO-STATES
Dependence on low skills jobs.
A few engineers and a lot of lower skilled workers
Exacerbates income inequality
Reduces support for education and preparation for a high
skilled global economy
Highly cyclical, with downturns doing massive economic
damage.
INTRODUCTORY BIBLIOGRAPHY
1.
Karion, A. et al. Methane emissions estimate from airborne measurements over a western United States natural
gas field. Geophysical Research Letters (2013).
2.
Alvarez, R.A., Pacala, S.W., Winebrake, J.J., Chameides, W.L. & Hamburg, S.P. Greater focus needed on
methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 6435–6440 (2012).
3.
Lange, T. et al. Hydraulic fracturing in unconventional gas reservoirs: risks in the geological system part 1.
Environmental Earth Sciences 1–15 (2013).
4.
Gordalla, B.C., Ewers, U. & Frimmel, F.H. Hydraulic fracturing: a toxicological threat for groundwater and
drinking-water? Environmental Earth Sciences 1–19 (2013).
5.
Thompson, H. Fracking boom spurs environmental audit. Nature 485, 556–557 (2012).
6.
Bateman, C. & Fair, V. A Colossal Fracking Mess. Vanity Fair 21, 1–5 (2010).
7.
Ehrenberg, R. The facts behind the frack: Scientists weigh in on the hydraulic fracturing debate. science news
182, 20–25 (2012).
8.
ISS, I.T. Drinking water quality near Marcellus shale gas extraction sites. PNAS 110, 11213–11214 (2013).
9.
Finkel, M.L., Hays, J. & Law, A. Modern Natural Gas Development and Harm to Health: The Need for Proactive
Public Health Policies. ISRN Public Health 2013, (2013).
10.
Jackson, R.B. et al. Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas
extraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, 11250–11255 (2013).
11.
Down, A., Armes, M. & Jackson, R. Shale gas extraction in North Carolina: research recommendations and
public health implications. Environ Health Perspect 121, A292–A293 (2013).
12.
Davies, R.J., Mathias, S.A., Moss, J., Hustoft, S. & Newport, L. Hydraulic fractures: How far can they go? Marine
and petroleum geology 37, 1–6 (2012).
13.
882 (2012).
Myers, T. Potential contaminant pathways from hydraulically fractured shale to aquifers. Ground Water 50, 872–
14.
Warner, N.R. et al. Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow
aquifers in Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 11961–11966 (2012).

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