Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What is the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing?

Fracking Communities (22 page pdf, Colin Jerolmack and Nina Berman, Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet, Public Culture, Duke University Press, May 2, 2016)

Also discussed here: Fracking Hits Milestone as Natural Gas Use Rises in U.S. (Bobby Magill, Climate Central, May 6, 2016)

Today we review an article that chronicles the impact fracking has and is having on rural communities and the natural forests and parks that lie among them. Although fracking natural gas (and closing coal plants) has been credited with the 12% reduction in CO2 in the USA from 2007 to 2012, the process involves over 1,000 truckloads of water for just one well and 1,020 shale wells have been approved in Pennsylvania alone. More than 15 million Americans in 11 states live within a mile of a fracked well. New York is the only state where municipal bans are legal. As methane is 20 times more radiatively active in the atmosphere than CO2, leaks of more than 3% from a well eliminate the greenhouse gas benefit that methane enjoys over emissions from coal.

 fracking traffic

 Key Quotes:

 “While it has long been known that vast reserves of natural gas (and oil) lay locked in layers of shale a mile or more underground, most of it remained inaccessible until this century, when the process of hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — was combined with horizontal drilling. "

“for the first time last year, natural gas contributed about the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as coal, the globe’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change…Sixty-seven percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. came from fractured wells in 2015, according to the data. That represented a total of 53 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, up from 50 billion cubic feet in 2014”

“because methane (the primary component of natural gas) is a greenhouse gas whose potency is more than twenty times that of CO2 over a hundred-year period, even a relatively small rate of methane leakage (i.e., 3 percent) from the production and distribution of shale gas could “offset or even reverse the entire apparent greenhouse gas benefit of fuel switching from coal to natural gas”

 “the proposed culprit in most reports of health impacts is air pollution, resulting from gas wells, compressor stations (which serve as nodes for area wells that pressurize the gas), and diesel engines venting volatile organic compounds — including known toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde — into the atmosphere next to residences, communal gathering places, and parks”

“more than 15 million Americans in eleven states live within one mile of a fracked well … approximately 700,000 acres of state forest are “available” for natural gas development… has approved 232 well pads (each capable of hosting up to twenty-four wells) and 1,020 shale gas wells since 2008”

 “It takes over one thousand truckloads just to deliver the water needed to frack one well, and a single well pad can host as many as eighteen to twenty-four gas wells”

“the tragedy of the commons engendered by private oil and gas leasing in rural communities works directly against the kind of collectivist politics needed to prevent our planet from lapsing into abrupt and irreversible climate change”

 “For shale gas extraction to be “sustainable,” it must do more than burn “cleaner” than coal: it should foster the resilience of common-pool resources and the communities that host it.”

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