National Geographic News
A photo of a fracking site in Pennsylvania.

Dusk falls at a hydraulic fracturing site in northeastern Pennsylvania. New technologies aim to reduce fracking's impact on land, water, and air.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM LO SCALZO, EPA

Patrick J. Kiger

for National Geographic

Published March 19, 2014

It may seem strange to hear the words "fracking" and "environmentally friendly" in the same sentence.

After all, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which high-pressure chemically treated water is used to crack rock formations and release trapped oil and gas, is a dirty term to many environmentalists. Critics decry the practice for consuming vast amounts of fresh water, creating toxic liquid waste, and adding to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane. (See related quiz, "What You Don't Know About Natural Gas.")

James Hill, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta-based energy services firm GasFrac, is one of a handful of technology pioneers determined to change that. Hill's company has introduced a new fracking method that uses no water at all. Instead, GasFrac uses a gel made from propane—a hydrocarbon that's already naturally present underground—and a combination of what it says are relatively benign chemicals, such as magnesium oxide and ferric sulfate, a chemical used in water treatment plants. Over the past few years, GasFrac has used the process 2,500 times at 700 wells in Canada and the United States.

"We're actually using hydrocarbons to produce hydrocarbons," Hill said. "It's a cycle that's more sustainable."

GasFrac is one of a growing number of companies, including giant GE and the oil services firm Halliburton, that are pioneering technological improvements to mitigate some of the environmental downsides to the process that has spurred a North American energy boom. (See Interactive, "Breaking Fuel From Rock.") Besides GasFrac's water-free method, other companies are working on ways to use recycled frack water or non-potable brine in fracking. Some are working on replacing harsh chemicals used in the process with more benign mixtures, or to cleanse water that's been used in fracking. Other innovators are looking to replace diesel-powered drilling equipment with engines or motors powered by natural gas or solar energy, and to find ways to find and seal leaks that allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to escape.

Such efforts have even won cautious support from some environmental activists, who've decided that it may be more realistic to mitigate the consequences of fracking than to fight its use.

"Natural gas is a potential energy bounty for the country, and development is probably inevitable," said Ben Ratner, a project manager for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund.  (See related "Interactive: Breaking Fuel From Rock" and "The Great Shale Gas Rush.") "That's why we're investing our energy into doing everything, from science to policy to working with companies, to maximize the potential climate advantage that gas has over coal, and minimize the risk to public health and the environment. We think natural gas can be an exit ramp from coal, but we have to do it right." (See related, "U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Fall to an 18-Year Low," and Natural Gas Nation: EIA Sees U.S. Future Shaped by Fracking.")

Here are a few of the efforts to make fracking greener:

Water-Free Fracking: GasFrac's fracking system, which uses a gelled fluid containing propane, has other advantages besides eliminating the need for water, according to Hill. Because the gel retains sand better than water, it's possible to get the same results with one-eighth the liquid and to pump at a slower rate. Because GasFrac says the amount of hydrocarbon in the gel is comparable to what's in the ground, the fluid can simply merge into the flow being extracted from the ground, eliminating the need to drain contaminated wastewater and haul it away in trucks for disposal, usually at deep-well injection sites. "We present a much smaller footprint," he said. (See related, "Fracking Waste Wells Linked to Ohio Earthquakes.")

Using Recycled Water or Brine: While fracking typically uses freshwater, industry researchers have worked to perfect friction-reducing additives that would allow operators to use recycled "gray" water or brine pumped from underground. Halliburton's UniStim, which went on the market about a year ago, can create a highly viscous fluid from any quality of water, according to Stephen Ingram, the company's technology manager for North America. In northeastern Canada, one producer has tapped into a deep subsurface saline water aquifer for a portion of its supplies for hydraulic fracturing.

Eliminating Diesel Fumes: The diesel-powered equipment used in drilling and pumping wells can be a worrisome source of harmful pollutants such as particulates, as well as carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. And diesel fuel is expensive. Last year, Apache, a Houston-based oil and gas operator, announced it would become the first company to power an entire fracking job with engines using natural gas. In addition to reducing emissions, the company cut its fuel costs by 40 percent. Halliburton has introduced another innovation, the SandCastle vertical storage silo for the sand used in fracking, which is powered by solar panels. The company also has developed natural-gas-powered pump trucks, which Ingram said can reduce diesel consumption on a site by 60 to 70 percent, resulting in "a sizable reduction in both emissions and cost."

Drainage water pond, Texas
PHOTOGRAPH BY DENNIS DIMICK, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Drainage water pours into a settling pond near the booming oil fields of the Midland-Odessa region of West Texas.

Treating Wastewater: At hydraulic fracturing sites, the amount of wastewater typically far exceeds the amount of oil produced. The fluid that returns to the surface through the well bore is not only the chemically treated frack water, but water from the rock formation that can contains brines, metals, and radionuclides. (See related, "Forcing Gas Out of Rock With Water.") That wastewater must be captured and stored on site, and then often is shipped long distances to deep well injection underground storage facilities. There have been few treatment options. But Halliburton has developed the CleanWave treatment system, which uses positively charged ions and bubbles to remove particles from the water at the fracking site. Last September, GE and its partner Memsys also tested a new on-site treatment system that allows the water to be reused without being diluted with freshwater, by employing a desalination process called membrane distillation. (See related Quiz: What You Don't Know About Water and Energy.

Plugging Methane Leaks: A major fracking concern has been whether companies are allowing a significant amount of natural gas to escape, because methane—the main component of natural gas—is a potent greenhouse gas, 34 times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2). A recent study concluded U.S. methane emissions are likely 50 percent higher than official government estimates. (See related, "Methane Emissions Far Worse Than U.S. Estimates.") New U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that go into effect next year will require that all U.S. oil and gas sites have equipment designed to cut a wide range of pollutants, a step that the agency expects will cut methane. (See related, "Air Pollution From Fracked Wells Will Be Regulated Under New U.S. Rules.")

Methane emissions from onshore oil and natural gas production could be reduced by 40 percent by 2018, at a cost that's the equivalent of just one cent per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced, concludes a just-released study, conducted by Fairfax, Va.-based consulting firm ICF International for the Environmental Defense Fund. EDF's Ratner said that inspectors equipped with infrared cameras can spot leaks at fracking sites, which can then be plugged. "The cameras cost about $80,000 to $100,000 apiece," he noted. "But that can pay for itself, because the more leaks you fix, the more gas you have to sell." (See related blog post: "Simple Fixes Could Plug Methane Leaks From Energy Industry, Study Finds.")

Another improvement that can reduce methane emissions: Replacing conventional pressure-monitoring pneumatic controllers, which are driven by gas pressure and vent gas when they operate. A U.S.-wide move to lower-bleed designs could reduce emissions by 35 billion cubic feet annually. And switching out conventional chemical injection pumps used in the fracking process, which are powered by gas pressure from the wells, and replacing them with solar-powered pumps, operators could eliminate an 5.9 billion cubic feet of methane emissions annually, the EDF report concludes.

The Cost-Benefit Equation

Some solutions do not require advanced technology. A study released Wednesday by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force suggests that almost all of the methane leaks from the oil and gas infrastructure could be reduced at relatively little expense, often by simply tightening bolts or replacing worn seals.

A number of greener fracking technologies already are being implemented, according to industry officials. But one obstacle is economic. The newer, more environmentally friendly technologies generally cost more than the legacy equipment they would replace. Extracting natural gas with water-free fracking, for example, could cost 25 percent more than conventional fracking, according to David Burnett, a professor of petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University who heads that school's Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems Program. He said that switching fracking equipment from diesel to natural gas is the innovation that's catching on most rapidly, because it provides a clear economic benefit as well as helping to lower carbon emissions. With the rising cost of renting fracking rigs, companies are eager to find improvements that will reduce their costs, he said.

Green fracking is "the same as with any industry—if you come out with a game-changing technology, you can get in the market first and ride that," Burnett said.  (See related, "Can Natural Gas Bring Back U.S. Factory Jobs?")

But Halliburton's Ingram said that innovations such as chemical treatments to make brine usable will drop in price as the technology is perfected. "Eventually it will become the lower-cost chemistry," he said.

A more difficult hurdle might be overcoming what Ingram calls "sociopolitical constraints" around the country. One major issue that reduces incentives to invest in green fracking innovations: the generally low price of freshwater. (See related, "Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035.")

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

32 comments
Kim Feil
Kim Feil

What do you think about the new findings where flowback was studied and found that the re-used flowback became anthropogenicly toxic by introducing bleach related chemicals that react with the bacteria?

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/em/c4em00376d#!divAbstract
The study appeared this week in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts….
“However, the presence of various fatty acid phthalate esters in the Barnett and Marcellus produced waters can be related to their use in drilling fluids and breaker additives rather than their presence in connate fluids. Halogen containing compounds are found in each of the water samples, and although the fluorocarbon compounds identified are used as tracers, the presence of chlorocarbons and organobromides formed as a consequence of using chlorine containing oxidants (to remove bacteria from source water), suggests that industry should concentrate on non-chemical treatments offrac and produced waters.”

Also what do you think about Urban Drillers using pressurized flowback tanks?…they currently use those rural style open hatch ones and NIOSH recently found those workers have illegal amts of Benzene exposures….

http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2014/08/28/new-study-shows-…

Have you heard about the COLLOIDS flowback spill frack on crack risk too?

Thanks for your attention to these concerns of an unhappy gas well neighbor near the ATT Cowboy’s Stadium.

Roshan Payapulli
Roshan Payapulli

I think the world needs to focus a lot more on gas from waste biomass. This may return less gas than fracking, but it is certainly more environmentally friendly as the gas would be released in to the air as methane anyway, so better to convert it to CO2 and get some energy out of it in the process. It should be done a lot more at sewage treatment facilities and waste management centres. It also manages waste well, and the remaining biomass or household sewage waste can be sold to farmers cheaply as fertiliser, so everyone's a winner. I think this method should be implemented a lot more now, and it can be used well in to the future. Waste to energy is fantastic as it kills a large number of birds with one stone! However if we are to turn to fracking, it should be done sustainably and at a slow rate, and implementing these green technologies are a must.

Frank Chernega
Frank Chernega

This article sums it up quite nicely. The energy companies are making giant strides in technology improvements which address mitigating any environmental impacts high volume hydraulic fracturing has. Of course all the fanatics and zealots who are against fossil fuels will reject all these efforts only to find that their position is becoming less and less credible as time goes on. They should be ignored as they unwittingly or otherwise are playing into the hands of the Russians, Saudis, and other energy cartels who want to keep the U.S. dependent on non domestic energy sources. The "green" fanatics have blood on their hands for their resistance as our fighting men and women have died to make sure the oil and gas continues to flow from the Mideast and elsewhere. Fracking is the key to us becoming energy independent. With regard to methane emissions, here is some great reading from  Cornell professors Dr. Larry Cathles, Larry Brown, and Andrew Hunter who have totally discredited the extremely flawed "study" of Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth also of Cornell - http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/PeoplePlaces/Faculty/cathles/Natural%20Gas/2012%20Cathles%20et%20al%20Commentary%20on%20Howarth.pdf

greg crowell
greg crowell

This "green" spin will only apply if it helps to improve the bottom line of corporate profits. I view this as an attempt by the o&g industry to influence their public image and nothing else. They may be forced to use water free technology where water is unavailable or scarce, but in the middle atlantic and northeast it will be business as usual. I am tired of drilling proponents labeling all who oppose it as environmentalists. I am not dismissing environmentalists, I'm pointing out that wanting to drink clean water, breathe clean air, drive on safe roads not swarmed with truck traffic, and maintain the value of your home are not exclusive to environmentalists. Everyone wants these things. I wish that Shell would spend more on developing truly green energy sources and less on putting lipstick on a pig.

Kathleen Barrett
Kathleen Barrett

"Such efforts have even won cautious support from some environmental activists, who've decided that it may be more realistic to mitigate the consequences of fracking than to fight its use."

This is an amazing statement to me and all of us who are against fracking. We are not giving any cautious support for this mitigation because we know there is no clean or green fracking. We need to invest in renewables here and abroad and move toward a future that is fossil fuel free. We have the technology but we do not have the political will. Here in NY #Governor Andrew Cuomo  has put off fracking for another year while he waits for the science to make a decision. The science is in and it's less than two hours from Albany. It's called Pennsylvania. They are experiencing fracking first hand and it is a disaster for all who live in the areas fracked. While the gas and oil industry comes in and takes over and extracts the gas, they leave in their wake polluted water and air, sick people and animals, non existent property values and an industrialized countryside. 

New York needs to keep it's ban on fracking and lead the country in renewable energy. We can be the leaders who show the way for the rest of the country.

Deddy Indarto
Deddy Indarto

hmm interesting technology... may be in near future, US fracking technology will reduce cost production and more "green". US Fracking will change the world until a new technology like sun, wind, geo thermal, and all "green" energy can totally replace fosil energy...


good job


gary turner
gary turner

So humankind develops another filthy polluting industrial process as it embarks upon a new wave of exploitation of the planet's resources, and then later on it develops some mitigating technologies to make that industrial process slightly less polluting. This is somehow presented to us as a good news story and grounds for optimism. But let's be clear, the net result for the natural environment is always and inevitably a loss. I used to argue that industrial innovation was the likeliest source of solutions to the problem of planetary degradation, because if like me you accept that industry is never going to go away, our best and only hope is that the polluters find a way of clearing up after themselves. I don't believe that any more. Perpetual industrial and economic growth is a dead end. Maybe we should just accept that everyting has to die eventually, and all of us just live like the wolf of Wall Street in the meantime.

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

When we first heard high volume fracking was coming to Southern Illinois, we went to the Murphysboro courthouse. Our protests upset the man they sent from the fracking industry. When our meeting was over, I heard him say under his breath that he'd recently lost a child and if he had the strength go through that he could go through anything. He was making his heart hard. He was trying to withstand the pain because he had a job to do and I'm sure if he didn't do it, someone else would.

Later he made a presentation at SIU, I watched how far he'd come. There were three industry representatives to take the heat. This time when everyone got upset, he smiled at the discomfort and stuffed his emotions to keep them under control. We looked at how he was handling things and we knew he was just following orders. He was not listening to us. He was a brick wall.

And that's something you're going to want to get a handle on if you're going to be a leader and not a follower. You can't afford to burnout, you can't afford to have your joy and enthusiasm disappear, you can't afford to feel as if nothing seems meaningful, you can't afford to feel alienated from other people.

Karma's a funny thing, but it doesn't work the way most people think it does. The idea of karma is you continually get the lessons that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of life lessons to help you open further according to Pema Chodron. It's called the Wisdom of No Escape once you recognize we're all in this together you can find better solutions based on mutual wisdom.

Other industries simplify their complex interconnected problems by working backwards to solve problems. Other industries experiment with a bottom up management style to solve problems in the field. Why does the oil and gas industry get to dictate how things are going to go? I’ve got 10 reasons to tell you why they are going to have to change too.

1. All steel rusts. All concrete cracks. Louis Allstadt former Executive VP of Mobil Oil confirms it. He says

Sooner or later the steel casing is going to rust out, and the cement is going to crumble. We may have better cements now, we may have slightly better techniques of packing the cement and mud into the well bore to close it up, but even if nothing comes up through the fissures in the rock layers above, where it was fracked, those well bores will deteriorate over time. And there is at least one study showing that 100 percent of plugs installed in abandoned wells fail within 100 years and many of them much sooner.

Concrete crumbles. Steel rusts. In the United States since the year 2000, sixteen bridges have collapsed. The Federal National Bridge Inventory reports 85,000 U.S. bridges are in bad shape and need to be replaced. What are bridges made of? Steel and concrete. What does fracking use to keep deadly chemicals out of our drinking water? Steel and concrete.

The fracking industry buries steel pipes thousands of feet underground, fills them with fracked water, effluents and sand, puts them under a tremendous amount of pressure, waits for 20% to 80% of the toxic and radioactive wastewater to come out, and seals the rest of the water inside the steel pipes with an inch of concrete. Then they tell you everything’s going to be okay. You don’t have to worry that fracked water is poisoned with more than 600 toxic and radioactive chemicals. The damage is done. Out of sight is outta mind.

The poison is eventually going to end up in your water because all steel rusts. The question is this. Why are we betting against a natural process everyone understands and expecting everything to work out to our advantage? All steel rusts. Doesn’t that single fact unhinge all the fracking science?

When the industry talks to you about fracking, ask them who is going to check the steel pipes in a few generations when all the fracking money is gone and the pipes are still down there in the dark getting rustier and rustier and rustier.

Don’t be fooled. They are going to hand this problem back to you and you’re the one who will have to find the solution. Not them. They’re in it for the money and if you’ll sell your water cheap, they’ll certainly take that to the bank.

2. Earthquakes go hand it hand with fracking. Since we are between two active earthquake zones, you're going to want to take a look at Brent Ritzel's report. I handed out 50 copies tonight. Here's the link.

http://fullerfuturefest.com/fracking-industrialization-and-induced-earthquakes-the-mechanisms-that-connect-the-disposal-of-fracking-wastewater-into-deep-injection-wells-to-a-significant-increase-in-midcontinent-seismic-activity/

3. The USGS says we should treat water as if it is all coming from the same source because it does. We can't keep it separate. Fracking operations dump 10 trillion gallons of toxic liquids into Class II injection wells using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

4. The Bonds the fracking companies put up to do the work won't be high enough to clean up the environment; if anything goes wrong it'll be up the taxpayers to flip the bill.


Diana Wright
Diana Wright

Wow. Aside from the fact that the article is sponsored by Shell Oil, the first most telling thing I came away with from reading this article is all of the confessions made as to how bad fracking really IS. They are finally admitting that the process of fracking adds to climate change by way of diesel pollution, methane leaks, contaminated water and all the toxic chemicals being used. Good thing being environmentally conscience saves the oil industry money or they'd still be destroying the environment the old fashioned way. So I'm wondering what technology they have come up with so they don't actually have to drill millions of holes in the planet causing earthquakes, or how exactly this propane filled gel is safe considering it is, after all, propane. Isn't that the very same gas that is in such high quantities in the Bakken crude that causes the rail cars to explode? So propane is a great idea. That way instead of killing the planet slowly, they can just blow it up. On the other hand, maybe we should stop trying to fix a really bad idea and just go renewable. Burning fossil fuels is a bad idea, no matter how you do it.

Manfred Borks
Manfred Borks

Natural gas is quickly replacing coal, natural gas is the stepping stone, when supplies diminish a future enlightened generation will re-discover nuclear. It is what it is. 

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

The industry, feeling serious heat, has ramped up a big-budget PR and advertising campaign to persuade people that the fracking process isn’t so bad after all. As usual, the industry is hiding behind job creation (as well as the “perception problem”) – or more accurately the loss of jobs if fracking is banned or new regulation emerges. The ads, of course, fail to mention that the process also destroys the environment and poses a grave human health risk. - See more at: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/natural-gas-industry.../...

http://www.stuarthsmith.com/natural-gas-industry-claims.../

Natural Gas Industry Claims Outrage Over Fracking Is Merely a Perception Problem | Stuart H. Smith www.stuarthsmith.com

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen

The premise of this article is a stretch.  I suggest people read the recent stories in the NY Times ("Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles" 2/13/14) and USA Today ("Natural gas vehicles worse for climate than diesel ones?" 2/14/14)l.

Alex K.
Alex K.

Clearly the idea of "green fracking" is quite outrageous and surprising to say the least.  However, the benefits that come out from drilling natural gas are starting to outweigh the costs.  Granted, that does not mean that we can just forget about the environmental and social problems that drilling is causing, but we can try to reduce them.  And that's what these companies are doing here.  They see the economic benefits that come from drilling natural gas, and not only that, but natural gas is starting to help reduce the world's energy crisis.  With these natural gas industries, the amount of coal and oil needed to supply energy needs is slowly being reduced.  The natural gas is also helping some countries become more energy independent, and they are even beginning to export this energy resource to the rest of the world. The economic benefits from drilling and fracking are startling, and the amount of natural gas and shale deposits all over the world are even more amazing.  This is a beautiful energy resource that could help supply countries with energy for decades.  Why not use it to our advantage? Thats what these companies are doing, but they are doing it by being CAREFUL. Mistakes will happen, but companies are trying to REDUCE them.  Towns near a drilling rig are benefitting economically because the workers on the rig need a place to stay, to eat, to hang out, etc.  After drilling the well site must be RETURNED TO ITS ORIGINAL CONDITION. Natural Gas companies are not going to stop or be shut down anytime soon; it's inevitable.  But I think it is FANTASTIC that they are trying to make what they're doing better for the people and for the environment.  

Russell Donnelly
Russell Donnelly

Hello; The best solution for this enterprise is to GLOBALLY BAN  FRACKING !!!!! The intentional homogenization of this planet's natural strata to obtain hydrocarbon energy is a practice which needs to be archived permanently. The only element in a hydrocarbon which yields energy is HYDROGEN. So then why are we scouring the planet; destroying vital natural resources; digging holes on land and in water to chase hydrogen when the planet's richest source of hydrogen covers 76% of this fracking planet; AS WATER ??!! :) Please note: the acquisition of this hydrogen energy requires ABSOLUTELY NO DIGGING; DRILLING; FRACKING; OR DECIMATION OF ANY NATURAL RESOURCES !! :)  "Green Fracking" ??! There is no such critter on this rock !

Joseph Wilson
Joseph Wilson

Mineral extraction including fracking for methane reduce residential property values, place unfunded demands on local governments for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, unfunded demands for health, jail, police, school, & emergency services, segment open lands, create air, light, noise pollution, create extremely dangerous conditions for fracking workers, create health hazards for infants, pregnant women, and children, and endanger public health overall with the plethora of undisclosed carcinogens & endocrine disrupters in the fluids used to frack, disrupt and push out local, sustainable businesses and industry; then leave the locals to pick up the pieces when the frackers move away and leave their socio-economic and envriornmental bust behind. Ask the head of Exxon who is suing it to keep fracking away from his horse farm!

Lij Lij Briggy
Lij Lij Briggy

With the names of Halliburton ( Gulf Oil Spill) GE ( Superfund site in the Hudson River) in the mix, how can anyone believe that these corporations are going "green?" they are doing this for gaining more profit and placating the masses. It is unfortunate that Nat Geo doesn't go into places in North Dakota and Penn, and Texas, Ohio etc and see what this process has done to people living near these sites. Property is destroyed, homes are cracking, air pollution is causing asthma and water is causing rashes on humans. We as a nation, as a people are at a fork in the road. Will we continue to listen to this one line using fossil fuels or will we work with scientists to discover much needed investments in renewable and sustainable energy and have people get off the "grid?" The corporations pay the politicians in Washington, and we have so much work to do to rid ourselves of the shackles of the fossil fuel industry. It won't be easy but we need to take our freedoms back and these corporations are taking away our freedoms of our lives with wrecking our land , air and water. Instead, we should be using air , water and geo thermal heating and cooling- that requires no long pipelines, or trucks or barges. We should be investing in American people creating renewable energy for Americans. Not be at the mercy of multi-national corporations whose bottom line is profits before people.

Maureen Healy
Maureen Healy

I notice the particular page of the National Geographic website where I'm reading this is sponsored by Shell. Does that sponsorship make it difficult for National Geographic to report accurately on fracking and climate change issues? Please examine your bias. National Geographic readers expect and deserve better than this. All of humanity does.

G Causey
G Causey

" But one obstacle is economic. The newer, more environmentally friendly technologies generally cost more than the legacy equipment they would replace."

Maybe the Government can offset some of these costs through subsidies. Oh wait, they already get subsidies!

Joanne Corey
Joanne Corey

No fossil fuel can be green. Period. All of the things that are in this article have been around for several years and get trotted out by the industry to try to give themselves cover, but they are not widely implemented and some of them are not widely implementable. Fracking with gelled propane is not only more expensive, it is also much more dangerous and cannot be used close to people because of the explosion hazard. Most of the methane that leaks is not from the wells, although some is, but from processing and underground pipelines. The horrible explosion in NYC recently highlights the deplorable state of methane infrastructure in the US. The only green choice is to stop going after unconventional fossil fuels and use remaining conventional sources as we move to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

Roscoe McCloskey
Roscoe McCloskey

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths the fossil fuel industry will go to perpetuate their destructive behavior.  Under no circumstances can they mitigate the additional greenhouse gas emitted from burning this fossil fuel.  Even if they were able to  extract it with zero negative consequences, this impact would not change.  And let's be honest, it is very unlikely the industry will ever implement any type of best practices, they only want to get the gas and oil as quickly and at as little expense as possible.  To believe otherwise is simply foolish, especially with their track record.

KENNETH LANE
KENNETH LANE

As long as tax dodging, bribe granting Corporations like GE and Haliburton are involved then all is Reich!

William Huston
William Huston

I live in NY where we have a de facto ban on fracking. However, this could end at any time if the Governor decides to move forward. Just 30 min. to the south of Binghamton, is Susquehanna County, and to the west Bradford County, the most heavily fracked areas in Pennsylvania. This is where my family is from for many generations.

The impacts very close to here are grave. I understand if you can't see this from wherever you are reading this, because the news media is structurally impaired, and biased to serve an industrial agenda.

We have many people who are sick and dying. We have farmers who are dying. We have farmers with sick animals. We have farmers who have contaminated water. The milk and meat from these animals are entering the food supply.

We have air quality impacts, as there are dozens of foul, fire-breathing compressor stations, which frequently explode and/or catch fire.

The full list of impacts, including heavy truck traffic are so staggering. Our virgin, pastoral, farming communities have been transformed overnight. These rolling hills, the homeland of my ancestors for generations, have been transformed in just 5 years into a heavy industrial zone. The gas companies move in and take over. We are losing democratic control of our local governments. It is as if we are living in a third world nation. You simply MUST come here to experience it.

I am very saddened that such a prestigious journal such as this has joined on to the fossil fuel gang-bang. It is completely untenable for many reasons.

1: While there do seem to be some advantages to Propane fracking, it is not practical for many reasons. First, you still have to poke a hole through the aquifer whether you are fracking with water or propane. Most of the impacts in Dimock PA were due to hitting shallow gas, or failed casing, which are common to both. Propane fracking is very expensive, and carries special risks, since propane is flammable and explosive under certain conditions. It also does not seem to be suitable to the geology of the Marcellus Shale.  There are also the same problems: What do you do with NORMS? (Radioactive drill cuttings and radon gas). etc.

2: Using Recycled Water: Seems like a good idea, however, they claim to be recycling water in PA, but the numbers don't add up. If they were recycling water, we would expect to see a decrease in the water withdrawal applications. But we do not. Every quater the SRBC meets (Susquehanna River Basin Commission) they approve another 50-60 million gallons per day. They treat this water upon which life depends as if it were a limitless quantity. They use dynamic, open-ended models, based on daily rates of flow, and refuse to consider static models which might show basin-wide cumulative impacts, e.g., desertification or toxification with brine and other contaminants. They are still building massive waste pits and evaporators where the contaminants are sent into the are. Recycled water is a pipe-dream. It is just not happening, yet industry keeps claiming that it is. Fracking is just fracking insane technology which is literally killing us.

3: Plugging Methane Leaks. The study of climate change impacts of "natural" gas (fracked methane) vs. coal by R. Howarth, A. Ingraffea, and R. Santoro (Cornell) found that methane leakage of more than 1% (due to methane being up to 105x greater as a greenhouse gas then CO2) would mean that fracked gas is WORSE than coal for climate change impacts. The NOAA/Colorado study found Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, and a recent Duke study found up to 4% additional leakage from major cities aging distribution systems. It would take countless billions of dollars to patch every aging transmission line and pipeline in the county, a project of unimaginable scale.

4. Any attempts at regulating the oil and gas industry is futile. First, there is NO EVIDENCE that even the best regulations can prevent prevent pollution. Quite the contrary. Regulations PERMIT pollution by definition. Also the Oil and Gas industry, as I have seen with my own eyes, are lawless rogues which follow no civil law or moral authority, other than to serve the profits of their investors.

Lastly I want to mention Climate Change and Peak Oil. We simply MUST get off fossil fuels QUICKLY or else we will have a global catastrophe on our hands. First, as Richard Manning says in this video, since we presently have 10 calories of petroleum in each calorie of food, when we find ourselves on the backside of Hubbert's Peak, we will have global food shortages.

And if that doesn't kill us, then climate change might. Scientists predict that a 5'C temp increase could (due to positive feedback effects such as melting methane hydrates), this could trigger another 5'C increase, for a total of 10'C. This is not unprecedented, and was found in the geological record. It's called the Permian Extinction Event. 95% of all life on earth was wiped out. This is the very real possible consequence of climate change.  GAME OVER with extreme prejudice.

So I hope National Geographic will take me up on my offer to arrange a tour of the GasFields of Pennsylvania, and reconsider promoting this "bridge fuel to extinction". It's time for humanity to get on sustainable energy future. If we don't, we very likely may be doomed.

William Huston,
Binghamton NY.
WilliamAHuston@gmail.com

Frank Chernega
Frank Chernega

@Kathleen BarrettHere is a sentence from your post - "We are not giving any cautious support for this mitigation because we know there is no clean or green fracking". So you "KNOW" there is no clean or green fracking? Please provide scientific, traceable proof of what is now only your opinion. Those of us who practice critical thinking ignore a post such as yours as it contains no scientific evidence to support your assertion. Please repost when you get that information and be advised that Gasland or Gasland 2, both of which have been highly discredited, do NOT constitute scientific evidence of your opinion. As far as you claiming that PA is a polluted wasteland, please explain why PA residents are not fleeing across the border into frack free NY? To the contrary, NY'ers are fleeing this business hostile progressive hell hole of a state in droves into PA and other states. Here is a video of Sandra Steingraber, a rabid anti driller from NY, who got humiliated during a recent debate with John Holko of Lenape Resources at Binghamton University in Vestal, NY when asked if there was extensive pollution in NY by the debate moderator, MR. Kilmer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zR7CpulGb14#t=908  PLEASE NOTE THE AUDIENCE LAUGHTER WHEN STEINGRABER WAS ASKED THE QUESTION.

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

5. Your infrastructure is going to be undermined. That goes for roads, utilities, health care and police.

http://fullerfuturefest.com/special-roadway-degradation-costs-due-to-mass-fracking-industrialization/

6. Crime rates are going to sky-rocket ... especially crimes against women because of the kinds of people these jobs attract. They are drifters with high risk jobs, working hard and playing harder.

7. Fracking is a 24 hour round the clock operation. The noise is not going to end. The lights are never going to go off. The industrialization of your lives will be complete. I guess with fracking industrialization operations a mile apart, there won't be much wilderness left even in rural areas. National parks aren't even safe.

8. When the fracking lottery comes to town, some people will make money selling their mineral rights. Some people will get poisoned. Doctors won't know what people are poisoned with because the industry doesn't want to divulge the ingredients of its fracking effluent. They're protected as trade secrets. Rest assured with hundreds of toxic ingredients, fracking effluent is even more toxic once you put those poisons together. Many ingredients have 10 serious health side effects on their own.

9. And you know we're going to run out of clean water, right? According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. By 2025 and estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity with two thirds of the world's population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change.

10. The IDNR regulating radiation doesn't keep it from hurting anyone. If we want to find out what's beyond the Thunderdome, we're going to have to take care of the next generation. Not give our children harder problems to solve than the ones we have.

"...When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them."

Frédéric Bastiat

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

Click on his link called "Important Articles"

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

Water that gets fracked can never be cleaned up and used again. Fracking is the largest engineering projects humans have ever attempted. The scope is immense. The scale in terms of time, resources, and (catastrophic) results makes me wonder how any company make promises regarding fracking.

When we first heard high volume fracking was coming to Southern Illinois, we went to the Murphysboro courthouse. Our protests upset the man they sent from the fracking industry. When our meeting was over, I heard him say under his breath that he'd recently lost a child and if he had the strength go through that he could go through anything. He was making his heart hard. He was trying to withstand the pain because he had a job to do and I'm sure if he didn't do it, someone else would.

Later he made a presentation at SIU, I watched how far he'd come. There were three industry representatives to take the heat. This time when everyone got upset, he smiled at the discomfort and stuffed his emotions to keep them under control. We looked at how he was handling things and we knew he was just following orders. He was not listening to us. He was a brick wall.

And that's something you're going to want to get a handle on if you're going to be a leader and not a follower. You can't afford to burnout, you can't afford to have your joy and enthusiasm disappear, you can't afford to feel as if nothing seems meaningful, you can't afford to feel alienated from other people.

Karma's a funny thing, but it doesn't work the way most people think it does. The idea of karma is you continually get the lessons that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of life lessons to help you open further according to Pema Chodron. It's called the Wisdom of No Escape once you recognize we're all in this together you can find better solutions based on mutual wisdom.

Other industries simplify their complex interconnected problems by working backwards to solve problems. Other industries experiment with a bottom up management style to solve problems in the field. Why does the oil and gas industry get to dictate how things are going to go? I’ve got 10 reasons to tell you why they are going to have to change too.

1. All steel rusts. All concrete cracks. Louis Allstadt former Executive VP of Mobil Oil confirms it. He says

Sooner or later the steel casing is going to rust out, and the cement is going to crumble. We may have better cements now, we may have slightly better techniques of packing the cement and mud into the well bore to close it up, but even if nothing comes up through the fissures in the rock layers above, where it was fracked, those well bores will deteriorate over time. And there is at least one study showing that 100 percent of plugs installed in abandoned wells fail within 100 years and many of them much sooner.

Concrete crumbles. Steel rusts. In the United States since the year 2000, sixteen bridges have collapsed. The Federal National Bridge Inventory reports 85,000 U.S. bridges are in bad shape and need to be replaced. What are bridges made of? Steel and concrete. What does fracking use to keep deadly chemicals out of our drinking water? Steel and concrete.

The fracking industry buries steel pipes thousands of feet underground, fills them with fracked water, effluents and sand, puts them under a tremendous amount of pressure, waits for 20% to 80% of the toxic and radioactive wastewater to come out, and seals the rest of the water inside the steel pipes with an inch of concrete. Then they tell you everything’s going to be okay. You don’t have to worry that fracked water is poisoned with more than 600 toxic and radioactive chemicals. The damage is done. Out of sight is outta mind.

The poison is eventually going to end up in your water because all steel rusts. The question is this. Why are we betting against a natural process everyone understands and expecting everything to work out to our advantage? All steel rusts. Doesn’t that single fact unhinge all the fracking science?

When the industry talks to you about fracking, ask them who is going to check the steel pipes in a few generations when all the fracking money is gone and the pipes are still down there in the dark getting rustier and rustier and rustier.

Don’t be fooled. They are going to hand this problem back to you and you’re the one who will have to find the solution. Not them. They’re in it for the money and if you’ll sell your water cheap, they’ll certainly take that to the bank.

2. Earthquakes go hand it hand with fracking. Since we are between two active earthquake zones, you're going to want to take a look at Brent Ritzel's report. I handed out 50 copies tonight. Here's the link.

http://fullerfuturefest.com/fracking-industrialization-and-induced-earthquakes-the-mechanisms-that-connect-the-disposal-of-fracking-wastewater-into-deep-injection-wells-to-a-significant-increase-in-midcontinent-seismic-activity/

3. The USGS says we should treat water as if it is all coming from the same source because it does. We can't keep it separate. Fracking operations dump 10 trillion gallons of toxic liquids into Class II injection wells using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

4. The Bonds the fracking companies put up to do the work won't be high enough to clean up the environment; if anything goes wrong it'll be up the taxpayers to flip the bill.


Frank Chernega
Frank Chernega

@William Huston Here is a 17 page analysis of your heroes Ingraffea/Howarth by esteemed Cornell professors Dr. Lawrence Cathles, Andrew Hunter, and Larry Brown which totally destroys Ingraffea/Howarth's terrribly flawed "strudy" - http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/PeoplePlaces/Faculty/cathles/Natural%20Gas/2012%20Cathles%20et%20al%20Commentary%20on%20Howarth.pdf Here is also a  video of Sandra Steingraber, a fanatical anti business, anti landowner, and anti driller who is humiliated when the moderator, Mr. Kilmer, of the recent Binghamton University debate asked her if there is evidence of extensive pollution in PA from drilling - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zR7CpulGb14#t=908  IF THERE IS SUCH ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION GOING ON IN PA, WHY AREN'T PA RESIDENTS FIGHTING TO CROSS THE BORDER OUT OF PA INTO FRACK FREE PROGRESSIVE HELL HOLE NY STATE? In fact, quite the opposite is true: NY residents are fleeing this pathetic excuse of a state being created by Cuomo in hordes. The lies and propaganda have no effect as evidenced by this poll in the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin - http://www.pressconnects.com/poll/2014-02-28/7840203/results  Your "grass roots" movement is an illusion.

Lij Lij Briggy
Lij Lij Briggy

@William Huston Now this is what our President and Congress needs to visit as well. Thank you for all this information. I intend to share this with as many people as possible.

KENNETH LANE
KENNETH LANE

@William Huston  Thank you sir!  The nightmare of Rightwing Corporations raping our nation is sick and I too wish them a fast death

Beth Martell
Beth Martell

5. Your infrastructure is going to be undermined. That goes for roads, utilities, health care and police.

http://fullerfuturefest.com/special-roadway-degradation-costs-due-to-mass-fracking-industrialization/

6. Crime rates are going to sky-rocket ... especially crimes against women because of the kinds of people these jobs attract. They are drifters with high risk jobs, working hard and playing harder.

7. Fracking is a 24 hour round the clock operation. The noise is not going to end. The lights are never going to go off. The industrialization of your lives will be complete. I guess with fracking industrialization operations a mile apart, there won't be much wilderness left even in rural areas. National parks aren't even safe.

8. When the fracking lottery comes to town, some people will make money selling their mineral rights. Some people will get poisoned. Doctors won't know what people are poisoned with because the industry doesn't want to divulge the ingredients of its fracking effluent. They're protected as trade secrets. Rest assured with hundreds of toxic ingredients, fracking effluent is even more toxic once you put those poisons together. Many ingredients have 10 serious health side effects on their own.

9. And you know we're going to run out of clean water, right? According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. By 2025 and estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity with two thirds of the world's population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change.

10. The IDNR regulating radiation doesn't keep it from hurting anyone. If we want to find out what's beyond the Thunderdome, we're going to have to take care of the next generation. Not give our children harder problems to solve than the ones we have.

"...When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them."

Frédéric Bastiat



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