10 December 2010

Public Citizen on hydrofracking ..

Hydraulic Fracturing; Unsafe, Unregulated

Some environmentalists, desperate to address greenhouse gas emissions from coal and oil, have wrongly identified natural gas as the primary "cleaner" alternative .While it is true that burning natural gas emits half the emissions of coal, natural gas extraction around the country creates dangerous risks to drinking and freshwater resources, and local air quality. Hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking,” is a federally unregulated extraction process used in many natural gas drilling sites. The process can contaminate drinking water supplies with cancer-causing chemicals and significantly deplete freshwater aquifers. Natural gas extraction poses a grave threat to families, communities and ecosystems.

While for decades fracking was mainly conducted by smaller natural gas companies, the discovery of large gas reserves under shale formations in new areas of the country (such as New York and Pennsylvania) has resulted in the larger oil majors - ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and BP - becoming the largest frackers in the country. And now the Obama Administration's State Department is promoting America's fracking technologies to export fracking overseas - putting the administration in a position of a cheerleader for the industry. Cleaner, cheaper and quicker solutions to meet our energy demands are available. Renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency should diminish our dependence on dirty and dangerous fuels.

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing is the high-pressure injection of fracking fluid – a mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals – into the ground to break open and “fracture” rock formations to release liquid gas. The controversial technique was developed in the 1940s by energy services company Halliburton. Modern practices such as horizontal fracturing and high-volume hydraulic fracturing allow drillers to extract greater amounts of gas than previously possible. But at what cost?

The chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing often include substances that are toxic to humans and wildlife as well as carcinogenic. While particular fracking fluid chemical combinations differ based on the company and drilling location, many include toxic substances such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene and naphthalene. Other chemicals used include a variety of acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers, hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. Fracking fluids may contain mixtures of hundreds of chemicals and agents. Yet, the precise chemical compositions used are secret; drilling companies refuse to disclose the composition of their fracking fluids, citing proprietary interests. The amount of these chemicals used can reach upwards of 50,000 gallons during the fracturing of a single well.

The infiltration potential of these fracking fluid chemicals into drinking water supplies is alarming. Even though the hydraulic fracking process is designed to remove these chemicals, a large percentage – anywhere from 25-60 percent – are often left in the ground and never fully recovered. Furthermore, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry leaders have acknowledged that the potential exists for frack fluid to migrate away from intended fracture lines and into nearby aquifers.

More than 30 states are involved in oil and gas production, and hydraulic fracturing is used in 9 of 10 gas exploration operations in several parts of the country including Texas, Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana.There are approximately 450,000 of these gas wells across the country, with a proposal for 100,000 more to be drilled in New York and 100,000 in Pennsylvania. A variety of new drilling techniques using hydraulic fracturing are also opening up gas deposits that had previously been too expensive to drill. One particularly large area, known as the Marcellus Shale, expands through Pennsylvania and parts of New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

In addition to the large oil majors, other companies involved in hydraulic fracturing services include Chesapeake Energy, Cabot Oil and Gas Co., BJ Services Co., Complete Production Services, Key Energy Services, Patterson UTI, RPC Inc; Schlumberger, Superior Well Services Inc. and Weatherford. To date, companies involved in this process have had thousands of accidents and racked up a number of safety violations.

Risk to Drinking Water

Hydraulic fracturing’s potential impacts on both water usage and quantity can be significant. A single fracture of one well may require anywhere from 1 to 5 million gallons of water. To compare, a single fracture using 1 million gallons of water would roughly be equivalent to 2 Olympic size swimming pools. This also translates into as many as 200 truck loads of water per fracture of a well. Many wells require multiple fractures, some up to 18 times.

With fracking comes an enormous threat of contamination of residential wells, groundwater aquifers and nearby surface water sources such as rivers and steams. From Virginia to Wyoming, hundreds of documented cases have surfaced regarding water quality and quantity problems in residential wells located near natural gas drilling operations. These reports include incidents of water wells being contaminated during and directly following hydraulic fracturing operations. Gases such as methane and hydrogen sulfide have been reported in drinking water, along with murkiness and discoloration of water. Cases of skin rashes and sickness after unknowingly showering in contaminated water supplies have been documented.

Federal Regulation: Unregulated and Unproven

Since 1974, regulatory protection of drinking water has fallen under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The act calls for monitoring of underground injection of chemicals that may come in contact with drinking water supplies. As a result of the 1997 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation v. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA was charged with regulating hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This decision led the agency to undertake an analysis in 2000 to determine the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing to underground drinking water supplies.

During the same period, a special presidential task force on energy policy led by then-Vice President Dick Cheney convened in 2001. Because of Cheney’s recent departure as CEO of Halliburton to return to politics, the secretive nature of the task force and its motivations were called into question. Aided by industry professionals from Halliburton and other energy companies, the task force ultimately recommended that Congress exempt hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA finished its fracking study in 2004 and found that fracturing “posses little or no threat” to drinking water and concluded no more research was necessary. However, comments from whistleblowers and reviews of the report, notably by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), found that the EPA’s conclusion that no further investigation of hydraulic fracturing was needed to be unpersuasive.

Congress ultimately exempted hydraulic fracturing from the regulatory authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. This exemption, known commonly as the “Halliburton loophole,” created a unique situation where oil and gas companies are the only industry entities allowed to inject known hazardous chemicals either directly into or nearby underground drinking water supplies. Hydraulic fracturing is also exempted from other federal regulations that protect air quality, water treatment infrastructure and
Landowner’s rights

Congressional efforts to close the Halliburton loophole began in 2008. In 2009, the Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC ACT) was introduced by lawmakers in an attempt to close the Halliburton loophole.  However, the bill has failed to win passage to date.

The EPA is also studying hydraulic fracturing’s effects on drinking water supplies. Commissioned in 2010, the current study will likely conclude in 2012.  As of Nov. 9, 2010, the EPA had requested chemical compositions from nine of the leading energy companies that participate in hydraulic fracturing. All but one of those companies complied with the EPA’s request.  Halliburton refused and was issued a subpoena to provide the chemical makeup of the compounds it uses.

Patchwork State Regulation

Because federal regulation of fracking is absent, states are left to determine monitoring protocols for hydraulic fracturing. As is the case with many issues where a clear lack of federal regulation exists, a patchwork of state regulations governs the natural gas exploration process. Most state regulation does the bare minimum of merely collecting data on fracturing operations. The majority of states that do have some drilling regulations in place enforce these through the permitting process. New Mexico, Colorado and Alabama regulate fracking through the permitting process.  These controls monitor well depth, availability of freshwater supplies, disposal of chemicals and observation of open air fluid pits.

Some states like Pennsylvania allow for neighbors of a drilling operation to request an investigation when they believe their water may have been contaminated by fracking.

However, even with established monitoring and guidelines, states are stretched to handle the workload.  The frenzied pace of new well drilling combined with state budgetary woes are hindering state level regulation. For example, according to the Citizen’s Campaign Fund for the Environment, New York State lacks the funding and the trained professionals to ensure enforcement of any fracking operation in the state.


  • While the EPA study is under way, no new fracking operations should be permitted.
  • Congress must close the 2005 Halliburton loophole for hydraulic fracturing. Injecting toxic substances into the ground falls squarely under the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act and thus the exemption for hydraulic fracturing should be eliminated from the 2005 Energy Policy Act. 
PDF version with references available, here.

08 December 2010

Our first dispatch on methyl hydrate:What drives the bloodshed



Focused ongoing fluid effluent from the sediment into
the ocean generates a structure known as a mud volcano.
Approximately 1800 mud volcanoes have been discovered
around the world, above and below sea level, mostly in a belt
beginning in the Mediterranean Sea and winding across Asia
to Indonesia (Dimitrov, 2002). Submarine mud volcanoes
are often associated with methane hydrates...
...The tendency for slope failure can be amplified if the sediment
accumulates so quickly that the excess high porosity
of surface sediments cannot be squeezed out. This can
lead to instability of the sediment column, causing periodic
Storegga-type landslides off the coast of Norway (see below),
in the Mediterranean Sea (Rothwell et al., 2000) and
potentially off the East coast of the United States (Dugan and
Flemings, 2000).

Climate Treaty

"Scientists have predicted that as ocean temperatures rise as a result of climate change, methane hydrates would begin to break down at greater depths. But the fact that the process has begun already surprised the team."

(they are not surprised they have known this since the 90's see the "Bush Hill" and "Caspian Sea" documents below)

K-T Event
Recently BP-Amoco discovered how to bring these frozen fireballs to the surface intact...
...Ever since the discovery of these hydrates one of the big questions has been "can we mine them without triggering a disaster that makes the K-T event look mild by comparison"?
(21 Feb 2007)

(The K-T event was the Cretacious Tertiary extinction event in the geological record.)

Bush Hill document


Methane fluxes from the surface ocean (mixed layer) to the atmosphere at the three seep sites in the Gulf of Mexico have been computed using air-sea gas exchange models presented in Wannikof (1992) and Wannikof and McGillis (1999)...
...The areas affected by seepage where gas hydrate is found are often on the order of a square kilometer or more......Side scan sonar, and satellite remote sensing (Figure 12) were used to detect thelocations where escaping gas reaches the sea surface to carefully determine the number of

gas vents at a “typical” seep (De Beukelaer et al., 2003). 
The main objective of our attempts to quantify CH4 flux into the atmosphere at Bush Hilland vicinity and extrapolate it over the entire Gulf of Mexico basin was to asses the contribution of this oceanic basin methane source to the atmosphere.
If significant, it would be important to conduct similar studies at other regions with active methane seeps and natural oil, such as the Sea of Okhotsk, Black Sea, and Caspian Sea, in order to better constrain/quantify the flux of oceanic methane to the atmosphere.

Caspian Sea (Iran)
The original link I found to this info has been blocked but I found an html version saved by google. Can you see why Saudi Arabia urged the US to start a war with Iran which borders the Caspian?

The presence of both thermogenic and biogenic gas, identified from coring at the seafloor, suggests that gas hydrates in the South Caspian Sea may be stable in water depths as shallow as~150 m, much shallower than other areas reported worldwide.

The maximum predicted thickness is 1300 m, considerably
thicker than other known hydrate occurrences. Accumulation of these hydrates near the base of the continental rise appears to control a large region (>200 sq. km) of shallow deformation, including shallow faulting evident on the detailed bathymetry of the seafloor. The gas hydrates of the South Caspian region prove to be widespread features of the deepwater of the South Caspian Sea, buried deposits well beneath the seafloor, and accordingly, they may represent significant and previously underestimated geo-hazards.
Primary among these hazards are (1) uncontrolled release of free gas trapped beneath the hydrate seal, (2) disruption of the gass hydrate stability field leading to either explosive dissociation of the gas hydrate, or reduction in sediment strength, and (3) slope instability, and mass sediment transport. The association of gas hydrates with active mud volcanoes in the South Caspian Sea increases the potential for offshore flaming eruptions.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
(same day as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico same day S. Korea claimed the island of Dokdo in 1953 Dokdo is the island Japan and China both want which is surrounded by methane hydrate. You can bet the US wants it too and is behind this conflict between N and S Korea. The US left ownership of the island in question at the end of the Korean conflict as a loophole to start another war.)

Methane has scent of potential

SINGAPORE — Starting this month and extending through May, South Korea will resume exploratory drilling in waters off its east coast to find out whether a long-hidden energy resource can be turned into a new wellspring of natural gas. Other major energy users and importers, including the United States, China, Japan and India, are in the midst of similar research and development programs to unlock what they hope will be a treasure trove of methane hydrates on land and at sea. All of them aim to be in commercial production by 2020 at the latest.

 A team of Russian, American and Swedish scientists last month reported that a relatively shallow section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of gas hydrate is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of methane into the atmosphere. However, it is not clear whether these emissions are new and are being triggered by the increasing temperature of bottom waters, or whether they have been there unnoticed for decades or longer.

And Finally here is the sickening truth of why America really attacked Afghanistan. Do people in Italy think 911 was a professional demolition designed by our own leaders to justify economic acquisition in Afghanistan and Iraq? I do, especially after I watched a documentary that showed the Pentagon before the roof collapsed and the news started filming it. The hole they claim a jetliner went through was only 15 feet wide before the roof collapsed and the cameras pointed at it.
This survey of Afghan mineral wealth was conducted in the 80's and 90's. Many  people in the US are stupid, but some of us know what kind of evil we are ruled by. That is why I was not offended at all when you suggested American wars are rich bastards getting richer while Americans like me get poorer. I know it is true. Thank you for your time in reading all this please pass it on. People need to know what is really driving all the bloodshed.

05 December 2010

Stop WikiLeaks? You Might As Well Try To Stop Rock And Roll | Crooks and Liars

Blessedly great article ...

Stop WikiLeaks? You Might As Well Try To Stop Rock And Roll

This WikiLeaks whack-a-mole reminds of the old film about early rock and roll, "American Hot Wax." In a pivotal scene at the end, trailblazing DJ Alan Freed is arrested in a payola scandal during one of his rock shows. I can still hear him yelling, "You can stop me, but you're never gonna stop rock and roll!" (Rock and roll, in this case, being the internet.)

The grownups didn't understand the power of rock, and I can assure you that the political Beltway class does not understand the power of the internets.

In fact, the feds narrowly dodged a bullet last week when they dropped a case against a man offering X-box modification services. (They gathered evidence in violation of California's privacy laws. Hah!) As one gamer told me, "That was good, because you really don't want to get those hackers mad. They'll take down the entire government."

From a Foreign Policy blog:

In a bid to stay one step ahead of the governments, companies, freelance hackers trying to shut down its operations, WikiLeaks mobilized its vast base of online support Saturday by asking its Twitter followers to create copies of its growing archive of hundreds of classified State Department cables.

By late afternoon Eastern time, more than 200 had answered the call, setting up "mirror" sites, many of them with the name "wikileaks" appended to their Web addresses. They organized themselves organically using the Twitter hashtag #imwikileaks, in a virtual show of solidarity reminiscent of the movie V is for Vendetta. In that 2005 film, a Guy-Fawkes masked vigilantee inspires thousands of Londoners to march on the Parliament similarly disguised -- while it blows up in front of their eyes. Presumably, many of these people believe they are facing the same sort of tyranny that V, the film's protagonist, fought against.Critics of WikiLeaks have called on the Obama administration to shut down the site, but now it's clear that doing so would be a difficult task indeed.

The New Yorker's recent profile of Julian Assange, the organization's mysterious founder and front man, said that "a government or company that wanted to remove content from WikiLeaks would have to practically dismantle the Internet itself." WikiLeaks has also posted a massive, heavily encrypted "insurance" file on The Pirate Bay, a sympathetic website, which presumably contains also 250,000-plus cables and would be released into the wild if anything happens to Assange.

As my FP colleague Evgeny Morozov warns, aggressive action like arresting or killing Assange could spawn the rise of a vast, permanent network of radicalized hackers "systematically challenging those in power – governments and companies alike – just for the sake of undermining 'the system'." That could prove an extremely dangerous threat to the global economy and diplomatic sphere.