fracking

Fracking Wastewater Spikes 1,440% in Half Decade, Adding to Dry Regions’ Water Woes

Read time: 7 mins
Permian Basin, Texas, pumpjacks

Between 2011 and 2016, fracked oil and gas wells in the U.S. pumped out record-breaking amounts of wastewater, which is laced with toxic and radioactive materials, a new Duke University study concludes. The amount of wastewater from fracking rose 1,440 percent during that period.

Over the same time, the total amount of water used for fracking rose roughly half as much, 770 percent, according to the paper published today in the journal Science Advances.

The Fracking Industry Is Cannibalizing Its Own Production, Increasing Spill Risks

Read time: 6 mins

In the climactic final scene in There Will Be Blood — arguably the greatest movie about the oil industry — the main character played by Daniel Day Lewis explains how he sucked the oil from a neighbor’s land by using horizontal drilling. To help his neighbor understand what has happened, he explains it by saying he took a very long straw and “Drank your milkshake!”

Well, guess what is happening with the fracking revolution built on the concept of horizontal drilling? Not only are oil producers drinking each other’s milkshakes, they are drinking their own, and in the process losing even more money and raising the odds of dangerous environmental risks.

And unlike in the movie where the main character knew what he was doing, the modern fracking industry really has no clue what to do about the problems caused by the combination of horizontal drilling and greed. 

Sempra Energy Plans to Export Fracked Gas on the West Coast — via Mexico

Read time: 15 mins
U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana Andrew S. E. Erickson visited the Costa Azul terminal in Ensenada in March 2013

By Steve Horn and Martha Pskowski

The Costa Azul liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal sits on an isolated stretch of the Pacific Coast north of Ensenada, Baja California, in Mexico. When Sempra and its Mexican affiliate IEnova sought to acquire the land in 2002, the site’s remoteness worked in their favor. It was only frequented by fishermen, a few surfers, and a handful of beach-front property owners.

That was the last stretch of coastline between Tijuana and Ensenada that was pristine and undeveloped,” Bill Powers, a San Diego-based energy engineer and founder of the Border Power Plant Working Group, told DeSmog. “There was just a little fishing village.”

After breaking ground in 2005, the Costa Azul LNG plant opened in 2008. Despite Sempra’s messaging strategy that the U.S. was running out of gas, the terminal has imported limited amounts of natural gas since. Now, San Diego-based Sempra hopes to build an LNG export facility at the same site.

Newly Elected President of Mexico, Lopez Obrador, Vows to Ban Fracking

Read time: 5 mins
Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won the election to become Mexico's President on July 1, stated in a press conference that he will ban the horizontal drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) upon assuming the office on December 1.

The announcement would be a devastating blow to the oil and gas industry, which had its eyes set on drilling in Mexico's northern frontier in an area known as the Burgos Basin. The Burgos is a southern extension of the Eagle Ford Shale, a prolific field situated in Texas. 

Oil Industry Plans to Keep Workers Safe—by Firing Them and Having Robots Do Their Jobs

Read time: 8 mins
Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire in Gulf of Mexico

The oil and gas industry is finally acknowledging how dangerous employment can be for its workers after years of touting the sector as a beacon of worker safety. This sudden honesty about the dangers of working in the oil patch coincides with the industry’s new solution to greatly improve the safety of those workers — which is to fire them and replace them with robots.

Mexico's New Populist President Considers Foreign Pipeline Plans Despite Indigenous Protests

Read time: 12 mins
Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a rally in Mexico in 2012

By Martha Pskowski and Steve Horn

Andrés Manuel López Obrador looked out at the crowd of reporters at a Mexico City Hilton Hotel the night of July 1. It was a moment that he had waited years for: his victory speech for the Mexican presidency.

To win in his third presidential campaign, López Obrador, a left-wing populist whose roots are in the oil-producing state of Tabasco, had to calm business leaders, who warned that foreign investment would flee the country if he took office. However, the candidate who once said he would overturn Mexico's 2013 reforms privatizing its energy sector — which opened the oil and gas industry to foreign investment and created a subsequent pipeline boom — struck a different tone on election night.

As Industry Pushes Billion-Dollar Fracked Petrochemical Projects, State Regulators Struggle To Keep Up

Read time: 12 mins
Shell's ethane cracker petrochemical plant under construction in Pennsylvania

Fueled by fracking in the region, petrochemical and plastics projects in the Ohio River Valley are attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment, but as plans for this build-out hit the drawing boards, signs already are emerging that state regulators are unprepared for this next wave of industrialization. And the implications of their inexperience could mean major threats to the region's health and environment.

One of the projects currently underway, an underground natural gas liquids (NLG) storage site — designed to support the construction of several huge petrochemical complexes — is undergoing review by state regulators who have little experience with NGL storage facilities of its size.

News Not to Miss: Oil Train Spill, China Petrochemical Deal, Methane Leaks

Read time: 4 mins
Oil train cars

It's hard to keep up with the flood of news these days. Here's your weekly round-up of news not to miss from DeSmog.

Justin Mikulka has been on the oil train beat for years. He's documented how the oil boom and pipeline bottleneck in the Bakken Shale has led to more, longer, and heavier trains shuttling oil across North America and how various factors also have led to another type of boom: the literal “boom” of exploding oil trains. (In fact, train operators have given them the nickname “bomb trains.”)

This week, Mikulka writes about the latest oil train incident, this time involving a BNSF train carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across northwestern Iowa.

$83 Billion West Virginia Petrochemical Deal with China on Skids Due to Trade War, Corruption Probe

Read time: 9 mins
Brian Anderson, Woody Thrasher, Jim Justice

Last November, China and West Virginia signed an $83.7 billion dollar, 20-year agreement to build a massive petrochemical hub in the state but that deal may be on hiatus in the midst of a de facto trade war spurred by President Donald Trump and a corruption investigation unfolding in the Mountain State. 

The deal would be worth more than the total gross domestic product of West Virginia, which was $76.8 billion in 2017. China's sizable investment would create a sprawling petrochemical center in West Virginia, focused on storing and refining natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Marcellus Shale. Full details are sealed in a yet-to-be-released Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was inked during a trade mission attended by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping last fall in Beijing, China.

Why It Matters If Fracking Companies Are Overestimating Their ‘Proved’ Oil and Gas Reserves

Read time: 12 mins
Oil pumpjacks in silhouette

Back in 2011, The New York Times first raised concerns about the reliability of America's proved shale gas reserves. Proved reserves are the estimates of supplies of oil and gas that drillers tell investors they will be able to tap. The Times suggested that a recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule change allowed drillers to potentially overbook their “proved” reserves of natural gas from shale formations, which horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) were rapidly opening up.

Welcome back to Alice in Wonderland,” energy analyst John E. Olson told The Times, commenting on the reliability of these reserves after the rule change. Olson, a former Merrill Lynch analyst, is best known for seeing the coming Enron scandal 10 years before the infamous energy company imploded in 2000.

Today, those same rules have allowed shale drillers to boost their reserves of oil, as well as natural gas. As a result, these “proved” reserves, which investors and pipeline companies are banking on, could potentially be much less proven than they appear.

And the unprecented degree to which this is happening in the shale industry casts a shadow of doubt on the purportedly bright future of America's booming oil and gas industry.

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