"Fracked Gas Exports," by Juliette Zephyr

Our excellent young female guest writer Juliette Zephyr shows up for another guest post about a subject that has unfortunately been neglected on this blog.

Fracked Gas Exports

by Juliette Zephyr

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the disturbing prevalence of a natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” all across the country. It’s been happening in rural areas, where residents have to cope with the effects it has on their groundwater as well as the air quality. In Pennsylvania, the problem got so out of hand that it inspired a groundbreaking documentary, Gasland (2010), which highlights the grim consequences of this dirty method of extracting fuels.
The percentage of fracked gas actually kept and sold in the U.S. is marginal – after the fuel is fracked, it is then typically sent for export to countries in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Anywhere corporations have undertaken fracking projects, the result has been very real and large-scale contamination of surrounding water and air. Yet corporate powers lobby for more projects in states that can ill afford the environmental upheaval, the destruction of plant and animal habitats, and the pollution of the area that would ensue.
Shale basins in this country which contain natural gas are especially vulnerable to opportunistic corporations which will try to convince a local jurisdiction that taking advantage of these natural resources would lead to more jobs for Americans and less reliance on foreign oil.
Anyone who tries to come forward with an alternate view is silenced, with groups such as Marcellus Shale Earth First being targeted by the government as a “terrorist group,” and victims of water and air contamination being labeled and dismissed as delusional nutcases. Since it doesn’t appear that such projects are creating new jobs for Americans or helping us to rely less on foreign oil, it seems that the only authentic benefit of exporting these fuels is the profit reaped by oil companies.
In layman’s terms, the process of fracking involves these three steps:
1. Drilling a fracking well. A well of sorts must be drilled into a geological formation, such as shale. A pipe is inserted in preparation for the Step 2.
2. Fracturing the rock/sediment/tight sands. Let us continue to use shale as an example. In order to fracture the shale rock, “fracking fluid” is pumped into the well. In addition to water and sand, this fracking fluid can contain up to 600 chemical additives. The high pressure injection of these chemicals eventually causes the rock to fracture.
3. Natural gas from the rock then flows back up the well.
This is what fracking is, in a nutshell. Studies show that more than 90% of fracking fluid remains underground, posing a threat to both the environment and drinking water used by locals. In rural communities such as Dimock, PA, footage online shows residents holding a lighter to a faucet of running water. The water stream then catches fire. There are unexplained ailments and health concerns cropping up in these places, symptoms which had not been seen in the community prior to the introduction of fracking wells.
Any fracking fluid that returns to the surface is called “flowback,” and can pollute the surrounding areas and threaten indigenous species and their habitats. Research has also determined that methane is a significant byproduct of fracking. In most cases, and certainly in Pennsylvania, methane leak rates into the atmosphere are occurring at 100-1,000 times what the EPA initially estimated.
Now, solely for the purposes of full disclosure, I, as a Maryland resident who resides where the Susquehanna River meets the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, have a personal bias when it comes to my desire to see all fracking projects, both in my home state as well as the entire country, fail.
I live in a natural scenic area, marred only by a nearly nuclear power plant, that attracts tourists year-round. The Chesapeake Bay is already extremely polluted, and any export facilities on the bay would be a catastrophe. I lament that our own governor, Martin O’Malley, is planning to approve an export terminal in Cove Point (southern Maryland), which would be situated right on the bay. It would be the first of its kind here on the East Coast.
As bay ecologists are observing, any fracking chemicals present in one part of the bay are going to turn up in other parts of the bay too. It is a perilous scenario. Even more ghastly, experts have issued warnings that the proposed facility could be at risk for serious fires and explosions because of the explosive chemicals required to liquefy the gas.
This area has residential neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rubber-stamped the project, which is being managed by a Virginia-based company called Dominion Resources. Fracked gas from Appalachia is going to be liquefied and then sent for export right here on the water. It will apparently end up in Asia when all is said and done. For people in our area, this has turned into a battle that no one wanted to fight, but FERC and these Dominion scumbags have forced our hand.

Juliette Zephyr, guest author.
Juliette Zephyr, guest author.

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14 thoughts on “"Fracked Gas Exports," by Juliette Zephyr”

  1. The vast majority of Documentaries pushing either right or left wing propaganda are filled with half truths and outright lies. A simple Google search would uncover the fact that this film is no different.

  2. Nice article Juliette!
    I would add only a few things;
    Valero Energy is the largest liquifier of natural gas in the world and sell almost all of it to foreign countries; refining it in Texas.
    The chemicals used in fracking are not known. That the Bush-Era energy policy specifically made them unknowable by law being considered, “proprietary knowledge.” That due to this any company could make money by offering to collect industrial waste, toxic waste or nuclear waste, be paid to remove it and then use it in the wells and no one would know about it and there would be no way, once that waste was in the groundwater water table to prove it came from a specific source.
    That a report done by the State of Kansas found exactly this, reported it, took huge industry flak and was sued and promptly removed the report and trashed it.
    That in Republican States like North Carolina they have literally made it illegal to investigate what is being put in the ground and the governor is under criminal investigation for disbanding the State agency tasked with testing ground water so no one can know what is or has been done in N.C.
    And finally all uranium is found in granite deposits and all granite has uranium in it and fracking is done to granite releasing radioactive material into groundwater therefore scientifically the industry has a built-in defense against lawsuits even if they are dumping nuclear waste. Either way your town’s groundwater will have radioactive particulate matter in it due to fracking that most likely was not in it originally.

    1. great article juliette. i feel it will be an uphill battle as with global climate change repulicans using vast amounts of money can change science. sea level rise and glacier melt are only in the imagination of 99 percent of the worlds scientists. with the 1 percent residing in the U.S. and sucking on the petroliem tete.

    2. Uranium concentrations in granite are very low. Uranium ore is a chemical precipitate in some sedimentary bodies.

    3. Thanks for your feedback, Dave. I think it’s amazing that there’s so much red tape when it comes to making this information accessible to the public. Thanks for the additional info, which I wasn’t aware of.

      1. @BigG: Thanks, and I totally agree. Hopefully, we can see more changes being implemented, now that the EPA ruling was successful.
        @Thirdeye: Where in the world specifically are the granite deposits you are referring to? I am curious.

  3. What was posted was accurate but a bit deceptive. I’ve worked around gas wells before. The chemicals I’ve seen were bentonite(clay), sand and anti algae stuff. The bentonite is used in drilling. Kind of like a sealer and lubricator while drilling. Here’s a list of chemicals commonly used.
    http://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used
    The sand is used to hold open the cracked rock passages.
    When they show the Pennsylvania flames you have to remember that Pennsylvania was I think the first place fracking was used. They didn’t put a concrete liner all the way down to the fracked area so of course gas would leak. If I understand correctly now they have to have a liner. I’m sure they’re not perfect but they also are probably not as bad as they are made out to be.
    As for the water remaining there. I’m skeptical. The gas well area where I worked had massive amounts of water pumped up to create a vacuum to get the gas out. They put the water in sealed liner ponds and aerated them to neutralize any acids. They also had to monitor the water.
    The impression some people give is that the energy companies just do what they please. It’s just not true. They’re covered up by government agents just like the rest of us. I’m of course not saying it wouldn’t be better with no fracking but we have to keep the lights on somehow. If the environmentalist have any sense at all they’d being howling for nuclear power. The newer reactors using liquid salts don’t have the overpressure explosion hazard that Chernobyl and Fukushima have. They also burn all the fission products and only have a 300 year storage before they’re safe. Fat chance of that though. The gas and oil fund anti0nuke people.

    1. I appreciate the input, Sam. I, too, have seen the Frac Focus website you linked to, which is a disclosure of *some* of the chemicals. However, those aren’t all the chemicals. Actually, as you may know, the worst fracking chemicals have been kept top-secret thus far. If they were perfectly harmless, there wouldn’t be any reason not to disclose them to the public. Since this is confidential information, however, it leaves a lot to be explained. Having all the facts would definitely help, should exposure of chemicals to a community occur.
      That’s very interesting, about the concrete liner. It still sucks for the people living there, though. Even with the best of monitoring, spills and leaks do happen. It is not uncommon at all. I know I mentioned it in the article, but the documentary, Gasland, provides some eye-opening examples of residents who have been sick from what’s in their air and water. It’s not just in their heads.
      We also need to remember that fracking fluid doesn’t just make contact with the ground – it’s trucked through residential neighborhoods. There was a recent spill in Monroe County, Ohio. Over 70,000 fish died, and it was a huge mess (still is). Halliburton, who was overseeing the project, remained quiet about it for days. I just think we need complete transparency from the oil companies, and to eventually divest from fossil fuels entirely and go solar.

  4. I wonder, if fracking reduces dependence on middle eastern oil That would be one powerful argument for it. We have to get gasoline from somewhere, unless corporations are willing to build a solar powered car. An electric car wouldn’t really use less pollution cause, it takes coal to make electricity.

    1. the U.S. uses 17 percent of its oil from foriegn contries. it sells oil globaly to keep prices here high.

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