Geologist: Fracking Unlikely Here
At the request of various area board members and residents, on April 1 at Austic Farms Shop Building on Route 96, former Covert town supervisor Brayton Foster presented the how, why and what of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing to a somewhat hostile audience. His talk attempted to address some misconceptions people have about fracking.
Foster, a long-time resident of Covert, is a consulting geologist active in Marcellus and Trenton/Black River horizontal drilling. Years ago he was involved in vertical hole drilling into the Marcellus shale in Chemung County, and said those wells didn’t produce enough gas to pay for the fracking, never mind the drilling.
“Chemung, Tioga and Broome counties are the only areas where the Marcellus is likely to be fracked in this state,” said Foster. Although the Utica Shale, which is far beneath the Marcellus, is thick enough to frack, it is not regarded as worth drilling with existing technology. Where the Utica was fracked in the St. Lawrence valley, he said, the rate of production was low. “Most of us won’t live to see the Utica shale fracked around here.”
He also went into the regulations in New York set to prevent pollution such as that caused by fracking in other parts of the country. The DEC permit system requires drillers to explain where they intend to get the necessary water; where they’ll dispose of it; what chemicals they’ll use. This latter information will be shared with the DEC, although not with the public (nor can it be obtained through FOIL) because that would violate the companies’ patents on the fracking fluid.
He talked a little about what happens to the fracking fluid after it has been used. According to Foster, in New York State fracking fluids and flowback can only be stored in open pits for 45 days before they have to be either reused or hauled away for reprocessing. The flowback, contrary to what many believe, does not have elevated radioactivity. “Production water,” which is native to the shale formation and comes out of the well during gas production, is radioactive. Foster advocated injecting production water back into wells to “send it back where it came from.” Ninety percent of the flowback is recycled (back into the well, or another). There are biodegradable fracking fluid formulas, but they are more expensive than the others.
Property owners concerned about compulsory integration should know that if the gas companies have a critical mass of landowners in the unit who have leased, then that allows them to drill under your land without your consent, but they cannot get surface rights to your land; what operations they perform will be deep underground.
Tom Shepstone of Energy In Depth, also made a presentation. Shepstone is a lobbyist for natural gas development in New York state, but he let the audience know that he, like Foster, believes production water should be put back in the ground where it came from. Further, he said production water high in radon is not allowed to be stored in pits in New York and must be stored in tanks.
Shepstone also predicted that only 1000 new Marcellus wells per year would go into production, because this “keep the pipeline full” and meet the existing demand for natural gas.
At least a third of the audience traveled from Bradford County in Pennsylvania to the meeting. It was also well attended by Concerned Citizens of Covert.Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:43 am
© Copyright 2013, Ithaca Times, Ithaca , N