Posts Tagged ‘carnegie mellon university’

New shale study refutes Cornell: Marcellus gas better than coal

Marcellus gas has less impact on global warming than coal, according to a recent study by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

Article was originally published on August 17, 2011 by The Patriot News.

Marcellus gas has less impact on global warming than coal, according to a recent study by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

The peer-reviewed study published Aug. 5 in “Environmental Research Letters” appears to be a direct refutation of an April study from researchers Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea at Cornell University that indicated that shale gas was worse for global warming than coal.

The Cornell study had a number of faults — acknowledged by its authors — including sketchy data that did not directly apply to Marcellus drilling operations.

The Carnegie Mellon study looks specifically at Marcellus and the “life cycle greenhouse gas emmissions” associated with its production and consumption.

Marcellus gas is essentially no different than conventional natural gas, the study found, and 20-50 percent cleaner than coal for producing electricity.

“Marcellus shale gas emits 50 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than any U.S. coal-fired plant,” said study co-author Chris Hendrickson. “We favor extraction of Marcellus shale natural gas as long as the extraction is managed to minimize adverse economic, environmental and social impacts.”

Former DEP Secretary John Hanger lauded the new study on his blog, saying it “debunks and decimates professor Howarth’s hit piece study that the NYT gas reporter and other media gave so much attention.”

“By contrast,” Hanger said, “the CMU study has received very little press attention so the result remains that many people think Howarth is the final word on this important matter.”

The new study does support “green completions” — in which gas is captured during the earliest stages of production rather than being vented or flared into the atmosphere. Proposed shale gas rules from the EPA would require green completions.

“Green completion… would significantly reduce the largest source of emissions specific to Marcellus gas preproduction,” the study says, but it adds that such emissions are a small portion of the life cycle estimates.

The study’s authors said greenhouse gas emissions are not the only challenge when it comes to extracting shale gas.

“We still need to study other environmental issues, including use of water and disruption of natural habitats,” said co-author Paulina Jaramillo.

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What Independent Experts Are Saying About Marcellus Shale Water Management

  • “By recycling the wastewater, they can reduce their transportation costs and the overall environmental footprint of the industry”
  • “There’s nothing in flowback water that’s particularly difficult for an environmental engineer to manage”
  • “The DEP analyses are determining that the average daily consumption in the shale industry is ‘no greater than one of our power plants’”

“Expert Says Marcellus Drillers Reusing Two-Thirds of Water”: A hydrogeologist from Penn State says companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale play through hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) are recycling about two-thirds of the wastewater that returns to the surface. David Yoxtheimer, a researcher with the university’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, presented his findings Sunday at the annual Geological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh. “The regulatory framework is such that there are higher costs to take wastewater to a treatment facility that is permitted to treat and dispose of that water, plus more higher costs for them to get more fresh water and haul it in,” Yoxtheimer told NGI’s Shale Daily on Tuesday. “By recycling the wastewater, they can reduce their transportation costs and the overall environmental footprint of the industry.” … Yoxtheimer found that the 30-day average recovery of flowback totaled between 8% and 10%. He said that from June 2008 to May 2010, drilling companies had reused about 44.1 million gallons and disposed of 21 million gallons, a recycling rate of nearly 67%. (Shale Daily, 3/23/11)

Carnegie Mellon University Environmental Engineering Professor: “There’s nothing in flowback water that’s particularly difficult for an environmental engineer to manage,” said [Kelvin Gregory, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who has studied recycling operations]. (Philly Inquirer, 3/23/11)

“Gas drillers reuse two-thirds of water, expert finds”: A Penn State University researcher found that Marcellus shale gas drilling companies reused at least two-thirds of the water returned to the surface during 30 days of drilling. “The industry is striving to reuse as much flowback as possible,” said David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist with Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. … Reusing the water reduces reliance on groundwater or municipal sources of water, reducing the environmental impact, said Yoxtheimer. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/21/11)

PSU Hydrogeologist:Marcellus Water Use a Fraction of Other Sources, Industrial Purposes: Yoxtheimer cited data from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which found 9.48 billion gallons of water are being extracted from surface and groundwater sources every day in Pennsylvania. Of that amount, 1.9 million gallons per day (gpd) is used in Marcellus Shale development. By comparison, thermoelectric power uses 6.43 billion gpd, the public water supply draws 1.42 billion gpd and industrial users are taking 770 million gpd. (Shale Daily, 3/23/11)

“Marcellus Water Issue Overrated, Pennsylvania [DEP] Official Says”: Water use in Marcellus Shale drilling “may not be as big an issue as we originally thought it was,” a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) official told a natural gas forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, last Wednesday. Dana Aunkst, an engineer and DEP’s acting deputy secretary for field operations, said the DEP analyses are determining that the average daily consumption in the shale industry is “no greater than one of our power plants.”There are no current health hazards but said the state is taking “precautionary controls” and intends to require close monitoring of wastewater, along with “accelerating the frequency at which downstream drinking water intakes may have to monitor their water just to be on the safe side.” (Shale Daily, 3/21/11)

Ridge: Gas wells mean jobs

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Friday, Feb. 4, 2011

The shale gas industry is like the auto business — it might hurt some people, but the jobs it brings to a struggling economy make it worthwhile, gas industry pitchman and former Gov. Tom Ridge said Thursday.

“You don’t quit building automobiles because some people are going to crash and kill themselves,” said Ridge, who spoke at Carnegie Mellon University. “You have to manage the risk. Capitalism and entrepreneurialism is risk management.”

Ridge, whose Washington-based consulting company makes $75,000 a month from a coalition of gas drillers, led a presentation on Marcellus shale gas drilling to open the university’s 21st annual Distinguished Lecture Series in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy. It’s an industry that could improve life in long-struggling rural Pennsylvania towns, he said.

The former Republican governor got a warm reception and applause from a crowd of about 250. But several drilling opponents in the audience criticized him for his relationship with the industry and for not visiting residents near the 400 well sites in Washington County.

“We would like people to be informed of what Mr. Ridge is doing here so they can consider that what he’s going to say is possibly biased,” said Edith Wilson, 67, of Edgewood, one of several people who handed out leaflets about Ridge’s industry ties. “I’ve been treated for cancer, and I sure don’t want anything floating around in the air that could infect anyone else.”

The Marcellus shale is a mile-deep layer of rocks rich with natural gas. It stretches from Tennessee to New York, but the busiest sweet spots for drillers have been found in Washington County and northeastern Pennsylvania. Scientists predict there could be 50,000 or more wells drilled statewide.

The shale drilling explosion began in Texas a decade ago. Tales of spoiled water, chemicals spills and cancer — along with documented air pollution, damaged roads and clear-cut forest land — have followed. But scientists have drawn few conclusions about the full effects of the industry and the root causes of these problems.

“We have one chance to do it right, and I believe that chance is now,” Ridge said, pledging that cheap, domestic gas can help the country stay competitive and put money into poor rural towns where most of the drilling occurs. “Things will happen out there, folks. Remember you have to manage the risk.”

Mike Domach, a chemical engineering professor at CMU, asked Ridge about leases for drilling in state forests. He owns property in Clinton County and said he has seen roads and forests ruined in the state’s wilderness by truck traffic and well development. Ridge told him that drilling companies should restore the land when they leave.

“But this is going to be a protracted process. I guess we can look forward to all these places getting broke every year and then fixed every year,” Domach said later. “I’m not averse to development, but I just think the state is totally unprepared for what’s being unleashed here.”