Category Archives: Marcellus Shale

Investigation: Cracker Plant Will bring Jobs, Pollution

Some medical experts said breathing will be much harder once plant is up and running

By Paul Van Osdol
WTAE Investigative Reporter

May 9. 2019 – MONACA, Pa. — The massive ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is bringing thousands of jobs to Western Pennsylvania.

But Action News Investigates has learned it may also bring thousands of tons of air pollutants to a region that already has some of the nation’s dirtiest air.

At the cracker plant site, dozens of cranes soar into the sky as thousands of construction workers assemble the petrochemical facility that will convert natural gas liquids into plastics.

The project has breathed new life into what was an industrial wasteland.

But some medical experts who are also environmental advocates said breathing will be much harder once the plant is up and running.

“To me it’s about breathing. It’s about health,” said Dr. Ned Ketyer, a retired pediatrician affiliated with Pitt’s Climate and Global Change Center.

He said the plant’s toxic fumes will affect health as far south as Pittsburgh.

“Allegheny County is already dealing with higher risks of cancer because of air pollution and I believe this is going to make things much worse,” Ketyer said.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are a major industrial pollutant. Environmental Protection Agency records show the industrial plant with the largest VOC emissions in Western Pennsylvania is the Clairton Coke Works, with 291 tons of VOCs in 2014, the most recent year available.

But the cracker plant’s state permit says it is allowed up to 522 tons of VOCs per year.

Ammonia is another air toxin.

“That can have immediate effects on the brain and the liver,” Ketyer said.

EPA records show the Coke Works and U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock combined emitted 139 tons of ammonia in 2014.

But the cracker plant’s permit allows for even more — 152 tons. Continue reading Investigation: Cracker Plant Will bring Jobs, Pollution

Advertisements

Industry Officials, Protesters Confront Appalachia’s Future as a Possible Petrochemical Hub

Protestors outside the Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown, West Virginia on April 9, 2019. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

By Oliver Morrison

PublicSource.org

April 10, 2019 – Attendees at an industry conference in West Virginia on Tuesday cheered projections for increased petrochemical production in the next 40 years, while protesters outside held up withered single-use plastic bags to show the environmental harm of petroleum products.

Both groups, however, shared a common view that the economic hype and resulting environmental impact predicted for the region may not pan out. It’s how they feel about the prospect that diverges.

The Ohio River Valley region is projected to be on the brink of a petrochemical boom adding to its already booming natural gas industry: Production of ethane, which is used to make plastics, is expected to quadruple by 2025, according to a presentation by Brian Anderson, the director of the National Energy Technology Center at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Several top industry executives and analysts at the Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown spoke about the rare opportunity to create 100,000 jobs, an industry estimate, and bring billions of dollars in economic growth to the region, which includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

“This is the chance of a lifetime to create a generational change for the region,” said Michael Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office.

But the mood at the conference was not always celebratory. Several speakers focused on the urgent need to continue to sell the Appalachian region’s potential to the rest of the world. Continue reading Industry Officials, Protesters Confront Appalachia’s Future as a Possible Petrochemical Hub

U.S. Geological Survey: Fracking Waste Is the Primary Cause of the Dramatic Rise in Earthquakes

By Jen Hayden
Beaver County Blue via DailyKOS

Feb 23, 2015 – The U.S. Geological Survey has backed-up what scientists have been suggesting for years–that deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes:

    Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

    Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs. These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S. 

    “The science of induced earthquakes is ready for application, and a main goal of our study was to motivate more cooperation among the stakeholders — including the energy resources industry, government agencies, the earth science community, and the public at large — for the common purpose of reducing the consequences of earthquakes induced by fluid injection,” said coauthor Dr. William Ellsworth, a USGS geophysicist.

Emphasis added. In the last five years alone, Oklahoma has detected a staggering 2500 earthquakes. Scientists involved in the study are calling for a dramatic increase in transparency and cooperation:

    “In addition to determining the hazard from induced earthquakes, there are other questions that need to be answered in the course of coping with fluid-induced seismicity,” said lead author of the study, USGS geophysicist Dr. Art McGarr. “In contrast to natural earthquake hazard, over which humans have no control, the hazard from induced seismicity can be reduced. Improved seismic networks and public access to fluid injection data will allow us to detect induced earthquake problems at an early stage, when seismic events are typically very small, so as to avoid larger and potentially more damaging earthquakes later on.”

Booming Natural Gas Won’t Slow Global Warming

Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, but that’s not enough to reduce global carbon emissions, researchers say.

Waste gas is burned off at a hydraulic fracturing site in March 2014 near Buttonwillow, Calif. Five research teams found that natural gas alone won't curb climate change.

Waste gas is burned off at a hydraulic fracturing site in March near Buttonwillow, Calif. Five research teams found that natural gas alone won’t curb climate change.

By Alan Neuhauser

Beaver County Blue via US News & World Report

Oct. 15, 2014 – Natural gas won’t save us.

Despite the lofty claims of industry groups and President Barack Obama, the so-called natural gas revolution will not discernibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, putting the globe no closer to averting catastrophic climate change, according to five independently developed models conducted by teams of researchers around the world and summarized in a new paper Wednesday.

"The high hopes that natural gas will help reduce global warming because of technical superiority to coal turn out to be misguided,” study co-author Nico Bauer, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in a statement. “The main factor here is that an abundance of natural gas leads to a price drop and expansion of total primary energy supply."

For this very reason, most of the studies projected, widespread natural gas consumption actually will make global warming worse.  

“Abundant gas alone will not solve climate change on its own in the absence of climate change mitigation policy,” says economist Haewon McJeon of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who helped lead the American research team. “These five models are very different in its architecture and assumptions. The one thing we agreed on is it’s not going to solve climate change.”

Continue reading Booming Natural Gas Won’t Slow Global Warming

‘Fracking’ Not So Danger-Free After All…Where Are Our Wind Turbines and Solar Arrays?

Fracking Fliud ‘impoundment’ in Washington, PA

Range Resources to pay $4M for violations at Western Pa. Impoundments

By Katie Colaneri

Beaver County Blue via NPR.org

Sept 18, 2014 – Range Resources will pay a $4.15 million fine for violations at six wastewater impoundments in Washington County. It is the largest penalty the state has imposed on a shale gas driller, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday.

The violations include leaks of flowback fluid – the liquid that comes back out of a well after hydraulic fracturing – into soil and groundwater. The DEP said drinking water supplies were not affected. Residents living near Range’s Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township dispute that claim and have filed suit against the company.

The Yeager impoundment is among the five the company has agreed to close as part of a consent agreement reached with the state. Range will also upgrade two others to meet what the DEP calls “next generation” standards.

“This landmark consent order establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments, which is an environmental win for Pennsylvania,” said DEP secretary Chris Abruzzo in a press release.

The Texas-based company issued a nearly two-page statement outlining an “update” to its water management plans in Pennsylvania, including “thicker and better engineered liners” and real-time leak detection systems for two impoundments.

“While the company is deeply disappointed that these violations occurred, Range is excited to implement newly established best practices and technologies that have been jointly developed with the DEP over the last several months and years,” the statement reads.

Where Is Plan B? How About Manufacturing for Clean and Green Renewables if the ‘Cracker’ Fails? Or Even if It Doesn’t?

Site of proposed Shell ‘cracker’ plant across from Beaver and Vanport

Shell Acquires Pennsylvania Shale Gas Rights as Part of a $2.1B Deal

By Alex Nixon
Tribune Review

Aug. 14, 2014 – Royal Dutch Shell is shuffling its portfolio of natural gas holdings to increase attention on the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in northern Pennsylvania.

The energy giant announced on Thursday that it is selling drilling rights to mature gas producing areas in Wyoming and Louisiana in separate deals in exchange for $2.1 billion in cash and 155,000 acres in Potter and Tioga counties, where it operates gas wells.

The announcement followed a deal on Tuesday in which Shell said it was selling 208,000 acres in Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to Rex Energy for $120 million.

“They already know what they have” in Potter and Tioga counties, said Lyle Brinker, director of equity research at IHS Energy in Norwalk, Conn. “It’s an area where they already know what they’re getting into.”

Shell spokeswoman Destin Singleton said the seemingly contradictory moves in Pennsylvania are part of the company’s regular review of its mix of energy production assets to improve value for its shareholders. Shell is working to focus its onshore drilling program on a few of the more prolific formations in an effort to boost profitability. The company wrote down the value of its shale acreage in the United States by $2.1 billion last year amid lower natural gas prices.

“We continue to restructure and focus our North America shale oil and gas portfolio,” Marvin Odum, Shell’s Upstream Americas Director, said in a written statement. “We are adding highly attractive exploration acreage, where we have impressive well results in the Utica, and divesting our more mature, Pinedale and Haynesville dry gas positions.”

In one of the two deals announced on Thursday, Shell said it will sell its Pinedale acreage in Wyoming to Houston-based Ultra Petroleum for $925 million plus the land in Potter and Tioga counties. Shell and Ultra have been partners in a joint venture in northern Pennsylvania. Shell will acquire 100 percent of the joint venture.

In the second deal, Shell will sell its gas assets in northern Louisiana, known as Haynesville, to Dallas-based Vine Oil & Gas LP for $1.2 billion.

Shell and other major oil and gas explorers regularly sell rights to fields where production is flat or declining. They then use that cash to fund exploration programs designed to discover new or more prolific fields that oil giants need to fuel growth. The Pinedale and Haynesville formations produce dry gas, which is less profitable than oil or so-called natural gas liquids, at relatively moderate rates.

“It’s a good sign that they’re still committed to the Marcellus,” Brinker said.

Continue reading Where Is Plan B? How About Manufacturing for Clean and Green Renewables if the ‘Cracker’ Fails? Or Even if It Doesn’t?

Why We Need Solar and Wind

Drilling in Pennsylvania has damaged the water supply 209 times in last seven years

frackwell_marcellusshale

By Heather Smith

Beaver County Blue via Grist

July 24, 2014 – Whether or not you think that’s alright depends on your perspective. According to Patrick Creighton, those numbers are pretty good – so many oil and natural gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania in the past seven years that 209 problem wells is a mere 1 percent of the total. But Creighton happens to be the spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group composed of natural gas drillers. So there’s that.

According to Steve Hvozdovich, 209 is a lot. “You are talking about somebody’s drinking water supply.” But then Hvozdovich works for the environmental group Clean Water Action. He would like clean drinking water.

However you feel about the 209 “instances,” that number wasn’t an easy one get. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is legally required to get to the bottom of drilling-related water complaints, report its findings to the owner of the affected property, and issue orders to clean up or fix the damage — all within 45 days of the first complaint.

Continue reading Why We Need Solar and Wind