By Greg Kozera
Recently I got a call from some college students. They asked, “Can you tell us about fracking?” “Sure.” I responded. “But why do you want to know?” “They are going to frack under our college and we’re scared.” They answered. So I told them what I tell everyone, the truth.
There has been a lot of fear of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” due to all of the misinformation people have heard about it. Just like the Op-Ed in last Sunday’s Gazette- Daily Mail. I have heard all of the “facts” it contained many times before and they have been refuted countless times. Like many misinformed people the author calls everything associated with an oil and gas well “fracking”. That is like calling a coal truck driver a coal miner. She probably doesn’t know that almost every oil and gas well on land in the United States requires fracking. Without fracking we have no domestic natural gas and oil industry and the jobs that go with it. Maybe most important, we would be just like France depending on Russia for our energy at their prices.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is only one very small but very important part in the process of developing a natural gas or oil project. The natural gas and oil industry knows a lot about the hydraulic fractures we create. We know that a hydraulic fracture is a crack about 1/8 inch to ¼ inch wide made by pumping water, foam or nitrogen gas into a natural gas or oil reservoir. These fractures extend a few hundred feet in two directions from the well bore and they extend upward a few hundred feet at most. We KNOW this from observation and instrumentation. Marcellus wells are typically over a mile and a half deep. Water doesn’t run uphill. How do you feel about hiking UP an 8,000 foot hill? To believe we can frack into ground water is senseless. There are also 4 to 5 cemented steel pipes to protect the groundwater compared to one non-cemented pipe in a home water well. The unregulated home water well is far more dangerous to our groundwater. We have been fracturing coal in mines for over 25 years to remove the methane before the miners get there. Unfortunately not all mines do this but mines that do have had no fatalities from methane explosions. The miners and engineers observe these created fractures.
We fear what we don’t understand. We have been fracturing wells for over 65 years. Fracturing is as old as television. Over 1 Million wells in the United States have been hydraulically fractured or fracked since 1947.
We know that fracturing cannot contaminate groundwater or cause earthquakes or do many of the other bad things people like last Sunday’s author believes. My greatest fear is not fracturing by putting unreasonable regulations on the process or banning it. You should fear this too.
My belief and hope is that last Sunday’s author is simply ignorant of the fact that in 2007 we had 16 Liquid Natural Gas Terminals being built so that we could bring natural gas to the United States from places like Russia, Iran and Venezuela. We did this because we believed we were running out of natural gas. Six years later thanks to American creativity and ingenuity we have combined the old technology of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the new technology of horizontal drilling to make the Marcellus Shale the second largest natural gas field on the planet! We are having similar success with other shales in the United States. Now 6 years later we have such an abundance of natural gas that we are looking to turn some of those 16 terminals into export terminals and send our natural gas to places like Japan and Europe. How do you think Russia feels about not only losing a big customer like the United States but now they stand to lose their monopoly and pricing power they have over Europe? Is it any surprise that Russia’s President says that fracking is bad even though they use the process too. He knows that if we ban or restrict fracking we become just like Europe, dependent on others for the basic need of energy.
We are now beginning to bring manufacturing and chemical industry jobs back to the United States thanks to our abundant and affordable domestic energy. We are starting to use natural gas for transportation which will really reduce our demand for foreign oil and maybe we can finally bring our brave men and women home from harm’s way in the Middle East. By using natural gas for generating electricity we have reduced our CO2 emissions to 1992 levels without help of the government. Industry is coming back to the northeast thanks to natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica. Without abundant natural gas this industry would stay in China and India where there are no environmental regulations and they will continue to pollute the planet.
If you think we can use just wind and solar power, think again. We don’t get much sun especially in the winter and the wind doesn’t blow when it is really hot. My wife and I were on a cruise a few months ago. Our ship stopped at the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas. I didn’t see a solar panel or a windmill. The cruise company chose to use diesel fuel at over $6 a gallon to power this tiny island with a handful of inhabitants. If wind and solar can’t power a tiny island in the Bahamas where the sun shines and the wind blows a lot, how can they be expected to replace coal and natural gas? We also need the petrochemicals from natural gas and oil for things like plastics and cosmetics.
Mountaineers are always free but we need to fight the fiction that is common about our energy supply with truth if we want to stay free. I have lived most of my life among oil and gas wells that were fracked without fear or health issues. We have raised 3 healthy children. I am concerned about their future. I want clean air, clean water and affordable dependable domestic energy which will help them and our grandchildren to remain free. We can help the environment of planet and people around the world in many ways. We need to use common sense and not be misled by fear, half- truths and bad science. We are Americans. All things are still possible.
Greg Kozera of Elkview, WV, is the author of 3 books and numerous technical papers and articles. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering. Greg has over 35 years of experience working in the natural gas and oil industry.