by Duane Nichols
In the debate over whether hydraulic fracturing should be allowed in New York State, the need for millions of gallons of water at each well is a major concern, according to Matt Richmond of Radio WSKG. Now a Canadian company called GasFrac is trying to eliminate the large volume (2 to 8 million gallons) of water for every well being fracked by using propane instead of water.
Kyle Ward of GasFrac says that, besides propane, there are only four ingredients in the company’s fracking fluid, all of which decompose naturally. Not only that, all of the propane comes back out of the well, whereas much of the water used in fracking stays underground.
Ward says the propane that comes back up out of the well can be easily separated. It’s then sold or reused. “The propane fracturing would leave most of those naturally-occurring constituents down in the shale,” says Dave Yoxtheimer of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.
While Yoxtheimer says propane offers a solution for the challenge posed by wastewater treatment, he says it also creates new risks. “You have a large volume of an explosive substance that you’re transporting and then handling onsite,” Yoxtheimer says. In fact, a recent explosion at a Gasfrac site in Alberta led to a three-week shutdown in operations while the company reviewed its safety procedures.
The company has expanded anyway, fracturing more than 500 wells in 2011. That’s a nearly four-fold growth in just two years. This year the company completed its first wells in Ohio’s Utica Shale. Gasfrac’s Kyle Ward says the technology, which was first used in 2008, should also increase production by up to 30 percent over the life of a well. It’s too soon to say whether that’s true. Still, the company’s expansion after just a couple of years is a sign that the technology is attractive to companies.
But Nadia Steinzor of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project says regulators should take a close look at the use of propane, also known as LPG fracking, before it spreads. “Every time there’s a new technology that could get more gas out of the ground, a lot of people get really excited,” says Steinzor. “But just because LPG is new and different and doesn’t use water, doesn’t make it safe.”
Steinzor’s group along with 14 other environmental organizations sent a letter to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in April. The coalition is calling on the DEC to perform a separate environmental review of propane-based fracking before allowing it in the state.
A deal with a landowners’ group in New York’s Southern Tier that would have required drillers to use Gasfrac has been put on hold since first being reported in March.
By Rishika Pardikar
Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.
Biden Refuses to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline, Despite Campaign Pledges on Tribal Relations and Climate
By Jessica Corbett
Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.
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By David Shiffman
As we enter what's hopefully the home stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's time to take stock of how it affected every aspect of our world, to consider what happened, what could be done different to avoid those problems in the future, and what's next.
NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition
A young monk seal underwater in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. NOAA/PIFSC/HMSRP
A recently emerged sea turtle hatchling. Becky Skiba/USFWS<p>So what does the pandemic mean for ocean conservation? Experts caution that it's probably too early to tell. However, it's not all stories of dolphins frolicking in suddenly quiet rivers. Environmental planning meetings, funding schemes for protected areas, and monitoring of fisheries and endangered species populations were all disrupted, giving us good reasons to fear that the story is far more complicated, and far less happy, than many of us have been led to believe.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
A new study is shedding light on just how much ice could be lost around Antarctica if the international community fails to urgently rein in planet-heating emissions, bolstering arguments for bolder climate policies.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that over a third of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves — including 67% of area on the Antarctic Peninsula — could be at risk of collapsing if global temperatures soar to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
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By Sharon Buccino
This week, Secretary Haaland chose a visit to Bears Ears National Monument as her first trip as Interior Secretary. She is spending three days in Bluff, Utah, a small town just outside the monument, listening to representatives of the five tribes who first proposed its designation to President Obama in 2015. This is the same town where former Secretary Sally Jewell spent several hours at a public hearing in July 2016 before recommending the monument's designation to President Obama.