Monterey Shale Report Exposes Myth of Economic Prosperity From Fracking California
Post Carbon Institute and Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy released a groundbreaking report on yesterday using industry data that presents compelling evidence that the promise of a Monterey Shale boom is a myth.
Authored by geoscientist J. David Hughes, the report, Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, is the first analysis of oil production data taken directly from the Monterey Shale Formation and questions whether previous studies modeled on assumptions from other regions are accurate when paralleled with real data.
“There was great need for a level-headed look at the Monterey Formation after the USC report made it sound like oil gushers were coming back along with hyper-inflated job projections," stated Bill Allayaud, California director of governmental affairs, the Environmental Working Group. "This report should make Gov. Brown re-think his ‘all-in’ position on unconventional oil extraction and re-double his efforts to lead us to meet our AB 32 climate change goals.”
Drilling California specifically challenges the estimates of technically recoverable resources for the Monterey Shale released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency and INTEK in their 2011 report as well as the economic projections based on them put forth by the University of Southern California in their 2013 economic study—upon which all of the optimism of the Monterey shale has been based.
“Energy decisions have implications that last for decades," said Craig Lewis, executive director, Clean Coalition. "As this report clearly lays out, fracking California's Monterey shale poses significant economic and environmental risks that persist for multiple lifetimes. Local renewables offer an unparalleled opportunity for California to achieve a clean, safe and resilient energy future that establishes a robust economic foundation at the same time.”
By examining the play’s fundamental characteristics compared to other tight oil plays, including geological properties, production rates and cumulative production, Drilling California exposes significant flaws in the assumptions made and ultimately the forecasts of these two reports. In fact, the report reveals that only a small fraction of the 13.7 to 15.42 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil estimated by the EIA/INTEK report will likely ever be produced—making it increasingly evident that any promise of a Monterey Shale boom has been overstated and highly exaggerated.
“It is clear from our data analysis that oil production from The Monterey is not likely to be the major economic opportunity that previous studies have indicated," said PSE’s Executive Director Dr. Seth B. Shonkoff.
"Instead,” Shonkoff continued, “the actual oil production data suggest that even with the most advanced well stimulation technologies, such as high volume hydraulic fracturing and acidization that have been successful in other shale plays, oil production in the Monterey Formation, which has been in decline for many years, is unlikely to increase to the levels assumed for these rosy economic projections.”
“California would be well advised to avoid thinking of the Monterey Shale as a means to significantly increase the State’s oil production and as a solution to its economic dilemmas,” said Hughes. “Long term energy sustainability is a pressing challenge for California and the Nation and demands a credible assessment of future energy and economic opportunities as well as a consideration of the environmental costs.”
Drilling California will be particularly valuable for informing public policy decisions surrounding the development of the Monterey Shale. Policymakers and analysts throughout California welcomed the report as the first publically available empirical analysis of oil production data and weighed in on the significance of this report for California’s energy and economic future.
“The Hughes report cuts through the hype of oil industry-funded research to reveal that a California fracking expansion will deliver only minor economic benefits at best," said Staff Attorney Hollin Kretzmann for the Center for Biological Diversity. "This expert analysis also suggests that Big Oil could do permanent damage to our environment and public health by chasing the fantasy of a new oil boom."
"If oil companies drilled the tens of thousands of new wells this report suggests would actually be needed to significantly increase production, California would suffer a massive increase in contaminated drilling muds, toxic wastewater and dangerous air pollution,” Kretzmann concluded.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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