ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
What is natural gas?
Natural gas is a mixture of gases that are rich in hydrocarbons. These gases include methane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc., which are all naturally found in the atmosphere. Hydrocarbons are the most broadly used organic compound and quite literally the driving force of modern civilization; the modern world relies on energy.
Natural gas is the most environmentally friendly hydrocarbon fossil fuel as it is clean burning and very efficient. Natural gas’ combustion emits about half the rate of CO2 as coal per kilowatt hour of electricity generated.
How is natural gas used?
Natural gas is used to generate electricity and heat, make materials and products, and as a fuel for a variety of industrial applications. Residentially, natural gas is used most commonly in space heating and water heating, but is also used in stoves, ovens, clothing dryers, light fixtures, and other appliances. Natural gas generates 33.95% of U.S. electricity, more than any other fuel.
Natural gas is also a chemical feedstock in the manufacturing of plastics and other commercially important organic chemicals. Many useful commodity plastics are derived from modifying natural gas.
Products ranging from computers, phones, food packaging, medical equipment, furniture, vehicle interior, tires, asphalt, tools, toys, diapers, drugs, cosmetics, and clothing containing microfibers or other synthetic material, all contain various plastics created from natural gas.
For more information on this process, visit: How Plastic is made from Natural Gas
What are some benefits of using natural gas?
Clean: Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, emitting very few byproducts into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 11.5% below 2005 levels; the substitution from coal to natural gas consumption was a major factor in this. Using natural gas will help lower carbon emissions, smog, acid rain, and increase overall air quality.
Energy Security and Independence: The U.S. has an abundant supply of domestic natural gas. This supply can play an important role in national security, as our nation can reduce dependence on foreign sources of imported energy which have historically been from unstable regions of the world. By being dependent and insusceptible to international events, energy security will positively affect U.S. foreign and domestic policy and the lives of American people.
Jobs & Economy: On top of being clean for the environment and dependable, harnessing our nations natural gas reserves means creating more jobs for Americans and an increase in overall economic benefits. Choosing natural gas to supply your home with energy can result in huge savings. In PA, residential gas customers pay 40% less than they did 10 years ago.
Modern Society & Products: Every part of our society depends on energy. Natural gas consumption currently represents over 29% U.S. energy consumption, and is expected to increase according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas is also a primary feedstock in the manufacturing of plastics, which thousands of products require to be manufactured; wind turbines and solar panels cannot provide this.
How many jobs are created from the natural gas industry?
The natural gas and oil industry is a critical part of the U.S. economy, supporting 10.3 million jobs and contributing more than $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2015. Studies show that for every direct natural gas and oil job, an additional 2.7 jobs are supported elsewhere in the economy. These jobs make up 5.6% of the nation’s total employment. In Pennsylvania, the industry supports 322,600 jobs.
For more information on how Natural Gas provides jobs, visit: Natural Gas and Oil: A Critical Contributor to American Prosperity and Powering Pennsylvania's Supply Chain
How do we get natural gas?
Using a technique called horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, operators such as JKLM Energy are able to withdraw natural gas locked deep inside shale rock formations. To find these formations, geologists study the structure and processes of the earth and locate the types of rock that are likely to contain natural gas deposits. JKLM is currently producing wells in the Utica Shale.
What is the Utica Shale?
The Utica Shale is a rock formation in the Appalachian Basin. It is located a few thousand feet below the well-known Marcellus Shale, though the depth difference varies depending on the location.
What is horizontal drilling?
Horizontal drilling is the process of drilling a well in the horizontal direction. First, a vertical wellbore is drilled thousands of feet below the surface. The drilling process then reaches a kick off point, makes approximately a 90-degree curved turn into the shale formation, and extends the wellbore, horizontally, up to an additional 10,000 feet.
Why is it called “unconventional” drilling?
Unconventional drilling is a process in which low permeability rock, typically shale, is targeted for hydrocarbon production. This process typically uses directional drilling and advanced completion techniques such as hydraulic fracturing to produce hydrocarbons from formations that do not flow naturally.
What is hydraulic fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of pumping large amounts of high-pressured fluid, called fracturing fluid, down a drilled wellbore. Fracturing fluids consists of primarily fresh water, sand, and less than 1% additives. Sand is a proppant, incorporated and designed to keep open the fractures created during hydraulic fracturing. Additives are used to prevent bacterial or algal growth. The high-pressure creates fractures in the shale formation, which frees gas to flow back to the surface.
Fracturing as a method to extract oil and gas from the ground dates back to the 1860s. Hydraulic fracturing of shale goes back to 1965, and by 1988, the technology of hydraulic fracturing had been applied nearly one million times.
How much water is used?
Approximately 187 billion gallons of water per year were used to extract shale gas in the United States, according to a 2015 study. This may seem like a lot, but water used for hydraulic fracturing in the United States is a mere 0.87% of total industrial water used nationwide, and only 0.04% of total fresh water used (see page 3.)
To put that into perspective, EPA estimates landscape irrigation (residential) accounts for 9 billion gallons per day, or 3.3 trillion gallons of water per year. The United States Golf Association (USGA) reported that approximately 2.08 billion gallons of water are used per day for golf course irrigation in the U.S., or 760 billion gallons of water per year.
If hydraulic fracturing requires 186.94 billion gallons of water per year, residential landscape irrigation such as watering lawns and gardens uses 18x as much water, and watering golf courses used 4x as much water as hydraulic fracturing each year.
Does hydraulic fracturing contaminate groundwater?
No. First, basic geology prevents such contamination; a fracture caused by hydraulic fracturing would have to extend through several thousand feet of rock that separate deep shale gas deposits from freshwater aquifers.
In addition to this, wells are constructed (from the outside in) with a layer of cement, steel conductor casing, another layer of cement, steel surface casing, more cement, another layer of steel pipe called intermediate casing, a final layer of cement, and production casing. This varies per well, but a typical well would probably have at least two strings of casing cemented to the surface.
For more information on general casing design, visit: General Casing Design
Water sampling and monitoring occurs before, during, and after operations.
What happens with wastewater?
Flowback fluid is the fluid that returns to the surface after hydraulic fracturing. It usually consists of fracturing fluid, brine, clay, and other formation materials.
This water can be stored onsite in tanks or pits before being taken offsite for injection in Class II wells, reuse in other hydraulic fracturing operations, or aboveground disposal (https://www.epa.gov/).
What if there’s a surface spill?
Well sites are designed with containment practices that prevent spills to the ground surface. Liners on well pads are durable, impervious, and able to absorb leaks and drips which serve as a barrier to keep rare spills from reaching the ground.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “Unconventional well sites must be designed and constructed to prevent spills to the ground surface or off the well site. Containment practices must be in place during both drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations and must be sufficiently impervious and able to contain spilled materials, and be compatible with the waste material or waste stored within the containment. Containment plans must be submitted to the department and describe any equipment that is to be kept onsite to prevent a spill from leaving the well pad.
The physical and chemical characteristics of all liners, coatings or any other materials used for containment that could potentially come into direct contact with the waste material being contained shall be compatible with the waste material and be resistant to physical, chemical and other failure during handling, installation and use.”
Will hydraulic fracturing cause my faucet water to catch on fire?
No. Though the idea has been popularized by the documentary “Gasland,” after investigation, the claim was proved false by the State of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. Impartial scientists concluded the incident in the film was not the result of any oil and gas related impact.
Are hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas industry regulated?
Yes. The industry is highly regulated. Regulations include:
· Earth Disturbance Activities such as Construction of Roads, Pads, and Pipelines
· Well Drilling and Completion Activities such as Drilling, Casing and Cementing, and Hydraulic Fracturing
· Water Use Activities such as Water Withdrawal and Storage Wastewater and Waste
· Disposal Activities such as Generation, Storage and Disposal/Recycling
· Well Production Activities such as Production Reports, Periodic Inspections, and Mechanical Integrity Assessments
· Air Emissions throughout all of the above processes
Visit Protecting PA's Environment: A Regulatory Overview for more information.
What about CO2 emissions?
As the consumption of natural gas has increased, CO2 emissions have decreased. CO2 emissions are near 20-year lows, much due to the development and use of America’s abundant natural gas resources. When combusted, natural gas emits 50-60% less CO2 compared to emissions from a typical coal plant.
What about methane emissions?
Since 2012, methane emissions have decreased 59% per unit of natural gas production in Pennsylvania. Overall, methane emissions have decreased 8.5%, even as the number of well sites increased by 15%.
Industry efforts to reduce leakage are reducing leakage rates and expect even more leakage reduction in the future.
Though global concentrations of methane may be growing, several recent peer-reviewed studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) have concluded microbial sources of methane such as wetlands, agriculture and rice paddies are responsible for the increase in global emissions since 2007--- not oil and gas production.
Does hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes?
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has clearly stated that hydraulic fracturing is not causing induced earthquakes. The press has published alarming headlines which blame small quakes on “fracking,” but scientists and geologists have debunked these headlines, making clear that earthquakes were “unrelated to hydraulic fracturing.”