Fracking news: weekly summary

-”Father of fracking” dies-

"father of fracking"

George Mitchell pioneered hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, kicking of a fracking boom in the 1990s.

George Mitchell, considered by many to be the “father” of the fracking boom, died on Friday at the age of 94 at his home in Galveston, Texas.

While hydraulic fracturing technology was developed in the 1950s, it was not widely used for the next 40 years.  Originally, fracking was a low-profile technology occasionally used to stimulated conventional reservoirs where production had slowed.  It was not until the 1990s that George Mitchell’s unique application of the technology revolutionized the fracking industry and ignited the “fracking boom” that is currently spreading worldwide.

The son of a Greek immigrant, George Mitchell began his career in the oil and gas industry after graduating from Texas A&M University, eventually founding Mitchell Exploration.  As head of Mitchell Exploration, Mitchell had the idea to use fracking not as a method of stimulation, but as a primary method of production in Texas’ Barnett Shale.  As such, the company became the first to use hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from huge shale reserves that had previously been uneconomical to produce.  Mitchell’s success set off a fracking boom in the Barnett Shale that quickly spread throughout shale plays across the nation and made Mitchell the first fracking billionaire, selling his company to Devon Energy in 2002.

“My engineers kept telling me, ‘You are wasting your money’” recalled Mitchell in a 2009 interview, “Well damn it, let’s figure this thing out, because there is no question there is a tremendous source bed that’s about 250 feet thick.”

Although Mitchell was a pioneer in the fracking business, he was also an advocate of fracking regulation.

“…if they don’t do it right there could be trouble,” said Mitchell, “There are good techniques to make it safe that should be followed properly.”

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Ohio rally plans to protest fracking and produced water disposal

Don't Frack Ohio

Protesters hold a “Don’t Frack Ohio” sign at a previous anti-fracking rally.

As fracking expands in eastern states, governments in states like New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania are scrambling to regulate the growing industry.  While these regulations are intended to control the effects of fracking in their home states, they are having some unintended effects in Ohio.  As many east coast states are restricting or banning reinjection of produced water in-state, neighboring states like Ohio have become prime destinations for fracking wastewater.

In response, several environmental groups, including Don’t Frack Ohio, have organized an anti-fracking rally set to occur this Monday afternoon in Courthouse Square in the city of Warren.  According to a recent press release, participants hope to protest the fact that

Ohio has been targeted by the oil and gas industry for disposal of waste from hydraulic fracturing.

Organizers also plan to appeal to Governor John Kasich to ban underground injection wells in the state, citing concerns about the presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in produced water.

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Anti-fracking protestors arrested in southern England

Sussex fracking protest

Protesters face off against police in Sussex.

British police arrested 16 anti-fracking activists this Friday when the protestors attempted to blockade an access road to a test well being drilled by Cuadrilla Resources.  The incident occurred during the second day of the protest, in which around 60 people gathered daily at the experimental drill site.

While Cuadrilla announced that the exploratory well will not actually be fractured, the site in West Sussex has become a center for anti-fracking sentiment.  After the recent expiration of a year-long fracking moratorium in the UK, Cuadrilla led the way in beginning to explore British shale gas production, drilling several test wells in the area.  Shale gas prospectors are also receiving encouragement from British government, as Finance Minister George Osborne unveiled plans last week for massive tax breaks for shale gas drillers.  In the midst of this favorable atmosphere, citizens fear concerns about water use, water contamination, and effects on agriculture will be overlooked, making the rural West Sussex region an ideal location for controversy and protest.

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