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What is fracking?

Tonight (April 27, 2012) at 7 pm at the Ossining Public Library, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef will screen a short film, Galef goes to Gasland, of her recent trip to visit fracking sites in Pennsylvania.

Tonight (April 27, 2012) at 7 pm at the Ossining Public Library, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef will screen a short film, Galef goes to Gasland, shot during her recent trip to visit fracking sites in Pennsylvania.

Before Assemblywoman Galef took the trip, she told me, “I want to go see fracking for myself. We’ll take a camera along so local residents could see for themselves.”

Drilling for natural gas in shale rock requires pushing the gas out of small fissures in the rock with a very high pressure “soup” that is injected into shale formations that appear to have potential gas.

In the most recent newsletter of the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, Marian Rose, PhD, noted the following,

“High volume fracturing with a horizontal arm (HVHF or “fracking”) that can extend 5,000 feet at a depth of several thousands of feet into the shale requires anywhere from 3 million to 6 million or more gallons of water laced with sand and chemicals, some unknown because they are trade secrets, and others, know carcinogens.”

Up to 80% of the chemical laced water injected into a well remains below ground, with some liquid returning the surface with the gas.

“The liquid that surfaces will be high contaminated with salts, heavy metals, and, in NYS Marcellus shale, dangerously high levels of radium-226 and radon,” Rose continues, “However, we do know that water, in the billions of gallons, will be lost forever to this consumptive use.” (emphasis added)

The argument in favor of fracking typically concentrates on our region’s need for energy security (a.k.a., our need to reduce our reliance on imported natural gas or oil).

Of course, that benefit assumes that foreign companies do not buy up the fracking leases and sell the gas to the highest bidder, as has been happening in Ohio and other states.

The Henry Hub spot price for natural gas has dropped to $2 in April 2012, down 50% in the past twelve months from $4 in April 2011.

For the moment, natural gas prices are at almost historic lows, which makes the economics of the fracking less attractive than if gas prices were high.

As the economy picks back up, demand for natural gas may rise, and prices may follow suit. But, the reality is that many large facilities are repowering old plants now with more efficient gas burners or turbines, getting more electricity or heating out of the same or even less gas than before. 

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