Tag Archives: drilling

NC to start test drilling for natural gas to lure energy industry

 
  • Robert Willett – rwillett@newsobserver.com
    Governor Pat McCrory, flanked, from left, by Sen. E.S. Newton, Sen. Bob Rucho, legislative staffer Jeff Warren, and Rep. Mike Hager applaud the governor after he signed a bill to allow fracking in North Carolina, at the N.C. State Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering on the Centennial Campus in Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, June 4, 2014.

RALEIGH Gov. Pat McCrory’s signing of major energy legislation into law Wednesday sets the stage for preliminary exploration of North Carolina’s shale gas potential, with the state government taking the lead where private industry has been reluctant to commit.

State-sponsored drilling is expected to get underway this fall in Eastern North Carolina as part of a $550,000 state effort approved last year to help the energy industry assess fracking prospects here.

Boosters of energy exploration want to expand the state’s drilling activities beyond the six counties designated last year. The Senate’s proposed budget would add more counties throughout the state and includes nearly $1.2 million to aid the energy sector by drilling, analysis and marketing. The governor’s budget includes $500,000 for drilling up to three test wells near Sanford in Lee County.

“It’s a great thing for the government to be willing to do that,” said Mark Miller, co-owner of Tar Heel Natural Gas, a Charlotte company interested in energy exploration here. “If the government can help the industry ascertain, that’s a huge hurdle to climb over to get industry to come into the state.”

The actual areas to be drilled will be determined after the state budget is finalized. The Senate passed its budget last week and sent it to the state House for consideration. The House is expected to discuss its own budget next week. While the two chambers differ on some budget provisions, the House is likely to endorse the test wells.

Critics of fracking want subsidies directed to promote solar power and wind energy, not a booming industry sector that is thriving on its own.

“It looks like a taxpayer subsidy going to the oil and gas industry,” said Cassie Gavin, lobbyist for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. “If they’re interested in the resource, then they should invest in exploring.”

State ready to help

But energy development has lagged here, and lawmakers eager to promote drilling in North Carolina want to send the industry a clear signal that the state is ready to help.

The Energy Modernization Act, enacted into law Wednesday, clears the way for issuing fracking permits 61 days after safety rules are adopted. Permits could be issued as early as March and almost certainly by the fall of 2015.

McCrory signed the law at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus flanked by key lawmakers and Cabinet secretaries who are involved in developing an energy sector for the state. Security was tight with both campus and Raleigh police, but there were no protesters.

“Now for the first time North Carolina is getting into energy exploration,” McCrory said, who passed out the pens used to sign the legislation. “North Carolina has been sitting on the sidelines for too long.”

An inducement to industry

Still, energy companies are not likely to spend millions of dollars to explore here if their investment won’t pay off. Producing natural gas for commercial use would require drilling horizontally through several thousand feet of prehistoric shale rock and using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to release natural gas trapped in the rock formations.

North Carolina’s shale gas potential remains speculative and is based on about 15 core samples collected in past decades as well as a handful of test wells in Lee County that have struck gas, said State Geologist Kenneth Taylor. Lee, Moore and Chatham counties are believed to be the state’s epicenter for natural gas and related fossil fuels commonly called “wet” gas.

Pinpointing the best sources of the shale gas could require drilling several hundred test wells, Miller said. North Carolina’s offer to drill several more test wells would be an inducement for the industry to pick up the slack, he said, but no guarantee of success.

Bids from contractors are due June 21 for drilling the core samples in the Cumberland-Marlboro basin, approved by the legislature last year for a swath that includes Wayne, Sampson, Scotland and Hoke counties.

Drilling could start in fall

If the funds for drilling remain in the state budget, Taylor said, the core samples could also be drilled as early as this fall. He said the drilling locations haven’t been selected but they would be on state-owned property.

Drilling core samples doesn’t produce gas; instead, it provides cylinders of soil and rock that can be chemically analyzed for organic carbon, the common marker for natural gas, oil and other fuels.

Vertical core samples are also cheaper than drilling gas test wells, costing between $400,000 and $500,000 for a 4,000-foot core, versus more than $1 million per gas well, Taylor said. Drilling for gas is more complicated and requires “stimulating” the well by fracturing the surrounding rock with high-pressure water or nitrogen foam.

“It’ll get information that companies need to make a decision,” Taylor said of core samples. “We can get information if there’s gas there or not without going into the exploration business.”

Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson, one of the advocates of shale gas exploration, said he has discussed the state’s energy prospects with several energy companies that have expressed interest in North Carolina.

Newton predicted that, by 2017, “the picture will become very clear for the industry as to the extent of the resources” in the state.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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Schlumberger Shutdown Joins Summer of Solidarity

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By Nell Gagnon – Originally posted at http://www.dontfrackwithus.org/

At about 11:00 AM Saturday morning, over one hundred and fifty people arrived at the gates of the Schlumberger industrial facility in Horseheads, NY. Most were from New York’s Southern Tier, some from as nearby as the town where the facility is located, and some from as far away as Pennsylvania. Among their numbers were children, grandparents, college students, and working people of all kinds. Some hailed from villages and countryside across the Southern Tier, others small Upstate cities and towns. That day, they all had a common purpose: to defend their communities, land, and water from hydro-fracking. And they did so in a way New York State has not yet seen – direct action, at the gates of the gas industry. Continue reading

Blowout in Wyoming, 70 Evacuated

Chesapeake Energy Well Blowout in Wyoming Causes Evacuation, Methane “Roared” for Days

Brendan DeMelle
Desmogblog / News Report
Published: Saturday 28 April 2012
The Wyoming incident occurred following completion of horizontal drilling, a precursor to the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the well, which would’ve occurred in the coming weeks, according to local press accounts.
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A potentially dangerous oil well blowout at a Chesapeake Energy site in Wyoming caused at least 60 and perhaps 70 residents to evacuate within 5 miles of the disaster for several days until it was contained earlier today. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) was drilling the well in the Niobrara Shale region underlying parts of Wyoming, Colorada, and Nebraska. “Potentially explosive methane gas roared from the ground at the site five miles northeast of the town of Douglas,” the AP reported.Residents reported hearing the roar of escaping gas six miles awayContinue reading

FBI Questions Drilling Activists in Texas

Photos and story by ANDREW MCLEMORE

Kessler: “I thought they were going to invade my house.”

North Texas environmental activists frequently feel as though local officials ignore their protests against gas drilling, but it turns out it’s easy enough to get the federal government’s attention — if the FBI thinks you might be planning eco-terrorism. Continue reading

News Coverage from Sanford Rally

Opponents, proponents of fracking speak at Sanford meeting

By Steve DeVane
Staff writer

SANFORD – People in Lee and surrounding counties told state officials Monday night they had numerous concerns about a controversial method of drilling for natural gas called fracking.

About 310 people attended a meeting about the state’s plan to study the environmental and economic impact of natural gas exploration in the Sandhills.

Large deposits of natural gas are believed to be buried in prehistoric rock formations beneath the region.

Most of the 35 speakers at the meeting either opposed fracking, which is known as hydraulic fracturing, or urged state officials to proceed cautiously.

Six members of Croatan Earth First, an environmental group based in the Triangle, protested before the meeting.

They carried signs that said, “Don’t frack with my water,” and “Water is life! Don’t frack it.”

About 10 feet away, four ladies who called themselves the “Raging Grannies” sang songs with anti-fracking lyrics.

“We are very, very concerned about the quality of air, water and soil,” said Ruth Zalph, one of the members of the group.

The ladies sang one of the songs during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“No fracking, no way,” they sang. “We say keep those frackers away.”

Officials from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources talked about the study and asked for feedback.

Several people said more money and time is needed to look into the issue. The General Assembly allocated $100,000 for the study, which is scheduled to be completed by May.

Sanford resident George Birchard said he didn’t think the state’s plan showed an ability to regulate the gas industry.

“You do not realize how big a tiger you have by the tail,” he said.

Jeff Sheer said he and his wife own property near Deep River, where shale believed to contain natural gas is near the surface. Sheer said he’s seen a lot of commercials promoting natural gas exploration.

“When you see that many television commercials telling you how safe it is, you can only imagine how much lobbying is going on up in Raleigh to get people to vote for this,” he said.

Sheer said lawmakers can’t cut the department’s budget and expect it to monitor the natural gas industry.

Robin Smith, the department’s assistant secretary for the environment, said the organization would try to answer as many questions as it could.

“We’re going to do the best job we can with the resources and time we have,” she said.

Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican from Sanford, and Rep. Mitch Gillespie, a Republican from Marion, co-sponsored the law calling for the issue to be studied. Both were at the meeting.

Stone said he appreciated people raising questions.

“I want to assure you, I want the answers to those questions,” he said.

Gillespie said several more steps might be needed after the study is complete.

“I assure you whatever happens, you’ll be satisfied with the outcome,” he said.

Before the meeting, Gillespie said he wants a comprehensive study.

“My experience in government is most of the time public hearings don’t matter,” he said. “I can tell you, this one matters.”

The department is accepting written comments by mail or email through Oct. 18. The department’s address is 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601. The email address is on the department’s website at ncdenr.gov.