In recent weeks, a handful of timid investors have stirred up controversy in the oil markets by suggesting that the international price of oil was due to crash in the coming months. That prediction may prove true for some countries in the coming months, but the strength of the United States’ production power shows no signs of letting up or crashing down.Continue reading
In Binghamton, a group of irate anti-fracking protestors has voiced concern over gel fracking, an alternative to hydro-fracking that experts call a greener approach to energy extraction.
What Is Gel Fracking?
In traditional hydraulic fracturing (commonly shortened to “fracking” to make it sound nastier), a jet of water is shot down a well under extreme pressure. The highly-pressurized water slams into rock deep in the Earth, breaking it up and releasing oil and gas.
Invented in 2008 by a company called GasFrac, gel fracking works in much the same way as traditional fracking, but with one big difference. In gel fracking, propane gel replaces water.
Utilizing a combination of propane gel (which already occurs naturally in the Earth) along with other non-toxic chemicals in place of water, gel fracking produces the same result as the alternative, just without the use of fresh water required in typical fracking.
Shortly after gel fracking began trials, one consultant explained, “The main advantage of the gelled propane is that once the gel is broken the propane flashes and mixes with the gas. Since the propane becomes part of the reservoir flow, the generated fracture is completely cleaned up … In addition, a water-based fracture has an efficiency of around 20 percent, while propane has 100 percent efficiency.”
The applications of this method have exciting implications for the future of oil and gas extraction.
The Situation in New York
Unfortunately, a group of anti-energy protestors in New York doesn’t see it that way. The state has maintained a very public ban on fracking since 2017; the legislation, however, doesn’t strictly prohibit gel fracking. As a result, a group of local landowners in Tioga County want to put the green fracking alternative into action.
In their submission to the state, the newly formed Tioga Energy Partners explained, “Waterless hydraulic fracturing was first performed in Canada in 2008 and since then has been used to successfully treat more than 2,600 zones at over 800 sites in North America.”
That record of excellence isn’t good enough, however, for a band of protestors opposed to the project. The anti-energy advocates argue that the state should implement a moratorium on gel fracking until a lengthy environmental study can be conducted.
The Future of Fracking
Perhaps the biggest mistake gel fracking ever made was simply relating itself to “fracking” at all. Although oil and gas continuously innovate fracking to make it more environmentally friendly, the term itself has become venomous.
Does it matter that gel fracking uses no water at all, or that it works at an astonishing 100 percent efficiency? Does it matter that gel fracking has operated without major incident for 11 years? It doesn’t seem to.
In the coming weeks and months, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will officially move its headquarters from the nation’s Capitol, Washington, DC, to Grand Junction, Colorado. The ambitious move has drawn praise and criticism in equal measure.
‘A Victory for Communities in the West’
Longtime fan of the move Colorado Senator Cory Gardner was effusive in his praise of the decision. “The problem with Washington is too many policymakers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” he said in a statement. “Ninety-nine percent of the land the BLM manages is west of the Mississippi River, and so should be the BLM headquarters.”
As with every other move executed by the Trump administration, the BLM’s announcement has drawn criticism, as well. Democratic officials claim the decision was a thinly-veiled ploy to move the majority of policymakers in the BLM away from the Capitol (where they are) and closer to oil and gas company operations.
Of course, there’s no secret about it. The BLM is undoubtedly moving to get closer to the oil and gas fields that it needs to govern. That’s not political bias; it’s just logical. Fortunately, the dual magic of email and video conferencing should effectively remove any concern over politicians being able to reach BLM employees.
More Than a Hundred Longterm Jobs in the West
When it comes time to move, 27 BLM employees will make the transition to the new headquarters in Grand Junction. Another fifty-eight employees will transition into an existing BLM office in nearby Lakewood, Colorado. The rest will be spread throughout the Western states to have a closer eye on the lands they manage.
“We are thrilled to death,” said Robin Brown, director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “It’s a huge boost to our economy; they’re great jobs. And, again, the name recognition that will come from being BLM’s Western headquarters is huge for us.”
Not Moving, Just Cleaning Up
Though the formal announcement of a shift in headquarters sounds monumental, it’s just the official announcement of a transition begun long ago. Of the nearly 10,000 BLM employees spread across the country, only about 400 were stationed in Washington, DC as of the announcement. After the move, the BLM will only have about 60 employees left in the nation’s Capitol.
As Sen. Gardner explained, more than ninety-nine percent of the BLM’s purview is west of the Mississippi River. At that percentage, 60 employees in one city on the east coast still sounds like a lot.
Earlier this year, Colorado governor Jared Polis signed into law SB181, a controversial bill that sought to hand oil and gas decision-making power over to the communities living among energy projects. That was the bill’s stated intention, at least, but new actions from one of Colorado’s most energy-friendly counties is putting lawmakers to the test.Continue reading
In mid-July, California governor Gavin Newsom surprised the state when he summarily fired the state’s highest-ranked oil and gas regulator, Ken Harris. Statewide outlets were quick to connect Harris’ firing with an increase in the number of fracking permits handed out to energy in recent months.Continue reading