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Oil Bust Fears Diminish Amid Surging US Production

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.

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Tioga County, New York - Douglas Camin / Wikimedia Commons

What Is Gel Fracking?

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.

Eleaf/Wikimedia Commons

BLM Move Draws Mixed Response

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.

Frans Berkelaar / Flickr.com

Gulf of Oman Attacks Underscore Stability of US Oil

Earlier this week, explosions aboard two oil tankers traveling through the Gulf of Oman forced crews to evacuate ship and leave the vessels floating, abandoned. The attacks mark a third such instance of violence in the region in recent months. Those worried the tense situation would upset the price and availability of oil and gas throughout the world, however, have noticed little longterm fluctuation in oil prices, thanks in large part to the stability of the US energy industry.

‘Nobody Wants to See War in the Gulf’

On Thursday, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous experienced explosions while traveling through the Gulf of Oman. The United States wasted little time in accusing Iran of the attacks. A source inside the UK Foreign Office told the BBC, “We strongly agree with the US assessment.”

Iran has, predictably, denied any involvement with either attack.

Those declarations aside, the attacks mark a temporary disruption in the international oil trade. As to further escalation, several nations, including China, have declared that war isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

The International Oil and Gas Highway

Long-term disruption in the Gulf of Oman has severe implications for oil; around 16 million barrels move through the area each day. The area is also a hotspot for liquefied natural gas shipping, as well. If oil and gas is unable to move quickly through the Gulf of Oman, every energy industry in every country in the world is affected. 

Thursday’s attack alone drove up oil prices 4 percent almost immediately.

Fortunately for general consumers, however, this increase in oil prices was much more muted than it would have been in previous years. “The rally is not particularly impressive. In other years, this would be a 5% to 10% move,” said energy analyst Tom Kloza.

Experts agree that the abundance of readily available refined oil continues to outweigh any concerns about the overall safety in the Gulf of Oman. 

A Concerted Communal Effort

With the global need for oil sated thanks to a consistent US effort, the companies and countries with interests in the Gulf can turn their attention to security. This third round of attacks has spurred several nations to partner with businesses in the region to heighten security measures throughout the Gulf of Oman. 

As one Saudi official explained, “The key thing now is to find a way to deal with those type of attacks in the future and assure everyone that those routes are still safe.”