22 March 2016

Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Vol. 5, No. 12

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • PHMSA proposes new rules for natural gas pipelines.
  • University study finds no relationship between groundwater methane and oil and gas development.
  • International study finds that agriculture is the primary cause of spike in anthropogenic methane emissions.

Federal

PHMSA proposes new rules for natural gas pipelines. On March 17, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced proposed regulations that PHMSA anticipates will improve the safety of natural gas pipelines. According to PHMSA, the proposed rule would broaden the scope of safety coverage both by adding new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines and by expanding these protocols to include pipelines in areas of medium population density. Among other requirements, the proposal would extend testing requirements to pipelines built before 1970 that have been exempt from similar testing required of new pipelines. The proposal also would narrow a regulatory exemption for gathering pipelines by imposing requirements on all onshore gathering lines with a nominal diameter of eight inches or more. In addition, the proposal expands data collection requirements related to pipeline integrity and post-construction pipeline quality. Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Studies

University study finds no relationship between groundwater methane and oil and gas development. As reported in a previous Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report, a recent study of groundwater contamination in Ohio concluded that the source of elevated methane levels was natural coalbed methane seams and not hydraulic fracturing operations. The study, which was conducted by University of Cincinnati researchers, included samples from more than 100 water wells over a five-county area in eastern Ohio. A chemical analysis of the methane demonstrated that the methane in the water samples was consistent with coalbed methane deposits. Earlier, we reported that the researchers were not planning to publish the study’s results; however, a full report has since been issued.

International study finds that agriculture is the primary cause of spike in anthropogenic methane emissions. In a recent Science article, a team of researchers from New Zealand, Germany and the United States concluded that agricultural practices are the primary cause of the spike in methane emissions over the past decade. Data collected by the researchers suggested that methane emissions were caused by bacteria, which is consistent with agricultural practices associated with rice paddies and livestock. Despite the rapid rise in oil and gas development over the same time period, the researchers concluded that the industry was a minor contributor to the increase in methane emissions.

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