14 June 2016

Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Vol. 5, No. 24

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • Advocacy group alleges Science Advisory Board researcher hid research flaws that under-reported methane emissions from oil and gas industry.
  • New Mexico: Bureau of Land Management postpones oil and gas leases in Chaco Canyon.
  • Pennsylvania: Shell announces plans to construct ethane cracker in Beaver County.
  • Colorado: United States Geological Survey assessment finds that Mancos Shale is second largest natural gas play in the United States.

Federal

Advocacy group alleges Science Advisory Board researcher hid research flaws that under-reported methane emissions from oil and gas industry. NC Warn, an advocacy group in North Carolina, submitted a 68-page complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspector general asserting that the former head of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) knowingly published research that under-reported methane emission from the oil and gas sector. Specifically, they allege that the researcher used a sampling device that was prone to malfunction and under-reported methane emissions by several orders of magnitude. They further allege that the researcher were aware of the malfunctions but did not take action to correct them. The researcher defended his work, noting that the sampler was used for only a small subset of the measurements used to evaluate methane emissions and that the alleged reporting errors could not have occurred unless all of the monitoring equipment malfunctioned simultaneously.

States

New Mexico: Bureau of Land Management postpones oil and gas leases in Chaco Canyon. On June 6, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deferred a 2,000-acre oil and gas lease sale in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon region, asserting that additional environmental review and tribal consultation were necessary. Opponents of oil and gas development cited concerns related to climate change as well as the unique environmental and cultural features of the area. Those opponents are engaged in litigation to stop other oil and gas activities in the region. Industry representatives expressed frustration with BLM’s continued pattern of deferring lease sales and suggested that the agency may be violating the Mineral Leasing Act’s requirements to hold quarterly lease sales.

Pennsylvania: Shell announces plans to construct ethane cracker in Beaver County. On June 7, Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced that it would construct an ethane cracker and associated petrochemical complex in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, approximately 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Shell had been evaluating potential sites for an ethane cracker for the past four years. Construction is expected to begin in 18 months, with commercial production beginning some time after 2020. Once completed, the facility expected to produce 1.6 million tons of polyethylene a year. The project will have a significant economic effect on the region, producing 6,000 construction jobs and 600 full-time jobs once operations begin.

Colorado: United States Geological Survey assessment finds that Mancos Shale is second largest natural gas play in the United States. A recent assessment by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) concluded that the Mancos Shale formation in western Colorado and eastern Utah is the second largest natural gas basin in the United States. The assessment concludes that the Mancos holds 66 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable shale gas, placing it between the Marcellus Shale and Barnett Shale formations in terms of natural gas reserves. In addition, the formation holds 45 million barrels of natural gas liquids and 74 million barrels of recoverable shale oil. USGS researchers state that increased exploration activity in the Mancos Shale over the past decade provided additional data that allowed USGS to revise prior estimates for oil and gas reserves.

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