fracking players

A series of three consecutive articles by Ian Urbina have recently appeared in the New York Times exposing what appear to be the natural gas industry’s inflated promises on hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, is a relatively new technique of pumping large amounts of water and ‘fracking fluid’ at high pressure to crack shale formations and extract natural gas. Though the natural gas industry has become the economic hope of many communities across the US, providing jobs and “sustainable” energy, it has drawn criticism for the environmental consequences of hydrofracking.

Several activist groups have emerged over the course of the industry’s growing popularity, imparting environmental awareness and advocacy for those negatively affected by drilling and fracking. The website fractracker.org has made data sets publicly available for users to interpret and create their own maps. The map below overlays levels of natural gas collected, environmental violations, and poverty across Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest shale formations in the US, containing large deposits of natural gas.

With the recent public release of 487 emails and internal documents, the profitability of the industry is under question. The information published by New York Times reveals insecurities among industry officials behind their “bullish” predictions. Further examination of data shows that within vast zones of shale gas formations, a small percentage of wells are actually productive, as made clear in the map above –only the areas outlined in green are noteworthy. Even the active wells are depleting more quickly than predicted, and operating and drilling the wells therefore costs more than the gas is worth, ultimately making for higher consumer energy bills, a reversal of the industry’s claims. Companies including Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Petrohawk Energy are accused of intentionally and illegally overbooking their production, effectively misleading investors who try to assess a company’s strengths and banks that use reserves as collateral for loans.

After the report late Friday on the reconsideration of the hydrofracking ban in New York, activist groups and protestors will convene in Albany on Thursday, July 7 to call for a statewide ban on the practice.