A series of earthquakes that rumbled from an oil and gas wastewater well in Ohio last year has highlighted the state's new role in the regional drilling landscape. Over the last couple of years, Ohio has become a dumping ground for wastewater.
Last year, drillers pumped more than 500 million gallons of toxic fluid—nearly 40 percent more than in 2010—into the state's injections wells, where energy companies pump waste into porous rock formations deep underground for permanent storage. With more than 170 injection wells in operation, Ohio is by far the region's leader in this area, with New York and Pennsylvania each having only a handful of injection wells. Ohio's regulators approved 29 new injection wells last year. Applications for 19 more are pending.
Weeks after Barack Obama promoted natural gas as a key part of U.S. energy policy in his State of the Union address, new research says gas drilling may be emitting far more methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere than current estimates suggest.
The work, performed by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, focused on Weld County, Colo., home to more than 20,000 gas wells. After years of monitoring and study, the researchers estimated that about 4 percent of the methane produced by these wells is lost to the atmosphere.
That's about twice as much as current estimates would suggest, and twice what the EPA assumes is lost nationally during gas drilling and production, said Gabrielle Petron, a lead author of the study.
"What I've learned in the past three or four years is that there's a lot we don't know, and the industry may not be aware of these leaks and how important they are," Petron, a researcher with NOAA and the University of Colorado, told InsideClimate News. "Until you go out there in the field and take measurements you may not have a sense of what is leaking and how much it's leaking."
As planning for a controversial new oil sands pipeline through America's heartland intensifies, watchdogs have questioned why the Canadian energy giant seeking to build the project has been using two different figures for the pipe's capacity.
TransCanada's press statements and website material describe the proposed 1,959-mile Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline as capable of carrying approximately 500,000 barrels per day by late 2012. But its regulatory filings with federal and state governments show that it would be able to hold almost double that amount, as much as 900,000 barrels.
Why the discrepancy?
TransCanada says it is normal business practice: One number is used for permit filings, the other to offer potential customers the commercial capacity that is actually for sale. But for opponents of the $7 billion oil project, the inconsistency raises issues of trust and credibility as a decision nears over whether to greenlight the massive project.