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Bristol Area Lions Club Learns About Fracking 01/13/2013

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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Lion John Janell thanks fellow Bristol Lion Paul Anderson for his presentation on fracking technology. Photo by Herb Watson, E.H.

Lion John Janell thanks fellow Bristol Lion Paul Anderson for his presentation on fracking technology. Photo by Herb Watson, E.H.

Recent growth in the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas and oil from shale boils down to a matter of balance, according to Paul Anderson, who gave a presentation recently to the Bristol Area Lions Club (BALC).

A fellow Lion, Anderson spelled out the issues associated with this innovative mining technology, which if practiced responsibly can provide a great opportunity for energy independence in the United States.

Paul Anderson is currently on the board of oil and gas company BP and past board chairman of Spectra Energy, one of North America’s largest natural gas infrastructure companies. Having been chief executive of global resources company BHP Billiton, electric power holding company Duke Energy and energy company Pan Energy as well, Lion Paul is well qualified to provide insight about fracking.

In fracking, a mixture of pressurized water, sand and trace chemicals is forced down gas wells to create fractures in shale and to extract natural gas and oil that otherwise would be trapped. What comes out of the well is a blend of natural gas, propane and oil. The U.S. is 10 years ahead of anywhere else in the world in its use of fracking technology, due in part to the relative ease of acquiring mineral rights in North America.

Anderson sees two groups of environmental issues associated with fracking. The first involves the process itself. Ten years ago, fracking was practiced primarily by wildcatters, small companies, some of whom were irresponsible in their disposal of waste water and would cut corners to maximize their profits. Some are convinced that fracking contaminates groundwater and nearby wells, however because the process occurs a mile below the water table, and within a pipe-encased gas well, such contamination is unlikely. Fracking fluids have been claimed to be toxic, however those fluids consist mostly of water and sand, and less than 0.5% chemicals. An enormous amount of water is required in the process, admits Anderson, but some of that can be recycled and if available, sea water can be used instead. Some are also concerned about the seismic effects of fracking, but close monitoring by operators has shown that the process does not seem to cause much seismic impact.

More important to Anderson are the social and economic issues associated with large fracking projects. The physical impact, which entails ground clearing, road building, high traffic density and large reservoirs, certainly changes the footprint of the surrounding area. Community impact may be even more drastic. Not only can conflicts arise between owners of mineral rights and land owners, but huge influxes of workers from away can change the complexion of a community forever.

Even so, added Anderson, concerns about using fracking to produce oil and gas must be weighed against some significant benefits. Potential use of the technology has to be pursued area by area and case by case, and there are many locations in the U.S. where the impact of fracking will not be significant. An increase in oil and gas reserves domestically will make America more competitive worldwide. Displacing coal use with natural gas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half.

It is also noteworthy that energy independence in the U.S. will change the geopolitical landscape going forward. That trend is already happening: the U.S. became a net energy exporter in 2012, for the first time in decades, and by 2030 experts foresee complete energy independence for the U.S.

In the business meeting that followed Paul Anderson’s presentation, Lion Michael Hope was congratulated for coordinating the Bristol Lions Club’s annual Christmas Basket distribution, which benefited 58 families in 2012. Ideas were also discussed to raise awareness of BALC’s efforts in the community and of its Willing Workers Hall facility in New Harbor.

At the next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions Club, on Monday, February 4, Deputy Brent Barter from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office will give a presentation, accompanied by his drug-sniffing dog. To make dinner reservations for that meeting and to see a patrol dog in action, please call 677-6191.

To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, contact John Janell at 563-7402.


1. The Politicoid - 01/14/2013

I must say that the fracking debate is somewhat nuanced, and this is often lost in the parroting from both sides. I have just written the first part of a two part series about fracking on politicoid if you would like a comprehensive into to the issue…

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