Saturday, November 15, 2008

Unconventional Natural Gas Sources Bring More Environmental Problems

In 2004 and 2005 U.S. natural gas production went into decline as production at new wells could not keep up with depletion at older fields. Prices spiked causing plans for new gas fired power plants to be scrapped. Many observers thought that we had reach peak gas production in the U.S.

In the years since then, production has rebounded as more unconventional sources of gas have been exploited such as coal bed methane, and shale gas. According to the Energy Information Agency, unconventional gas sources have accounted for all of this growth.

But, while these new sources have allowed the supply of natural gas to grow, they have brought new problems of pollution with them. Another potential source of natural gas, methane hydrates, promises an even larger supply--if the technology can be mastered--but brings with it even larger dangers.

Coal bed methane requires pumping water from underground to release the methane. The process results in water high in salinity and sodium that is often dumped into nearby streams, where it can damage soil, crops and wildlife. In states such as Montana, coal bed methane production has caused controversy among farmers and ranchers who have their lands damaged by this water runoff.

Shale gas operations
have caused even more problems because they require a process of hydraulic fracturing where large quantities of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the shale to break the rock up and release the gas. Serious episodes of water contamination near drilling sites has been documented in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Wyoming, which has resulted in a conflict between gas companies and government regulators trying to find out what chemicals are being used in the process.

Even graver risks may result from exploiting methane hydrates which are frozen water molecules that trap methane gas molecules. Enormous amounts of gas could potentially be recovered from methane hydrates trapped in reservoirs beneath the sea floor. The danger lies in the potential for the methane to be thawed and released into the atmosphere. Since methane is also a global warming gas, many times more potent than CO2, such an inadvertant release could result in disastrous climate change. One of the largest extinctions in Earth's history came some 50 million years ago when undersea landslides resulted in the release of methane gas, contributing to global warming that lasted tens of thousands of years.

All of these new sources of energy demonstrate another aspect of resource depletion; it's not only about running out of raw materials, its also about shifting to dirtier, harder to get, and more dangerous resources. With energy sources, in particular, it may seem as though we are continuing to meet demand while the hidden costs continually mount. These costs need to be addressed if we are to find a path to a more sustainable economy.


At 10:41 PM, Blogger Richgail said...


I'm a video journalist and I recently did a story on the growing "green" movement among the youth.

Below is a link to that story. Please feel free to forward it to your community.


Here's the link:

Hundreds of teens from the Bay Area ditched their video games at home and headed to the biggest green festival in the nation. The festival was held in San Francisco and there the kids learned AND taught one another about climate change green jobs, they even featured a bike that can generate electricity from human energy. Richgail Enriquez reports.

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At 2:53 AM, Blogger Peter Bankss said...

Great Blog !!

Save Our Planet

At 4:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you heard about the Open Fuel Standard Act. Senate Bill S3303: OFS? It offers fuel alternatives at the pump. Our oil addiction has kept us slaves to OPEC. First we have to break away and become more energy independent, then we can take some time to really work on what we need to build our ecomonmy and develope cleaner and cheaper fuel alternatives rather than having a knee jerk reaction everytime fuel costs go high. Visit my site, it has a couple of links to Dr. Robert Zurbin, about breaking the economic stranglehold by OPEC.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger osheami said...

It's really nice to live in a place where we can breath fresh air. We have to make our environment a happy place to live. So we should help promoting cleanliness in our community.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger osheami said...

Yes I really do agree on this. Usually some of the gases that we breath are the most common environmental problem that we encounter in our daily living.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Suprih Rustanto said...

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At 4:22 PM, Blogger Karlsson said...

It has been not only a problem for those power plants but also for India Pharmacy who had invested a lot of money in a project like that, I figure out that many industries around the world invested money in something like this because they thought it was to be a good business.


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