NATURAL GAS: Investors press for ‘more responsible’ gas drilling

An E&E Publishing Service
NATURAL GAS: Investors press for ‘more responsible’ gas drilling  (Friday, January 21, 2011)
Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
A coalition of investors today is announcing a campaign to press publicly traded oil and gas companies to disclose how they plan to handle the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
Led by the nonprofit investor group Ceres, they are filing nine resolutions with petroleum companies that they hope will lead to “more responsible” fracturing processes. Among the companies are Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Cabot Oil & Gas, which has been accused of contaminating wells in Dimock, Pa.
The investors believe that petroleum companies have been too vague about the pollution, safety and regulatory risks created by the process, which is essential to developing the country’s vast shale gas reserves.
“This grows out of the work we’ve done with our investors in climate change,” Andrew Logan, director of the Oil and Gas Program at Ceres, said in an interview. “The vision is that gas is a bridge to a low-carbon future. That’s been a position of these investors for a long time. As they’ve learned about the fracturing process, they’ve seen the need to engage with industry to make sure it’s being done sustainably.”
The oil and gas industry says fracturing is a safe process and that existing state regulations are sufficient to protect drill site neighbors and the public. It has vigorously fought proposals in Congress to have U.S. EPA regulate the process.
Companies have also resisted similar shareholder resolutions on fracturing in the past.
But Ceres officials say that resolutions filed in 2010 spurred at least one company to begin disclosing the measures it takes to ensure well integrity, describe its recycling practices, and discuss “green completions” that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Pressing for disclosure and ‘best practices’
An increase in gas supply, made possible by advancements in fracturing technology, has led to the idea that gas can serve as a bridge while cleaner sources of energy are developed. Burning gas emits about half as much carbon as burning coal.
But fracturing, and the drilling process itself, brings environmental risks. And the shale boom is bringing it to areas long unaccustomed to heavy petroleum development, such as Pennsylvania. Cabot is contesting the allegations in Dimock.
Fracturing involves injecting tankerloads of chemical-laced water into wells to crack apart rock formations and release oil and gas. The chemicals used can be as mundane as ice cream thickener and as toxic as benzene.
The shareholder proposals ask companies to disclose their policies and strategies for reducing environmental and financial risks from chemicals use, water impacts and a host of other issues. They also request that the companies adopt “best management practices,” such as reusing the waste water from fracturing, testing the cementing of wells and disclosure of the chemicals used in the process.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: