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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Earthworks Releases Air Quality Report for Noble Co., Ohio that Doesn’t Actually Include Any Air Quality Data

by Dan Alfaro, Energy in Depth

Earthworks and Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a new “report” this week on air quality in Noble County, Ohio (among others) that is based entirely on anecdotes and debunked anti-fracking talking points rather than recent academic research and data showing emissions near Utica Shale development are protective of public health.
In a blatant attempt to alarm the public – and members of the media – the group relies on “Forward Looking Infrared” (FLIR) images as the basis of its report, a scare tactic it has employed repeatedly over the past several years.
The ultimate red herring, FLIR videos and images are used to deliberately mislead the public on emissions from a variety of oil and natural gas facilities. Anti-fossil fuel activists have even admitted that their FLIR videos are not backed by scientific evidence of any sort. Most recently, an Earthworks operative attempted to use FLIR footage to paint Oklahoma’s oil and gas sites as spewing “toxic pollution into the air, like an invisible oil spill.”
In a defining statement, Earthworks’ Hilary Lewis admitted during an interview with the Kingfisher Times & Free Press that FLIR images featured in an Earthworks/Coalition for Oklahoma Renewable Energy report offered no scientific data to support the report’s claims about Oklahoma oil and gas site emissions. As the Times & Free Press reported:
No air quality tests were conducted in connection with the infrared drone photographs to quantify what amount of methane or other pollutants, if any, were being emitted at the named well sites.”
EID and those in the scientific community have covered these attempts to distort scientific evidence (or lack thereof) extensively over the years, and as our recent FLIR fact sheet shows, there is no merit to their use as evidence of anything other than deliberately mislead the public:
Earthworks has been using FLIR videos as the focal point of its recycled “Threat Maps” project, a oft-regurgitated effort designed to influence Congress to adopt costly and duplicative Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management methane regulations.
Earthworks has absolutely no interest in actually collecting air quality data to scientifically support its alarmist claims, preferring to work backward from a conclusion to achieve its real goal – something they revealed in a recent tweet.
To see how FLIR videos are misleading, Energy in Depth spoke to  Dr. Ram Hashmonay, an international expert in the implementation of optical remote sensing who is credited with co-inventing modern radial plume mapping technology:
Here above, infrared footage of a steaming tea kettle. While it looks quite frightening in the image, we know the plum of steam means it’s tea time, not some toxic cloud to run from. There is a reason Earthworks and CATF rely on these videos – they can be quite frightening without proper context.
As Eagle Environmental air compliance specialist Trisha Fanning told Western Wire:
“The bottom line is that they are misleading, and they are misleading on the scare tactic. Optical gas imaging is nothing more than that, it’s imaging,” she continued, saying that individuals without proper FLIR training and the understanding of many other variables could easily misinterpret what the camera sees.”
Just as far removed from actual scientific evidence as the FILR images, the Earthworks/CATF report also claims that oil and natural gas development is somehow responsible for increased asthma attack rates – ignoring actual research that demonstrates otherwise. Just across the border in Pennsylvania, the state’s Department of Health data show that age-adjusted asthma hospitalizations rates in counties where oil and gas development is taking place are far lower than nine counties with no shale gas production at all. Asthma hospitalization rates in Pennsylvania’s most heavily drilled counties have also fallen considerably since the shale revolution began.
To place blame on oil and gas activity on higher asthma rates is folly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest asthma data, rural Vermont – a state that has completely banned fracking – actually has far higher asthma rates than the most heavily developed states in the country: Pennsylvania Texas, California, Alaska, North Dakota, and, yes, Ohio.
Facts show that it is because of increased natural gas (use made possible by fracking) that nitrogen oxide – a major ozone precursor – has decreased dramatically in recent years. That’s why EPA data show ozone levels are decreasing.
The “case-studies” featured in the report, like the one in Noble County, Ohio are not based in science or new evidence, but rather old data used in their efforts to rehash a failed attempt to update the U.S. EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS):
“EPA data shows that as a whole Noble County, despite its agrarian nature exemplified by the Smith’s farm, ozone pollution is so high that it barely meets federal standards (which is far from clean air).”
Bottom line, Noble County is meeting federal ozone standards. The levels Earthworks and other groups are seeking are so ridged the American Action Forum found that 100 national and state parks might not meet their favored NAAQS standards. The lists included Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Park, Big Bend National Park and Cape Cod National Seashore. That’s why the effort was opposed across the deck by elected officials and regulatory agencies across the country, including Ohio’s EPA.
Ozone forming emissions across the country have been cut in half since 1980, according to the U.S. EPA, and are expected to drop by another 36 percent over the next few years.
Earthworks and CATF, while focusing on stale data and conjecture, ignore the findings of the most recent study on air quality – one that specifically draws from actual scientific findings from Noble County. Last year, the University of Cincinnati gathered air samples near production sites in three of the top producing oil and natural gas counties in Ohio — Guernsey, Noble and Belmont — to examine air quality near natural gas extraction. And according to a media report, lead researcher Dr. Erin Hayes told local elected officials during a recent presentation on the study that “none of the air sample averages exceeded EPA levels of health concern” after being evaluated for 63 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde.
The UC study is one of many studies based on actual air measurements and actual scientific research (read: not misleading FLIR videos) that have found emissions from oil and gas production sites are below the threshold that would indicate any threat to public health. These studies, uncoincidentally, have been ignored by Earthworks, CATF and other activist groups, whose claims of public health harms from fracking-related activities rely on “associations” rather than proof of causation.
According to EPA data, oil and gas related methane emissions have dropped dramatically, with methane emissions decreased by 14 percent since 1990, while natural gas and oil production have increased 50 and 21 percent, respectively, during that time. Associated volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions have also declined since the shale revolution took off.
It’s important to note that these decreases are largely a direct result of voluntarily measures such as those by ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy serving as a recent example of the industry’s best practices and efforts to further curb emissions from the development process.
Clearly, for Earthworks and CATF, more unnecessary regulations are the end game for their efforts, as they state in their conclusion:
“Despite the availability of inexpensive solutions, oil and gas operators cannot be relied upon to reduce their emissions voluntarily, even when they clearly promise to do so. We need enforceable government safeguards to protect public health and the environment.”
At the end of the day, as UC and countless others demonstrate via actual scientific data, the oil and gas industry – following best practices – is already contributing to the decline in ozone related emissions. Use of natural gas has given the U.S. – and Ohio – cleaner air than we’ve had in decades. There will always be groups – like Earthworks and CATF – that will venture far from the path of scientific evidence to achieve their desired goal of a world without fossil fuels. As they’ve demonstrated here again, they have no problems ignoring science in favor of scare tactics to achieve that goal.

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Columbus Prepares to Vote on Anti-Fracking Initiative of Dubious Legality

From Columbus Underground:
A local grassroots campaign to give Columbusites the “legal teeth” to fight air, water and soil pollution has garnered enough support to get on the November ballot. 
Dubbed the Community Bill of Rights, the ordinance would establish local governance over oil and gas activities taking place within the City of Columbus. It’d also enable residents to hold companies liable for oil and gas activities in neighboring municipalities, should they harm the water, air or soil of Columbus. 
The Upper Scioto Watershed, Columbus’ main water source, is home to 13 active frack waste injection wells, and an additional four are permitted there. 
In the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing process, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped through pipes deep into the ground (about 2,500 meters) and are then directed horizontally through the shale. The pressure creates perforations and fractures in the shale, releasing the natural gas trapped within. While some of the resulting waste remains underground, much of it comes back up, and it contains both the chemicals used in the process, as well as potentially radioactive materials from the shale.
And further, from The Columbus Dispatch:
A proposal to ban oil and gas extraction and waste disposal in Columbus received enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, though the legality of the initiative is in question. 
Organizers tried to put the measure on the ballot twice before, in 2015 and 2017, but didn’t get enough signatures. This time, though, the environmental group known as Columbus Community Bill of Rights collected 12,134 valid signatures, safely clearing the 8,990-signature requirement. 
The initiative, which still needs approval from the city council before it goes on the ballot, would make it illegal to drill for oil and natural gas in Columbus, store or dump drilling waste in the city or transport waste across the city. It also seeks to establish a “community bill of rights” including the right to safe soil, clean air and potable water. 
While there is no fracking happening in Columbus, “our concern is the waste coming into the city,” said Bill Lyons, a Clintonville resident who has helped organize the movement. 
The waste can harm water, soil and air, Lyons said, and residents of the city should be allowed to determine whether they want to be exposed to those risks. Cities currently do not have control over that because a 2004 law gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources sole regulation over oil and gas exploration and operation. 
“We should be the ones, because we live in this community, to decide if we want to take that risk or not,” Lyons said. 
He acknowledged the possibility that the proposal, even if it is approved by voters, could be challenged in court. The initiative’s proposal to make it illegal to transport oil and gas waste across the city, for example, appears to conflict with federal laws governing interstate commerce.

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Big Oil Equals Big Paychecks, New Data Reveals

From Bloomberg:
Move over Wall Street titans and Silicon Valley giants. When it comes to paychecks, Big Oil now looks like the best bet for U.S. workers.

Spurred partly by the shale boom, the median pay for energy workers last year was $123,000, according to data newly mandated by the U.S. That topped all sectors, including utilities, tech and health care. While energy chief executives made an eye-popping 120 times more, the gap with their employees was still the second-smallest among all industries.

What’s fueling this paycheck potency? First, a reliance on geologists, petroleum engineers and other highly skilled, well compensated professionals. Add to that the efforts needed to retain expertise -- and lure young talent -- after the recent oil price rout led to hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“They had to retain critical employees at almost any cost,” said Bill Arnold, a former Royal Dutch Shell Plc executive who now teaches energy management at Houston’s Rice University. “Companies had little managerial flexibility.”
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Utica Rig Count Hits Lowest Point in Months on Latest ODNR Report

New permits issued last week: 1  (Previous week: 5-4
Total horizontal permits issued: 2843  (Previous week: 2843+-0
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2372 (Previous week: 2371+1
Total horizontal wells producing: 1929 (Previous week: 1913+16
Utica rig count: 16 (Previous week: 18)  -2

The Utica rig count did hit a low point of 9 in June 2016, but since rebounding to a high of 28 in August of last year it has consistently hovered around 20.  Now it's trending back down again.

The highest rig count we've seen during the shale boom was 59 in December 2014.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Digging Deep Into 2018 1st Quarter Utica Shale Production Data

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has now released the production data from the Utica shale for the first quarter of 2018. As always, we are going to give you a look at how the numbers compare to past quarters, past years, and how they break down among the various drillers who are active in Ohio and the counties where they are drilling. We'll look at where the production numbers would end up for 2018 if they continue at the same pace as the first quarter. We also have the top 10 oil and gas wells detailed below.


First up, let's take a look at how the quarterly data compares from the 1st quarter of 2014 through the first quarter of 2018. As a reminder, all oil figures are 42-gallon barrels, and all gas production is measured in MCF:

Total oil production dropped for the first time since quarter four of 2016, while oil production rates - both by the well and by the day - hit a new low since quarter one of 2014 (remember, prior to that time production in Ohio was only reported on a yearly basis) for the second consecutive quarter.

Gas production, on the other hand, continues the streak of setting new high points for overall production and production rates.  

One other notable thing that shows the slowdown in activity: this is the smallest quarter-over-quarter increase in producing wells we've seen since quarterly reporting began.  Only 30 more wells actually reported production this quarter than in the previous one, where the smallest increase previously seen was 34 from quarter four of 2016 into quarter one of 2017.  Only 52 more wells total were on the report, matching the smallest increase in that column previously observed (which was also from 2016 Q4 to 2017 Q1).

The next table shows the production comparison year-over-year.

The oil production slowdown in the first quarter puts 2018 off to an early pace that would lead to the lowest overall oil production of the last four years.

The increasing natural gas production continues to be impressive, with things on pace for over 2,000,000,000 MCF of natural gas to be produced in 2018, the first time Ohio would see shale production hit that milestone.


Here are the top 10 oil-producing wells in quarter one of 2018:

Eclipse Resources dominates the list of top oil-producing wells yet again this quarter, with 7 of the 10 wells.  The top two wells in 2018 quarter one were the same two wells that topped the production list in 2017 quarter four. 

Here are the top 10 gas-producing wells from the quarter:

Eclipse Resources rode the Herrick East 11H well into the top spot this quarter after Ascent Resources had owned all of the top 10 gas producers in the previous quarter.  The overall production and production rates from these 10 wells were both up from the previous quarter.


Here is the production data broken down by county:

Guernsey County continues to be the top spot for oil production, with the highest rates and overall output.

As for gas production, Belmont County continues to have the most overall production.  However, Jefferson County raced past it this month to be the highest producing county in terms of amount of gas per well and per day in production.


And here are the results broken down by operator:

Gulfport Appalachia saw tremendous gas production rates in the first quarter of 2018, albeit from just six wells.  It claims the highest gas producers by rate from Rice Energy for the first time in a long time.

Eclipse Resources strong oil production showed up on the top 10 oil wells list, and it shows up again on this report.  Not only did it have the highest oil production rates, but it is only slightly over 4,000,000 barrels behind Chesapeake Exploration in total oil production despite the fact that Eclipse has only 106 wells with production compared to Chesapeake's 698.

We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the data.  You can view the spreadsheet from the ODNR containing all of the production data by clicking here.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Rogue Anti-Fracking Groups Use Independence Day for ‘Most Kid Friendly’ Protest Camp Ever

by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth

Most Ohio families celebrated the Fourth of July with their children by participating in activities such as barbecuing, watching fireworks and taking in patriotic parades. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. Appalachia Resist! – the most rogue anti-fracking group in the state – gathered in Athens, not to celebrate the national holiday, but instead to train children in “workshop responsibilities” that included “jail solidarity, indigenous resistance, direct action, and pipeline construction/fracking infrastructure” obstruction.
Sadly, this is not the first time this group (and others) have exploited children as part of their “Keep It In the Ground” cause, but it’s certainly one of the most extreme incidents, with these kids presumably forced by their activist parents to spend Independence Day braving Ohio’s record high temperatures for an agenda that very few in the Buckeye State support. What’s more is that Appalachia Resist! once again partnered with Earth First! for this Fourth of July “kid-friendly” workshop that included such topics as “monkeywrenching” – an activity both groups have a history of using as part of their repertoire of criminal activities.
According to Earth First!’s website, monkeywrenching is defined as:
“Monkeywrenching: Ecotage, ecodefense, billboard bandits, desurveying, road reclamation, tree spiking, even fire. All of these terms describe the unlawful sabotage of industrial extraction and development equipment, as a means of striking at the Earth’s destroyers where they commit their crimes and hitting them where they feel it most—in their profit margins.” (emphasis added)
Earth First! co-founder  Mike Roselle has described monkeywrenching as, “[M]ore than just sabotage, and you’re g*ddamn right, it’s revolutionary! This is jihad.”  As EID highlighted six year ago, Earth First Journal! is essentially a roadmap to getting away with illegal acts of destruction. To that point, the workshop included exactly that — a roadmap for blockades, pipeline protest skills and media strategies. In fact, the groups are even holding two workshops on “zombie equipment” ?! (Perhaps that’s the so-called “kid-friendly” portion of the workshop responsibilities…)
But I digress. Violence and the use of children by Appalachia Resist! is concerning, and even more so given the group’s previous history of both. Recall that just last year, this same group put out a disturbing video, narrated by a child, saying “fracking kills” and “the danger is especially high for children, babies and nursing mothers,” as well as a host of other absurd claims. The video also features Appalachia Resist! leader Peter Gibbons-Ballew, who was recently charged with civil disobedience, inducing panic, and hindering and failure to comply, after shutting down a busy intersection by chaining himself to a pipe in downtown Columbus.
Warning: once you’ve seen this video, it can’t be unseen.
Fast-forward a year later, and this group has apparently doubled down on its continued use of children to advance its campaign. In fact, ahead of the Independence Day “kid-friendly” workshop, Appalachia Resist! dedicated an entire paragraph to encouraging people to bring children out to the event. According to their own website,
“We’re trying to make this year’s rendezvous the most kid friendly rendezvous ever, with workshop, responsibilities, and discussions, with and for the kids. You can help by bringing your kids, or encouraging and helping your friends who have kids, to attend.” (emphasis added)
Ironically, the appeal for children to attend comes just after the group warns of hot temperatures, and the following,
“There will be many insects including mosquitoes and ticks.  There is a high chance you will encounter poison ivy.  Nights around here can be very noisy with the matting/kinship/territory calls of frogs, insects, birds, and mammals that are active at night.  There are three venomous snakes in the area; rattlesnakes, copperheads and possibly cottonmouths. You are unlikely to be lucky enough to see one of them. Coyote & bobcats are the largest predators that live in the area, although eastern black bear have been sighted passing through.”
According to eyewitness accounts, about 30 vehicles – roughly half of which drove in (using fossil fuels) from out-of-state locations as far away as North Carolina, California and Oregon – were parked outside of the event. And while that is a decidedly low turnout, the fact remains that every major criminal incident committed against fracking in Ohio has included a member of this group. And now they are indoctrinating children into these violent efforts.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cabot Oil & Gas Holds Meeting With Loudonville Council

From the Ashland Times-Gazette:
If all goes well, the area could see major financial benefits to fracking, but there are still several unknowns, Loudonville Council learned.

Cabot Oil and Gas representatives George Stark and Bethany Ramos spent about 40 minutes discussing their firm’s work in the area on Monday. Strait said a well project is underway on County Road 2375 in northern Green Township, while sites have been approved in Vermillion Township, west of Hayesville, and Mohican Township near Jeromesville. Earlier mention was made of the company drilling at least five wells in Ashland, Wayne, Holmes or Richland county.

Besides the possibility of a well close to Loudonville, Stark also mentioned that Cabot may wish to buy water from the village to assist with the drilling process. Well projects require between 4 and 7 million gallons of water, some of which will be brought from the Black Fork, not far from the Green Township site, but more is required, Stark said.

No village officials responded to Stark’s mentioning of buying village water.

Cabot will attempt to come up with a way to recycle water used in the drilling process, as it has done successfully on well projects in Sesquehenna County, Pennsylvania, but Stark did not know if recycling would work here. If not, used water would be shipped to a state-approved disposal facility.
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Ascent Resources Obtains Five Utica Shale Drilling Permits Last Week as Rig Count Drops

New permits issued last week: 5  (Previous week: 3+2
Total horizontal permits issued: 2843  (Previous week: 2840+3
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2371 (Previous week: 2370+1
Total horizontal wells producing: 1913 (Previous week: 1904+9
Utica rig count: 18 (Previous week: 19)  -1

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