Indep Nat’l Gas Expert: “People aren’t aware of how safe and common gas drilling is”

William Kapell, a hydrologist with the US Geological Survey (USGS), addressed a League of Women Voters crowd last night on a wide range of issues surrounding safe, heavily-regulated natural gas production in the Marcellus shale. Today’s Ithaca Journal, under the headline “Expert: Drilling catastrophe unlikely with gas,” reports this:

Kapell said he’s spent 30 years working with black shale gas in upstate New York. He characterized some risks — of drilling triggering seismic activity, or a gas company fracking all the way to the surface — as small.

Kappel noted that oil and gas drilling have been going on in New York state since 1849.

Accidents with those wells are rare and people aren’t aware of how safe and common gas drilling is, because only the accidents “make it in the news,” he said.

Kappel said the contamination in Dimock came from improper well casing in a shallow gas layer, not from fracking in the Marcellus Shale.

George Will highlights the recent technological breakthroughs in shale gas development (ie hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) in a recent Washington Post column, citing a top State Department energy advisor to President Jimmy Carter. In his column “Awash in fossil fuels,” Will writes:

Edward L. Morse, an energy official in Carter’s State Department, writes in Foreign Affairs that the world’s deep-water oil and gas reserves are significantly larger than was thought a decade ago, and high prices have spurred development of technologies … for extracting them.

Morse says new technologies are also speeding development of natural gas trapped in U.S. shale rock. The Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York, “may contain as much natural gas as the North Field in Qatar, the largest field ever discovered.”

Rattie says that known U.S. reserves of natural gas, which are sure to become larger, exceed 100 years of supply at the current rate of consumption.

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