Appalachian Basin

The Few, The Proud, The Informed!

This week I had an opportunity to attend the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York’s (IOGA-NY) most recent “Fuel for Thought” event.  The event is part of a larger series where IOGA-NY is holding forums throughout the state, highlighted here, to connect residents with independent experts who have tremendous knowledge of natural gas operations, regulations and legal issues surrounding its development.   The folks who had an opportunity to attend themselves can truly call themselves the few, the proud, the informed as they were provided an opportunity to directly engage with two professionals who have over fifty years of experiencing in working on this highly technical issue.  Given the importance of the information covered we wanted to provide our readers an opportunity to benefit from this experience as well so we are highlighting some of the questions, and answers provided, at the latest installment.  Be sure to also check out IOGA-NY’s video series also entitled Fuel for Thought at your convenience for more fact-based  information on natural gas development.  More after the jump.

Experts on hand at the forum included John Holko, owner and operator of Lenape Resources, and Michael P. Joy, J.D., Ph.D., of the Buffalo-based law firm Biltekoff & Joy, together these professionals have a deep understanding of oil & gas development in New York and Pennsylvania.  The most recent forum was held last week in Batavia, New York, and provided audience members an opportunity to discuss topics about natural gas development, the various stages involved, and the many misconceptions about the industry.

Below you will find video from the forum:

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Here is a summary of the discussion:

Hydraulic fracturing is environmentally safe and has a long history. The process of stimulating a well with hydraulic fracturing has been utilized decades dating back to 1947 when it was used to stimulate the flow of natural gas from the Hugoton Field in Kansas.  Before hydraulic fracturing was adopted, dynamite and nitroglycerine were commonly used to complete well stimulation. But, this technique proved less productive and more dangerous and hydraulic fracture became the technique of choice. While many from the opposition argue hydraulic fracturing is not safe, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently stated there is no case of contamination from the process. A study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University also confirmed Lisa Jackson’s statements made and regulators in over 15 states have also confirmed that natural gas production does not  impact groundwater. Even the famous Duke University study also concluded that of the wells tested, none contained any traces of hydraulic fracturing fluid.

Does hydraulic fracturing uses hundreds of chemicals? With assertion both panel members said no! In fact John Holko currently uses four chemical additives in his operations. Here is a great breakdown of the more commonly used chemicals and there other everyday uses: A fluid Solution. John Holko also pointed out that many operators are now developing and using “greener” fluids in that they are completely benign to the environment as they are based on food additives and other non-toxic materials.

Closed-loop drilling and fluid recycling are becoming the industry standard. All across the Marcellus, operators are choosing to implement closed-loop drilling systems to protect the  environment. These systems are designed to recycle drilling mud while separating cuttings into containers to prevent unneeded entry into the  environment. Additionally, new water systems have been implemented during the hydraulic fracturing process to capture, treat and reuse any water returning to the surface after well stimulation. This voluntary step has reduced the need to dispose of water in underground injection wells or at waste water treatment facilities. Also this process has reduced the amount of fresh water the industry needs on a regular basis. More information found here.

Truth is Out there if you know where to look. Perhaps the biggest take away from the event was how readily available information is available if you know where to look. Groups like IOGA-NY, ANGA, API, MSC are all good references but various state departments like the New York Department of Environmental conservation and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also publish information regularly about the industry. Furthermore the natural gas industry is very committed to total transparency and have partnered to form this website,, which contains up-to-date natural gas well specific information like the composition of hydrualic fracturing fluid being utilized on individual wellpads.

When all was said and done it was a great event with much knowledge being shared.  I strongly encourage anyone wanting to learn fact-based information on natural gas production to join one of the future forums.  The final stop of the series will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Southeast Steuben County Library in Corning, NY.  Hope to see you there!


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