The world is looking at fracking to see how it has revolutionized natural gas production in the United States.
There may, for example, be large reserves of natural gas locked in shale in Europe.
Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania are believed to have large shale gas reserves, with exploration having already started in Poland and Germany.
Shale gas in these countries could have a profound effect on Europe’s relations with Russia. Russia has dominated the European market for natural gas and has used natural gas as a political weapon against Europe.
Large amounts of natural gas in Europe, extracted form shale, will neutralize Russia’s hold over Europe.
Until fracking unlocked natural gas, the United States was becoming dependent on natural gas from the Mideast. There was a drive to build liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals so that natural gas could be imported into the United States from the Mideast.
Those terminals are no longer necessary, and the ones that have already been built may actually allow the United States to export natural gas to other countries, which would improve U.S. balance of payments.
China was making deals with Iran and others to import liquid natural gas. Now, China is exploring for shale gas which could help it reduce its imports of natural gas.
At the heart of shale gas development is fracking.
Fracking, in combination with horizontal drilling techniques, is unlocking the natural gas locked in shale – it has revolutionized the natural gas industry.
Fracking may also revolutionize international relations – the threat of a natural gas cartel is now gone.
Many in the environmental movement oppose fracking. They believe that chemicals used in fracking will contaminate ground water supplies and that fracking consumes too much water.
As the American Petroleum Institute pointed out, more water is used every day watering golf courses in New York State than would be used if all the planned wells in New York State were drilled.
Factually, the United States has an abundance of water except in the Southwest. For example, east of the Mississippi less than 10% of the water that falls as rain is used.
In most instances, fracking takes place three or four thousand feet below the water table, so there is little threat to the water supply from fracking itself.
Around forty percent of the water used in fracking is withdrawn from the well, and this water must be properly contained and disposed of to prevent any contamination of drinking water.
Abandoned wells must also be properly sealed.
Existing, routine best practices can ensure that fracking poses little threat to the water supply.
The benefits from fracking are immense – from no longer having to import natural gas from the turbulent Mideast, to improvements in the international balance of power.
In spite of these benefits, extreme environmentalists and the EPA could conduct a witch hunt that would return the U.S. to the bad old days of not having a sufficient supply of natural gas.
In addition, environmentalists in Europe and elsewhere are watching what happens here, and if the EPA throttles back fracking in the U.S., Europe may follow suit and Russia would retain its hold over Europe.
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