Shale Gas Advisory Board Completes Final Report

The panel will send it to Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu. The report says industry “appears ready to agree to mandatory stricter disclosure” of all chemicals in fracturing fluids used on federal land.

The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production has posted its second and final 90-day report about its 20 recommendations for improving the safety and environmental performance of shale gas development. The subcommittee met Nov. 14 to review the document and then send it to Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu.

The panel posted its initial report in August 2011. The follow-up report says federal agencies, state governments, industry, and public interest groups have planned or taken actions to reduce shale gas production’s environmental impact, such as the Interior Department's plan to require disclosure of all chemicals in fracturing fluids used on federal lands and EPA's proposed NESHAPs for oil and natural gas production, currently scheduled to be finalized by April 2012.

Energy companies are planning to collect and disclose air emissions data from shale gas production sites, according to the committee, which has recommended independent technical review of the methodology.

The report says as many as 100,000 more gas wells are likely to be drilled in the United States in the next several decades. "The development of shale gas is one of the biggest energy innovations, if not the biggest, in several decades," said Subcommittee Chairman John Deutch, an MIT professor. "It is now about 30 percent of total U.S. natural gas production; it has reduced energy costs and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. But to ensure the full benefits to the American people, environmental issues need to be addressed now -– especially in terms of waste water, air quality, and community impact. We believe that our twenty recommendations provide the basis for a pragmatic route forward and hope that they will be acted upon.

"Industry, working with state and federal regulators and public interest groups, should increase their best field engineering practices and environmental control activities by adopting the objective of continuous improvement, validated by measurement and disclosure of key operating metrics," he added. "This is the surest path forward to assure that shale gas is produced in an environmentally sound fashion, and in a way that meets the needs of public trust.\"

Other members of the subcommittee are Stephen Holditch of Texas A&M; Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund; Kathleen McGinty of Weston Solutions; Susan Tierney of Analysis Group; Daniel Yergin of IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates; and Mark Zoback of Stanford University. Both subcommittee reports are available at http://www.shalegas.energy.gov/index.html.

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