I read the Emissions from Natural Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Area and Opportunities for Cost-Effective Improvements report by: Al Armendariz, Ph.D., Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering, Southern Methodist University. It was a whopping 45 pages long, but it was well worth the time I took to read.
Of course, a lot of the terminology I didn't understand, but the report made some comparisons to help out lay people like myself. The gist of what I read confirms that the oil and gas industry are polluting the air, soil and water of DISH. Here's an example of what I'm referring to:
"In addition, predicted 2009 emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane were approximately 33,000 tons per day of CO2 equivalent. This is roughly equivalent to the expected greenhouse gas impact from two 750 MW coal-fired power plants. The three anthropogenic greenhouse gases of greatest concern, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, are emitted from oil and gas sources in the Barnett Shale area."
I thought the reason we are doing away with coal and going natural gas was because it was a cleaner fuel. Did I miss something? I'm confused. These emissions are just from the DISH area...this isn't including all emissions from all over the United States. So, from what I understand, it's as if DISH has TWO coal-fired power plants.
"HAP emissions, which include toxic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene, are expected to increase. These activities are significant sources of the ozone and fine particulate precursors, as well as very large sources of greenhouse gases, mostly from methane venting during well completions. Greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be greater than 4000 CO2 equivalent tons per year. "
The reason the emissions are expected to increase is because of the plan to increase drilling. Well, didn't see that one coming did ya?
There are three basic types of pollutants wreaking havoc with DISH; compressor engines, well completions, and gas venting. What I like about this report is that not only does it point out that the pollution is being created by the oil and gas industry, but that pollution reducing options are available for these companies. I'm not so sure that these companies would be interested in self regulation, it'll probably take federal or state law to intervene.
"Unless companies bring special equipment to the well site to capture the natural gas and liquids that are produced during well completions, these gases will be vented to the atmosphere or flared."
You'd also think that probably these pollution reducing methods would be costly, but oddly enough...they're not. In fact, from what I've read, the methods would increase profit for the gas and oil industry! Well, hell's bells, darlin'! What are they waiting for?
"Estimates were made of the costs where switching from IC engines to electric motors for compression. With an IC engine capital cost factor of $750/hp in 2009 dollars, the cost of a 500 hp compressor engine would be approximately $370,000. With an electric motor cost factor of $700/kW, the cost of 500 hp of electrically-powered compression would be approximately $260,000."
Look at that, over $100,000 in savings!
"While flaring emissions from tanks in the Barnett Shale would provide substantial environmental benefits, especially in terms of VOC and methane emissions, capturing these hydrocarbons and directing them into the natural gas and condensate distribution systems would provide both an environmental benefit and a very large potential revenue stream to oil and gas producers."
Not only would the flaring benefit our environment, BUT it would also provide increased profit!
"Emissions of ozone and fine particle smog forming compounds (NOx and VOC) will be approximately 191 tons per day on an annual average basis in 2009...greater than the combined emissions from the major airports and on-road motor vehicles in the D-FW metropolitan area."
That's a lot of pollution! Very harmful stuff being released into the air, water and soil. The report offers suggestions for controlling and reducing emissions significantly and these methods are cost effective. You know, a few weeks ago I solved the health care crisis by creating a health bank that everyone pays into, instead of paying exorbitant insurance rates. Now, I think I've solved the employment crisis. The oil and gas industry can hire lots of people to use the "green completions" to capture methane and VOC compounds during well completions, phase in electric motors as an alternative to internal-combustion engines, install condensate tanks with vapor recovery units, and replace high-bleed pneumatic valves and fittings.
I'm thinking that big oil and gas should be leaders in the industry and set a good example by implementing these emission reducing methods, hiring and training of new employees, and cleaning up the environment.