Since moving back to the Finger Lakes region after a 20 year career as a geologist and petroleum engineer in other states, I have been astounded by the NY opposition to drilling. What may have begun in NY as an inquiry into the science of shale gas development has now devolved into emotional and irrational behavior calling for one unnecessary moratorium after another. Yes, occasional drilling accidents are inevitable as with any human endeavor but unquestionably the technology is already in place to minimize any onshore occurrence or impact and DEC will soon ensure its implementation.
Fears of environmental ruin are exaggerated and examples often have no relevance to shale gas technology. A narrow 5 ½ diameter horizontal hole over a mile beneath the surface, sealed with multiple layers of casing and cement, stimulated by a time proven technology of creating micro-fractures no more than 150 feet in height presents no danger to those of us on the surface. And while the public still debates and frets about surface fluid handling and footprint, industry is already quickly approaching near 100% reuse and recycling of waste water in closed loop systems which minimize the surface spill risks and well pad spacing is now two miles apart, not the 80 acres popularly depicted. In reality shale gas development has evolved into primarily a short-term traffic nuisance.
While natural gas is not the perfect answer to a carbon free utopia, it can provide an abundant and inexpensive bridge fuel with capability to make significant inroads into both electrical generation and transportation fuel at the expense of dirtier oil and coal. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel with no SO2, mercury or particulates, 80% less NOx and 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less than oil. The simple transition of the tractor trailer fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas can reduce our oil imports by 50% alone!
It is also a national security and economic issue. Have we already forgotten the past, present and likely future economic, environmental, political and security consequences of our unsustainable and dangerous dependence on oil? Obstructionists with no practical energy or economic alternatives fiddle from their ivory towers while typical upstate New Yorkers and communities struggle in quiet desperation epitomized by what a local struggling farmer recently told me; “We are in the fight of our lives for our economic survival and our basic mineral rights.”
There is no technical reason to continue the endless moratorium cycles. Let our eminently competent DEC simply complete their unparalleled comprehensive analysis that will result in NY requiring and enforcing the latest already proven technical practices and then begin measured Marcellus drilling in NY. It’s time to move forward rather than hinder this exceptional economic opportunity for our state and the miraculous opportunity to help our nation transition away from oil and coal.
Scott B. Cline
BS Geological Science
MS, PhD Petroleum Engineering
Stanley, NY 14561
Dr Cline, retired from the oil and gas industry, has over twenty years of world-wide exploration and production experience. His research also includes the reservoir engineering aspects of horizontal drilling in fractured reservoirs. He holds a BS in geological science from Penn State and both MS and PhD from University of Oklahoma. He resides in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY.