New Yorkers have important questions about natural gas development. We are here to talk with you about them.
The following are answers to some of the frequent questions we have heard from New Yorkers throughout the state. If you have other questions about natural gas development or the hydraulic fracturing process, please fill out the form below.
The debate is actually not about natural gas drilling. Natural gas development has been occurring safely in New York for more than 60 years, and there are 6,600 active wells in use. The current debate is focused on two drilling technologies known as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. These techniques, referred to as high-volume drilling, can access 10 times the amount of natural gas than a traditional, vertical well, while reducing the surface disturbance to our land.
According to the IHS, unconventional gas development in 2010 supported:
- 26,887 full-time jobs;
- $1.87 billion in labor income;
- $2.3 billion in value-added economic output
A study by the Manhattan Institute entitled “The Economic Opportunities of Shale Energy Development” found that use of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale could result in the following:
- 15,000 to 18,000 jobs could be created in the Southern Tier and western New York
- 75,000 to 90,000 jobs could be created if exploration and drilling expanded throughout the Utica Shale and in southeastern New York
- $11.4 billion in economic output
Natural gas represents the only clean energy option of adequate scale today to make meaningful improvements to New York’s air quality. When used to generate electricity, natural gas burns cleaner than other fuel sources, with less pollutants and no mercury. Transportation accounts for 30 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, and natural gas vehicles run 25 percent cleaner than vehicles powered by traditional gasoline or diesel. And, on average, natural gas is a third percent cheaper than gasoline at the pump.
Natural gas power generation also means lower energy bills. A study conducted by Navigant Consulting found that New York has seen substantial savings in energy costs as a result of the current and expanding abundance of natural gas. The findings included:
- New York consumers saved almost $3 billion in 2010, and the savings are increasing.
- Residential gas customers directly saved 12 percent of their annual bill, or $152 per customer.
- Nationally, because the gas used for power generation has dropped significantly in price, electric customers saved $44 billion in utility costs.
Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are an excellent, clean alternative to conventionally fueled vehicles. NGVs outperform conventional fuels with a significantly higher octane rating, better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs. And, the number and variety of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and conversion-eligible CNG vehicles that are available are increasing all the time. In fact, there are about 150,000 NGVs on the road in the United States currently.
The Honda GX is currently the only dedicated for-purchase option, starting at $24,590 and eligible for a $4,000 federal tax credit. It compares feature-wise to a mid-level, gasoline-powered $17,760 Civic LX and has a government rating of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 miles per gallon on the highway.
Converting your current vehicle to natural gas is another option. CNG conversion kits must meet stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements and should be installed by a certified EPA installer. CNG Now has a list of certified installation locations in each state.
Nationwide, there are about 1,000 natural-gas vehicle stations, about half of which sell to the public. For a station closest to you, CNG Now has an up-to-date list of all operating stations. Additionally, if your home has an existing natural gas supply line, it may be possible to purchase a home refueling system that is designed to fill your vehicle overnight. For more information on a home refueling system, contact your local natural gas utility provider.
A broad range of industry associations, including America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the American Petroleum Institute, support FracFocus.org – a public database of hydraulic fracturing fluids developed by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The state-based registry of hydraulic fracturing fluids includes information on a well-by-well basis for operations on government and private lands.
Pressurized water and sand are the main ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing. Other additives – most commonly found in consumer products – make up less than one percent of the overall mixture. It is then used to create small, often millimeter-thick fissures in carefully targeted sections of the deep shale rock—typically found a mile below the earth’s surface. A full list of ingredients can be found here.
All energy development comes with some risk, but proven structural safeguards and state-of-the-art monitoring technologies allow natural gas producers to protect water, air and land. Over the past 60 years, more than one million U.S. wells have been safely produced using hydraulic fracturing. The natural gas community uses the latest technology, from conducting integrity testing before operations commence to utilizing multiple layers of steel encased in cement to protect any fresh water supplies.
Furthermore, there are federal and state regulations that help ensure natural gas development occurs in concert with strong environment protection. New York’s current environmental laws and regulations for oil and gas production are among the most stringent in the nation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently studying the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling through the development of a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS). The SGEIS will be finalized after four public hearings in November, and it will ultimately outline the policies and regulations that will further protect the public and the environment.
Water used in the hydraulic fracturing process comes from a variety of resources, it may be piped in from rivers or lakes, trucked in from outside sources, or new water wells may be drilled. Natural gas production companies are regularly developing innovative techniques to conserve water and implementing water recycling efforts. Many of them also take advantage of seasonal precipitation.
It is not unusual for a typical deep shale gas well stimulation to require between 3 million and 6 million gallons of water. While these are significant volumes, they are small relative to the amount of water continually required to generate power from other energy sources. In fact, a study by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs concluded that because natural gas power plants use so much less water than other power plants, cultivation of shale resources would actually lead to LESS water use than the alternatives.
Through current regulation and new technologies, operators know the exact location of the drill head at all times. Therefore, accidental drilling of natural gas on someone else’s property is highly improbable. Furthermore, there are local, state and federal laws in place to protect both surface and mineral rights for property owners.