‘We’re Our Own Nemesis’

on August 29, 2011 at 6:00 AM

When it comes to building trust and community support, CEO of Texas-based Breitling Oil & Gas company Chris Faulkner, says the hydraulic fracturing community has failed miserably.

Faulkner founded Breitling in 2004 as a natural gas and oil company that exclusively taps North American shales and wells. He told Breaking Energy that although there has been quite a backlash against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for natural gas, he sees natural gas as a necessary resource for America’s energy future in terms of lowering carbon emissions and reduced dependence on coal.

And fracking, which he said is being used now in 95% of the country’s gas shales, is a necessary part of the extraction process.

“[Fracking] not a type of feature that’s electable anymore,” Faulkner said. “It’s really a requirement to continue to mine for natural gas and produce it.”

He said that because the industry has failed to properly educate consumers, people are jumping to incorrect conclusions, driven by movies like Gasland that are not based on the truth.

“We’re our own nemesis in that department,” he said. The industry has not made the effort to reach out, Faulkner said, and is now suffering the consequences.

Chemicals Underground

Though Faulkner is adamant that natural gas fracking could be completely safe, if all safety procedures were properly executed in every well, he said he hopes the industry can find a way to use less hazardous materials in its fracking water.

He hopes further R&D will find “more eco-friendly chemicals that can serve the same purpose” as the currently-used chemicals. Even so, he thinks consumers have every right to know what is current fracking practice.

“We should tell them what’s going down that hole. They aren’t going to be happy about it,” Faulkner said.

Standard fracking works by pumping high pressured chemical-filled water deep into the ground. The water cracks open the shale rock and the chemicals help the trapped natural gas release from the rock and travel back into the pipeline and up to the the surface.

But even so, Faulkner said that because wells are often more than 10,000 feet below ground, its nearly impossible for chemicals to travel all the way up the water layers, which are only about 600 feet below ground. And, he said, what is separating the water from the fracked regions is a thick layer of shale rock.

“The whole nature of shale is that its tight,” Faulkner said. Hydrocarbons cannot be released without “serious stimulation.” Chemicals too cannot easily pass through the rock and into water reserves.

If the procedure weren’t managed very carefully, he said, there would be contamination at every shale. But the fact is that only several contamination points have been discovered, and is easily attributable to human error in those specific cases.

The American Way

Though some countries have been very cautious about fracking, Faulkner said he was proud that the American way is to go ahead and drill without spending three years looking left and right.

“We drill holes in the ground and see what’s there,” he said. Politicians have been using the fracking issue for selfish political purposes, he said.

Faulkner said he agrees with recent EPA regulation proposals that would encourage the industry to disclose the content of chemicals used, but he insisted that states rather than the federal government should decide how the process is done.

Like the American Petroleum Institute, which has said the problem with EPA regulations is blanket country-wide rules, Faulkner said the states know best about the details of their regions and the fracking companies that operate within them.

Read more about the API response to regulatory draft report on hydraulic fracturing from the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB): Industry Calls Fracking Proposal ‘Redundant’.

An Industry On The Cusp

Much is at stake for the fracking industry at it awaits EPA regulations.Faulkner says natural gas prices could start to rise again in the next two years after an extended period of low prices.

American developers are starting to export gas to international markets and regulators interested in promoting clean energy are starting to talk of an expanded role for natural gas, such as natural-gas powered vehicles.

The next big production shales, Faulkner said, will be the Motney Shale, the Horn River and the Utica Shale.