High volume water fracking is still under New York Department of Environmental Conservation review, but a group of Tioga County landowners reached an informal agreement in late March to develop up to 135,000 acres of Marcellus and Utica shale utilizing alleged green technology.
The Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) technology utilizes injected liquid propane or butane instead of water, which proponents say does not cause the dissolution of harmful salts in the process.
The agreement is subject to DEC approval.
“If we receive a formal application, DEC will perform a thorough environmental review including evaluation of the proposed activity against the findings and analysis of the 1992 SGEIS [Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement],” said Emily DeSantis, DEC director of Public Information.
DEC developed a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) in 1992 setting statewide parameters for oil and gas permitting.
Late last week, Cornell University Professor of Engineering Anthony Ingraffea and representatives of 15 concerned environmental groups in New York sent a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens expressing their concern with the LPG technology.
The letter said LPG fracturing is “well outside the scope of the 1992 GEIS,” and LPG should be subject to the same comprehensive environmental review as high pressure water fracturing.
“An Environmental Impact Statement could be required if the proposed activity may result in significant adverse environmental impacts not adequately addressed by the 1992 GEIS,” DeSantis said in a statement.
“Given both the unique and significant risks of this activity, as well as the potential for significant adverse environmental impacts, an application to perform LPG fracturing would plainly necessitate the preparation of either a supplemental generic or site-specific environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to well permitting,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say LPG fracturing presents considerable known risks that are distinct from those posed by either high volume hydrofracking or conventional drilling, and unknown hazards from utilizing and trucking highly flammable propane, which creates a substantial threat of explosion.
Calgary-based gas company, GASFRAC Energy Services, Inc, and Houston-based gas well drilling company, eCORP International LLC would work on the Southern Tier project and have combined on other projects in the U.S. and Europe.
An eCORP description of the project says the technology eliminates many of the concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing since it does not require millions of gallons of water in the process or the storage of wastewater when it is finished.
In addition, all of the propane used in the process is recovered.
“Propane is familiar in our daily lives; many of us use propane daily for cooking and heating our homes,” eCorp Chairman and CEO John Thrush explained.
In a statement, Thrush said eCorps would only apply the technology after full consultation with stakeholders and applicable authorities.
“We did not choose propane as a fracking agent in order to accelerate development or bypass established public policy. … [W]e chose it based upon the merits of its minimal environmental impacts and greater expected ultimate recovery of the natural resource,” he said.
A spokesman for the Tioga County Landowners Group said LPG fracturing “represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve the economy in the Southern Tier and bring in a number of good local jobs.”
More than 700 people attended a shale gas-drilling job fair at Broome Community College on Wednesday, put on by prospective employers hoping the DEC will complete its review and allow hydrofracking to begin in the state as early as this year.