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Successes in shale to be shared


As predicted several years ago, water has become a critical limiting factor as the natural gas industry expands from one shale play to the next, according to Gary Hanson, director of the Red River Watershed Management Institute at LSU-Shreveport.

Hydraulic fracturing is required in all of the gas shale plays and it is crucial that industry continues to work with northwest Louisiana communities and voluntarily use predominantly surface water or the Red River Alluvial Aquifer instead of the limited Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater for fracing.

“By addressing our water concerns in a proactive manner and allowing development to proceed in a responsible way, we are a model to other areas of the country where unfortunately, fear, instead of facts, is driving resistance to shale gas development,” Hanson said.

As a result of Louisiana’s success, Hanson has been invited to several water and energy venues in the Southwest and on the East Coast to share the story and lessons learned. In one of the sessions set next month in Pennsylvania, Hanson will be joined by Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle, state conservation Commissioner Jim Welsh and Mike Mathis of Chesapeake Energy.

Other conferences will be in Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Baltimore event in October, sponsored by the Water Research Foundation, is pulling together experts to evaluate water quality concerns related to hydraulic fracturing. One of the speakers will be Robert W. Puls, director of research for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Ground Water and Ecosystem Restoration Division.

“It is a real honor to be asked to participate in this expert workshop formed to evaluate hydraulic fracturing and gas shale development,” Hanson said.

As an example of what other area’s of the nation are facing, Hanson notes in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches into Pennsylvania and New York, poor groundwater aquifers exist and major river systems are being used for well stimulation.

New York has a drilling moratorium in place, and “well-meaning groups have incited the public to a point that regulators and scientists, whom I have spoken with, say it is basically impossible to get out objective facts about gas well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Their greatest concerns are landscape change, excessive water use and fears that fracing may contaminate their drinking water and environment. Facts, not fear, should drive the development efforts,” Hanson said.

In south Texas, the Eagle Ford play is drawing a lot of interest from the oil and gas industry. It extends 250 miles from southeast of Austin to the Mexican border.

In much of the play, existing deep water wells are being utilized for drilling and stimulation because it’s too expensive to drill water wells. In areas near the border, no groundwater exists, so limited surface water is used. Also, encounters with Mexican drug runners and human traffickers make it dangerous for water transfer specialists to work there.

“Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto and Webster parishes, as well as the Red River Waterway Commission, Sabine River Authority, city of Shreveport, Metropolitan Planning Commission and LSUS should be commended for their efforts to preserve and protect our water resources here in northwest Louisiana,” Hanson said.

The state’s Legislature and Department of Natural Resources acted in a proactive manner by developing groundwater legislation here in Louisiana about six years before the Haynesville boom started. Recent water policies, including the newly adopted surface water use law, are being driven by the Haynesville activity.

However, DNR’s approach shows “institutions that are typically considered rigid and inflexible can in fact become flexible and adaptive with the right leadership,” Hanson added. “In an unprecedented manner, but typical of his hands-on management style, Scott Angelle (interim lieutenant governor) has chaired numerous and lengthy Ground Water Commission meetings throughout the state. This has given Louisiana residents, statewide, the opportunity to attend and have their water concerns heard.”

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