All Issues‎ > ‎

Issue No. 83 - July 1, 2016

1. InfraStrata stops drill at Woodburn Forest (NI), no oil found

Infrastrata pulling out of Woodburn Forest
On June 16, the BBC reported that InfraStrata had stopped its exploratory drill at Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus, having failed to find "hydrocarbon accumulation". The well, which was drilled to a depth of 2,000 m, will now be plugged and abandoned, according to a company statement.
Mr. Orr had been arrested, along with a number of other protesters, on a right of way near the site the previous weekend.

Reacting to the news, James Orr, director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, said: "The community has endured so much for nothing. We feel vindicated that this harmful, worthless and ill-conceived project is now over...Tomorrow the soul searching begins for NI Water and the several government Departments whose negligence allowed this to happen without planning permission. It must never happen again. The democratic meltdown that allowed exploratory drilling in Woodburn can never be repeated."

On June 18, the Belfast Telegraph reported that local residents were in discussions to determine whether Woodburn Forest could be transferred to community ownership following the abandonment of the drill by InfraStrata. Cited in the article, Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, who has proposed removing permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration, said: "In the future, exploration for oil and gas will require the submission of a planning application and will be subject to the full rigours of the planning process, including environmental impact assessment and public consultation."

Cited by the Belfast Telegraph on June 20, Fiona Joyce of the Stop the Drill campaign, said "We feel that there are a lot of questions for Northern Ireland Water to answer. There is going to have to be a massive forensic clean-up on that site and what we want is an independent monitor in there to oversee it." Responding to a request from Stop the Drill that a campaign representative be allowed to monitor the site restoration, Minister for the Environment Michelle McIlveen said that she did not have the authority to permit that, and that requests should be addressed directly to InfraStrata.

2. US oil and gas methane emissions equivalent to 14 coal-fired power plants

The Who’s Who of Methane Pollution in the Onshore Oil and Gas Production Sector

As Oil Change International reports, the Center for American Progress has issued a new report on the methane emissions from the US onshore oil and gas industry for 2014. The introduction to the report notes that the oil and gas sector was responsible for 33 percent of all methane emissions in the US in 2014 and that "Methane is a supercharged global warming pollutant that is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time scale."

The report reveals that methane emissions from the onshore oil and gas production sector amounted to more than 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2014, the equivalent of 14 coal-fired power plants over one year. The report notes that this is figure is based on the conservative and outdated methodology used by the US EPA to calculate emissions equivalency (see footnote 7). The US government website referenced by the report shows that the US government uses a multiplier (global warming potential, GWP) of 25 to convert methane to CO2e. Ireland uses the same multiplier.

As the report points out, this is conservative because it measures the GWP of methane over a 100-year time frame, rather than the 20-year time frame in which methane's warming potential is the greatest (and which also coincides with the window of opportunity for addressing climate change). It is outdated because it is based on the recommendations of the fourth IPCC report. The fifth IPCC report states that over a hundred-year timescale, methane is 34 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Over a 20-year timescale, methane's global warming potential is 86. The US National Climate Assessment published the study Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Systems in 2012, which puts the global warming potential of methane at 105 times that of carbon dioxide.

The Center for American Progress notes that while the US EPA has recently introduced standards to regulate new sources of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, these standards will not apply to existing sources – wells already in operation.

As this Bloomberg article reports, methane from even abandoned and plugged wells can be a problem, especially if they are located near a fracking site. Abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania have been found to be leaking methane into homes and water, as well as into the air. A 2014 study found that abandoned wells can continue to be a significant source of methane emissions for decades.

3. Bankruptcies continue in US oil and gas sector despite price rebound

1015-2016 Cumulative North American E&P Bankruptcy Filings

In a report published in late April 2016,
the US law firm Haynes & Boone
revealed that since the start of 2015,
138 oilfield service companies and
oil and gas producers have gone
bankrupt owing more than $61 billion

The following articles describe the crisis in the oil and gas sector and some prominent recent bankruptcies:

Bankruptcy is not the only problem facing the sector.

Bloomberg reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating a disappearance of "paper wells" from the books of US oil and gas companies. The agency suspects that companies have inflated their "proved reserves", which for many companies is directly linked to the amount of credit they can access. The "proved reserves" are also a measure of a company's ability to repay its debts. Bloomberg found that this year 59 US oil and gas companies deleted more than 20 percent of their inventories. A number of the companies have since filed for bankruptcy.

The oil and gas sector is also facing legal challenges from workers who claim that during the boom they were denied millions in wage entitlements, as DeSmogBlog reports.

If you would like to receive the Shale Gas Bulletin Ireland twice a month, subscribe here.