Couple of stories not to be missed from Texas. First, off the father of modern shale George Mitchell may be 93 in a few months, but he's still pushing shale:
Natural gas is a wondrous fuel. It emits less carbon dioxide, less mercury, less nitrogen oxide, less sulfur oxide than any other hydrocarbon energy source. Natural gas is the perfect bridge fuel on the way to a less carbon-dependent economy. There is no question that accidents have occurred and mistakes have been made during the rush to develop this vast new resource, but this remarkable resource can be developed by industry following region-specific best practices and regulators carefully monitoring industry activities.
Innovation loves a challenge, however. After seven long years of effort, the Mitchell company devised a method that combined horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the shale formation, that released the gas in commercial quantities. It was a stunning victory not just for Mitchell, but for the nation's small, independent energy companies, achieved with an approach mostly ignored or abandoned by the international oil and gas giants.
This isn't news, at least not to many here, but the next paragraph. George Mitchell was in his mid 70's developing shale so it 's not surprising that even today he looks to the future:
We now believe that the Barnett Shale, which underlies not only Fort Worth but also 17 counties and 5,000 square miles of Texas, may have one of the largest producible reserves of any onshore natural gas field in the United States. The key word, of course, is producible, and it was the technology using hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells that made the difference.
Listen to the like of some and the Barnett Shale should have been exhausted by now. But like all the rest, the story just keeps on getting bigger, deeper, faster and better.
But in a far less inspiring story from Texas, the exact opposite:
A judge has concluded that a Parker County resident, owner of a methane-contaminated water well, created a "deceptive video" that was "calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning."
State District Judge Trey Loftin said well owner Steve Lipsky collaborated with Alisa Rich, an environmental consultant.
Loftin made his remarks in an order, signed Thursday, denying a motion by Lipsky and Rich to dismiss Range Resources' multimillion-dollar counterclaim against them.
Fort Worth-based Range filed the counterclaim in July after Lipsky and his wife, Shyla Lipsky, sued it for $6.5 million in Loftin's 43rd State District Court in Weatherford. The couple contends that two Range natural gas wells contaminated their water well with methane, a primary component of natural gas.
Yup, even greens can be dishonest.
On Dec. 7, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order against Range, contending that two of its Barnett Shale gas wells "caused or contributed" to contamination of water wells belonging to Lipsky and a neighbor.
But John Blevins, the EPA official who signed the order, later backtracked somewhat, saying the Range wells "may" have caused or contributed to the contamination.
In his order, Loftin expressed concern that Lipsky, "under the advice or direction" of Rich, attached a hose to the water well's gas vent -- not to a water line -- and then lit the gas from the hose's nozzle.
"This demonstration was not done for scientific study but to provide local and national news media a deceptive video, calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning," the judge wrote. Loftin also cited evidence that Rich had sought to mislead the EPA.
You can watch the video, but thousands probably have already throughout the world:
In sworn depositions, Lipsky and Rich have generally denied improper actions or intent to deceive with the video, which has been shown in TV reports and can be viewed on YouTube.
But as usual, nobody, including incurious journalists, will bother to highlight this story.