Natural Gas Drilling without the use of water?

In Tioga County, New York, a group of landowners comprised of 1,826 families that own 126,000 acres of land will be introducing a company that can perform gas drilling without the use of water or chemicals in its process. The open meeting for the introduction is scheduled to take place on April 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the Owego Free Academy Auditorium located on Sheldon Guile Boulevard in Owego, New York.

The company, Gasfrac Energy Services out of Texas, utilizes gelled Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in place of conventional fracturing fluids (water), according to Nick Schoonover, chairman of the Tioga County Landowner’s Group – a group that was established in 2008 to unify Tioga County, New York landowners.

Schoonover also explained what he described as an “environmentally friendly” process utilized by Gasfrac, and how he came about discovering the company that uses it.

When the Tioga County Landowner’s Group formed in 2008, according to Schoonover, it got off the ground with a couple hundred people. He added that it soon grew to over 500 members.

He talked of the group’s formation, and how in the beginning landowners were reporting that they received about three to five dollars an acre – a small sum in comparison to the $3,500 per acre that was later derived by larger companies who leased the drilling rights.

By uniting together as a landowner’s group, Schoonover explained how lawyers were able to work with landowners that joined in formulating a future lease that could be utilized by all to ensure they were getting a fair deal on their mineral rights and potential land use for drilling. Schoonover additionally noted that they selected attorneys that had knowledge of the environmental and landowner protection aspects as well.

Schoonover also described the members of the group as being concerned for the environment as well. “Eighty-one percent of our members came in to our group with a focus on protecting their land and water,” said Schoonover. “We’re not a group saying ‘Drill Baby Drill’,” he added.

With that mindset, Schoonover began to research, following the formation of the landowner’s group, and soon discovered Gasfrac out of Texas, and their process that claims to utilize LPG versus water.

Schoonover described the current process being utilized in most areas, to include Pennsylvania, in which 99.6 percent of the material is water and sand, and the other 4 percent utilized is chemicals such as hydrochloric acid.

So when Schoonover learned of Gasfrac, it was good news for him – environmentally.

“Here’s a technology that gets away from chemicals and the use of water,” he said. “LPG is from the earth anyhow.” He added that the current process of hydrofracing being utilized, however, can also be done safely under the right circumstances. “This process gets rid of some of the current problems such as waste disposal and increased truck traffic.”

But when Schoonover learned of the company, he didn’t jump into things right away – he gave it time. “No wine before its time,” said Schoonover of the wait to see where the company had accomplished some things. Currently, Schoonover added, the company has done extensive drilling in both Texas and Canada, and is slowly moving into New York.

Schoonover also feels that the stalling of drilling in New York State, while landowners await a release of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) from the Department of Environmental Conservation, has been to their benefit.

“Since New York has stalled,” said Schoonover, “and if we like what we see … maybe this will help us move forward.”

In the meantime, Schoonover has developed a position paper on the prospective use of Gasfrac’s technique, and will be speaking with politicians. Schoonover is hopeful that this water-free process will get things moving forward.

And although Schoonover realized that there would still be issues with truck traffic and other things related to the gas drilling industry, there would be no waste derived from the drilling sites, and no issue on where the water would be coming from.

With that prospect in hand, Schoonover stated that the landowners hope to negotiate a deal on the approximate 100,000 acres available for drilling within Tioga County, New York. Additionally, he hopes to see things begin late in the year, or early into next year.

If they can drill, said Schoonover, it would take about four to five months to set things in place.

To learn more about Gasfrac and their technique, attend the meeting planned for April 14 at 6:30 p.m. in Owego. You can also visit www.tiogagaslease.org to learn more.

We reached out to a representative from Gasfrac for comment on their process, but were unsuccessful. It is understood that representatives from Gasfrac will be present at the April 14 meeting to answer any questions.

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