From the first well dug in Titusville, PA, to Texas oilman George Mitchell's combination of hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, to the use of supercomputers today, innovation has been at the heart of American energy development.
The industry isn’t sitting still; it looks to improve. For example, Bloomberg reports that Chesapeake Energy last year tested fracturing fluids “composed solely of environmentally-benign components.” Energy services firm Haliburton, has developed hydraulic fracturing fluid made from food-safe ingredients. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) told Senators he drank the stuff. Another company has taken the “hydraulic” out of fracturing. According to Gizmag, the technique developed by Chimera Energy “involves using hot gases rather than liquid to fracture the shale. And last year, Consol Energy invested in Epiphany Solar Water Systems' technology to use solar power to produce clean water from used fracturing fluid. If there's success at test wells in Pennsylvania, Epiphany's president Tom Joseph hopes take the technology to developing countries where clean drinking water is scarce.
Before these new fracturing methods can be used, a well has to be drilled, and innovation is happening in this space. A West Virginia company developed a drilling rig that walks:
"It can walk with the full load of pipe in the derrick, and it has actual pedestals on each corner of the rig where it picks up the entire rig up and walks several feet at a time, sets the feet down and move it again," Musselman said.
The A/C electric rig also allows the driller operator to work out of a cabin where everything is controlled by electronics with cameras and a joystick.
Company officials said these rigs are the wave of the future, and they hope this rig assembly here in Buckhannon is first of many.
"They're easy to control, their penetration rates and drilling performance is superior, they're easy to break down to move and environmentally friendly so we think this is what the future of the industry will be like," said John Cole, CEO of Sidewinder Drilling.
Along with efforts to improve getting energy out of the ground, there have been incredible advancements in locating oil and natural gas. It wasn’t long ago when geologists would pour over maps to make educated guesses of where energy would be. Today, powerful computers process data from seismographic sensors and then turn that data into visual representations to help scientists “see” underground. This results in more precise drilling and less environmental impact. Energy is as science, math, and technology-driven as any company creating smartphones or mobile apps.
Energy innovation isn't limited to shale oil and gas. American Electric Power (AEP) built the world's first integrated carbon capture and storage facility in West Virginia and the America's first ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in Arkansas that burns less fuel and emits fewer emissions.
America’s energy boom is the child of innovation. That spirit of improvement continues today.
The Administration’s infrastructure permitting initiative has shown that we can cut federal review and permitting timelines for construction projects such as highway, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, pipelines, and renewable energy by several months to several years. This modernization effort will achieve time savings of 50 percent in the federal permitting and review process, while ensuring projects create better outcomes for communities and the environment.
The White House wants to make it easier to permit pipelines.
Let me repeat: The White House wants to make it easier to get a permit to build a pipeline.
Not harder, easier.
I am not making this up.
Does anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue understand the irony? It’s been over four years since TransCanada applied for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, and it still awaits approval. With four federal environmental reviews issued—and waiting on a fifth, Keystone XL is probably the most-scrutinized and reviewed pipeline project in American history.
The administration has been slower than maple syrup in a Wisconsin winter on Keystone XL, but also says it wants to streamline the federal permitting and review process for pipelines and other infrastructure.
Someone in the White House must have a sense of humor. A few days from now, I expect Jay Carney to pop up on The Daily Show and say, “Gotcha. We were checking to see if anyone was paying attention.”
The administration’s goal is to “achieve time savings of 50 percent in the federal permitting and review process.” Good, otherwise it would take eight years to approve Keystone XL. If the White House is serious about making it easier to build pipelines and other infrastructure project in America it’ will say, “Yes” to Keystone XL today.
Editors note: This essay was originally published by McClatchy Newspapers.
Can increasing American energy exploration improve our economy? Yes, but more to the point, it's already happening.
Energy - and the jobs and growth it will drive - is the foundation for our economic recovery.
Our nation is blessed with some of the most abundant energy resources on earth. Thanks in large part to the technology-driven shale boom, we have enough natural gas to power America for 120 years.
We also have at least 200 years of oil under our lands and off our shores and more than 250 years of coal. And that's just what we can recover with today's technology. With continued advancements, we will be able to access even greater domestic supplies in the future.
Our stagnant economy craves investment, and our nation's energy resources are a true economic engine of recovery.
According to a report sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Energy Institute and conducted by IHS, shale oil and natural gas development alone contributed $238 billion to our economy in 2012, and investments in shale reached $87 billion.
Shale development is also on track to generate more than $2.5 trillion in government revenues by 2035 - including $62 billion in 2012. As our nation's leaders look for revenue to drive down our high deficits, they must consider the significant contribution energy can make.
Energy spurs job creation in every state, and there's opportunities for much more. The IHS report found that shale activity has already created 1.75 million jobs over the past several years, with an additional 1.25 million coming by 2020. Beyond shale, an additional 86,000 jobs could be created by 2020 by building the Keystone XL Pipeline, according to a Canadian Energy Research Institute study.
In addition, 85 percent of public lands onshore and offshore are off-limits to development, and a study by Wood Mackenzie shows that opening them up for exploration could create more than 500,000 jobs and $150 billion in government revenue by 2025.
Our nation can't afford not to move forward with oil and gas development. While job growth in the oil and gas industry has expanded by 38.6 percent since 2007, non-farm employment has contracted by 2.6 percent in the period. The unemployment rate would be in the double digits were it not for the oil and gas industry.
Energy can also help sharpen America's competitive edge in the global economy and improve our national security.
Thanks to our vast natural gas resources, electricity costs are falling and helping revitalize manufacturing in the United States. Industries are returning, plants are re-opening, and even some foreign manufacturers are diverting investments and operations to America, where low energy costs are becoming very appealing.
We can reduce the amount of oil we import, saving $200 billion a year, and become a more active player in global energy markets by exporting natural gas and coal. But we can't take this renaissance for granted. Industry needs a predictable and fair regulatory environment. Too often the federal government subjects energy projects to endless and duplicative reviews.
Such roadblocks have stymied vital energy projects that create jobs and revitalize communities. There needs to be a gut check on the number of regulations that are strangling so many of our energy resources.
We know that a competitive, 21st century energy strategy cannot focus only on oil, gas and coal. Nuclear energy should play a more significant role in providing us with clean, emissions-free energy through the next generation of nuclear power plants. Renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower all have an important role to play.
Energy presents the biggest opportunity to build a stronger foundation and a brighter future for our country. The 21st century has brought America an era of energy abundance. Let's make the most of it for the sake our economy, competitiveness, and national security.
Opponents of the coal industry won a victory last week when it was announced that the White Stallion coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County, Texas suspended development, partly due to litigation costs and potential federal environmental regulations.
“We have decided to ask the Travis County Court for a stay in the litigation against our … air permit through December of this year,” Randy Bird, COO for White Stallion, told STATEIMPACT TEXAS. “Our air permit extension expires then. If the stay is granted, we will not commence construction while the stay is in effect.”
For years, the coal plant has been the target of environmental groups. Activists have worked to shut down other coal power projects throughout the state as well, and there are no major traditional coal plants planned for construction in Texas.
“After suffering numerous setbacks … White Stallion has finally seen the writing on the wall,” said Austin attorney Tom Weber, lead counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund who worked in court to stop White Stallion. “This is a big win for clean air in Texas and for the Environmental Defense Fund.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that White Stallion violated new federal limits on emissions of mercury and toxic pollutants, and the plant needed the court to block or scale back the mercury rules so the plant could be built before April. Building it before then would mean it avoids the EPA’s first-ever limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases.
The coal industry has been hit hard by new waves of regulations under the Obama administration and Texas is no exception. According to the Sierra Club, 13 coal plants and 21 coal boiler proposals have been cancelled in Texas over the past decade. Nationwide, 175 proposed coal plants have been scrapped and 139 existing plants are slated for retirement.
This is the second time in a month that coal-plant developers had to shelve a project in Texas. A Houston-based company pulled the plug on a petroleum coke plant in Corpus Christi in January after the company announced it was going out of business.
Last fall, Luminant’s Monticello announced it was idling two of its coal units for half of the year in an effort to save money due to competition from cheap natural gas. Luminant coal plants have been targeted by an environmental campaign to shut down coal plants within the state.
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has been targeting coal plants across the country, including plants in Texas.
“The goal of our campaign is to get the owner of the Big Brown Plant and other plants across Texas to phase out those types of plants in the upcoming years,” said Al Armendariz, senior campaign manager of the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign in Texas, in regards to Luminant’s plant.
Armendariz resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency after coming under fire for remarks in which he compared agency environmental enforcement to Roman crucifixions.
The White Stallion plant would have generated 1,200 megawatts of power — enough to power 240,000 during peak demand times.
Coal is a major source of electricity in Texas, with coal-fired plants generating more than 12,500 gigawatt hours of electricity in October 2012.
Coal’s share of power generation has fallen from 49 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2011 as more plants have switched to burning natural gas.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
It’s not a good sign when the biggest news from your protest is how many people showed up—or didn’t show up. That’s the lede of the Toronto Globe and Mail’s coverage of a Washington, DC protest against the Keystone XL pipeline:
Organizers officially said 35,000 or more braved a cold, windy February afternoon for the protest, but turnout seemed significantly smaller. Even some of the protesters who had journeyed cross-country for the widely promoted Forward on Climate rally, voiced disappointment at the numbers.
This protest was a declaration to President Obama by environmental groups like the Sierra Club that Keystone XL should not be built.
While they urged the President to again reject Keystone XL, they ignored the economic and national security benefits from the construction and operation of the pipeline. At a press conference at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), supporters from industry and labor talked about those missing pieces.
Matt Koch, Vice President for Oil Sands and Arctic Issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, pointed out that he heard from local chambers of commerce and small business owners who “understand the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline to American jobs and economic security.” Jobs will be created, tax revenue will increase, and energy supplies will be made more secure.
Jay Timmons, NAM President and CEO said approving Keystone XL is the action that would meet President Obama's promise of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
The southern leg of the pipeline currently under construction employs hundreds of people, many of whom are skilled craftsmen. One of those craftsmen is union member Billy Rogers. “Working on the Gulf Coast Project has afforded me a good income that allows me to support my family,” he said.
There’s also a national security component to Keystone XL. Navy Veteran Mike Hazard, who trains other veterans for United Association, a union representing pipe tradesmen, warned, “If Keystone XL isn't approved, the U.S. will continue to rely on oil from unstable regimes instead of strengthening our relationship with Canada. Continuing to rely on oil from unstable political regimes would be counter intuitive to the values and ideals that inspire the volunteer spirit of the American military."
TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, Alex Pourbaix put it bluntly: “Does the U.S. want its oil from a friendly neighbor in Canada and domestic sources like the Bakken play, or does it want to continue to import higher-priced foreign oil from nations that do not support U.S. values?”
That question didn’t even cross the minds of anti-pipelines protesters.
For three more reasons for why the Keystone XL pipeline should be build, check out the Reason.tv video above.