All extractive procedures are going to cause concern among environmentalists. Why have they latched on to fracking specifically?
The industry has allowed the entire conversation get way out of hand. We didn’t contest the release of the film “GasLand,” which is when the movement really gained momentum on their parts. A lot of the ideas presented in the film have since been disproven, but the media pays no attention to that. The media just focuses on sensationalism. When you have Sean Penn and Oprah Winfrey speaking out, you realise just how big the argument has gotten and few people care about the science behind it.
Nobody acknowledges the fact that the process involves three layers of solid concrete and a number of elements securing the aquifer. There are chemicals that go down the hole, but there are no chemicals going down into the water aquifer. But that is not the story being reported. The story being reported is that the chemicals are entering the hole and that may threaten the water aquifer.
There is not going to be a happy medium with these folks. Fracking has to be completely banned for them to be pleased and they do not care what we are willing to do even if do we agree to get additional content and permits. They are equally not concerned about the 10 million jobs that would be lost if the process was banned. The US is thirsty for oil – it depends on oil – so where do these people think that the oil is going to come from if we do not continue to seek new sources?
People do not realise that about 95 percent of wells in the US are fracked, so the industry would simply cease to exist until we replaced the technology. People do not want to face the fact that we burn through around 88 million barrels a day of oil on this planet and that that figure is going up. It will be 120 million by 2035.
Do you feel the claims of activists should be met with greater transparency on the side of the oil and gas industry?
In the end it is the same cocktail of chemicals, independent of whether you are using Schlumberger or Halliburton. People are concerned about whether or not you are injecting chemicals into their water supply. As landowners, people have a right to know. They should be aware of what we are doing to protect these aquifers. However, they should also know anything that involves humans is subject to human error. There are no non-consequential forms of energy.
To what extent are the concerns of environmentalists being answered by new technology?
We will be able to remove the chemical component of fracking with food-safe break down additives. We are testing products that use a certain bacteria derived from fruit that break down the bacteria in hydrocarbons. We are looking for ways to replace any chemical we do not need and replace any chemical that we do need with something food-safe. This is something that alleviates the concerns of some of the environmentalists but it does not address concerns surrounding water shortage. Less than 1 percent of potable water is used for fracking but this is not the information that sells newspapers and the president is not helping because he is focused on renewables.
The use of brackish water is being tested, but so far it has not been successful in the same way as fresh water. We can take recycled water through reverse osmosis and use it but this is a process that requires a massive amount of energy. Not many companies are doing this due to the cheap availability of fresh water. This is something that may be a catalyst for innovation to push the industry forward. This could also make fracking possible in water-poor regions like the Middle East and China. Many of these wells produce significant amounts of water but it is generally brackish because you are drilling so deep. If we can find a way to use the well’s own water and clean it to the point that you could use it again, that would be a great way to move it forward in water-poor regions. This has not yet been put into use, but it is being looked into.
How has the current US administration influenced fracking activity?
Obama claims to support natural gas production but then he goes and subsidises renewable energy and electric vehicles. Federal land has been locked up, our production on federal land has gone down by 40 percent since he took office and the price of petrol has doubled. The president does not set a great tone for our industry. This has been the only industry that has grown since 2008 and we have employed a whole number of new employees through the boom the oil and gas industry. It is fuelled by fracking because we have been in heavy decline for the last 30 years until these new technologies came into play. It was a dying industry until recently.