A bridge to extinction


“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – CARL SAGAN

Carl Sagan, one of our great astronomers and scientists, saw life on Earth from a far-away perspective. Sagan explained the wonders of the universe in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, looking at Earth as the “pale blue dot.”

What would Sagan say about the choices we face today? Sagan died in 1996 when he was 62 years old, leaving a legacy that inspires many today to learn and treasure scientific knowledge bridging generations.

What Oil & Gas calls natural gas was sold at first as a bridge fuel in the transition from coal to heat water and generate electricity. NG was supposed to be a temporary solution while solar and wind energy solutions were improved. By ignoring methane leaks from storage and transportation of NG, as proposed by the EPA, NG is now proposed as a permanent solution for the 21st century, a bridge to extinction.

To frack or not to frack

Is shale gas and oil a major driver of the recent increase in global atmospheric methane?

This is the key question for survival. The scientific answer is yes, according to a study published last August by Robert W. Howarth, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University.

There are two different sources of methane from natural gas, conventional and unconventional. Conventional NG is found in liquid reservoirs which are hard to find. Unconventional NG is easy to find using geological maps, but very difficult to extract from hard rock formations.

Conventional NG is extracted from vertical wells drilled into geologic formations in which the reservoir and fluid characteristics allow the natural gas to flow to the wellbore.

Unconventional NG is present in impermeable rock formations where gases are trapped. Extraction requires extreme pressure, water, chemicals, and sand to fracture the rock formations, and force the gases to flow to the wellhead.

Professor Howarth and his team found unique variations of methane molecules from shale gas, known as isotopes. These methane isotopes from shale NG and oil are causing increased global warming.

Frack off

We are living on a hot planet suffering extreme weather with undeniable consequences. Our children are taking to the streets and the courts to protect their future. How can we turn our backs and ignore the climate emergency?

The only way to make sense out of this mess is to recognize the insanity of the current administration, and the 2020 presidential election. Trump is determined to stay in office. Shutting down the government, lying about billions of import tariffs on China products, and rolling back environmental protections seen as “burdensome” by oil and gas, is how Trump plans to win.

Environmental crimes

In January 2019 a Pennsylvania State Grand Jury heard testimony on environmental crimes in the Marcellus Shale NG fields. “Flaring of methane was so loud that it shook the walls of her home,” said a resident who has lived through “three years of hell.”

Hydraulic fracturing injects millions of gallons of water into geologic formations containing oil and gas. Wastewater is pumped deep underground in injection wells. What could go wrong?

Earthquake swarms from Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and deaths from drinking water pollution are what you get from fracking.

Frackers never learn

Last month, at the Pittsburgh Annual Shale Insight Conference, Trump repeated a fictional story about Harold Hamm, “Sir, he can take a straw and he can put it into the ground, and oil comes out. Other companies, they spend billions looking for oil …”

Rise up

Our oil-based economy is at high risk. Fracking is a money pit. Without profits in the last 10 years and drilling expenses used as tax shelters, Americans must demand a U.S. ban on fracking. Ironically, Exxon opposes a ban, claiming it would hurt the U.S. economy.

Please call your congressional representatives and ask them to protect your family and help you oppose the EPA methane rollback, EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0757-0002 comments due November 25. The methane rollback would add the equivalent emissions to 52 coal power plants per year, it must be denied and replaced with a ban on fracking.

Dr. Luis Contreras


  1. The Shale Boom Is About To Go Bust, May 2019 Oilprice

    For a while, there was enough acreage to allow for a blistering growth rate, but the boom days eventually have to come to an end. There are already some signs of strain in the shale patch, where intensification of drilling techniques has begun to see diminishing returns. Putting wells too close together can lead to less reservoir pressure, reducing overall production. The industry is only now reckoning with this so-called “parent-child” well interference problem. Related: Oil Slips Despite Bullish OPEC Report

    Also, more water and more sand and longer laterals all have their limits. Last year, major shale gas driller EQT drilled a lateral that exceeded 18,000 feet. The company boasted that it would continue to ratchet up the length to as long as 20,000 feet. But EQT quickly found out that it had problems when it exceeded 15,000 feet. “The decision to drill some of the longest horizontal wells ever in shale rocks turned into a costly misstep costing hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

    Ultimately, precipitous decline rates mean that huge volumes of capital are needed just to keep output from declining. In 2018, the industry spent $70 billion on drilling 9,975 wells, according to Hughes, with $54 billion going specifically to oil. “Of the $54 billion spent on tight oil plays in 2018, 70% served to offset field declines and 30% to increase production,” Hughes wrote.

    As the shale play matures, the field gets crowded, the sweet spots are all drilled, and some of these operational problems begin to mushroom. “Declining well productivity in some plays, despite application of better technology, are a prelude to what will eventually happen in all plays: production will fall as costs rise,” Hughes said. “Assuming shale production can grow forever based on ever-improving technology is a mistake—geology will ultimately dictate the costs and quantity of resources that can be recovered.”

    May 2019

  2. A May 2019 Oilprice report says: “The Shale Boom Is About To Go Bust”

    Please listen to this speech at the Nov 2019 Shale Insight Conference

    What a nice group.
    (applause) Ah, you’re much happier.
    I was here three years ago; you’re much happier now.
    (applause) And you’re much wealthier, and you’re
    providing a lot more energy than you used to,
    that’s for sure.
    (applause) Thank you.

    You know, Harold is a very successful man.
    And I was with the great football coach, Barry Switzer.

    And he said about Harold, “You know, sir, that guy
    can take a straw” — probably the plastic ones,
    before they changed.
    (laughter) I don’t think it would have worked; the
    paper straws aren’t working too well.
    “Sir, he can take a straw and he can put it into the
    ground, and oil comes out.” And other companies,
    they spend billions looking for oil.
    They want to find that oil.
    They just spend billions, and they can’t get it.
    But this guy puts a straw in the ground.
    And I said, “How cool is that?”

    But that’s my friend, Harold.
    He’s a great gentleman.
    I learned a lot about energy from him.


  3. Hey Doc. I’ve just returned from India and New Delhi is the most air polluted large city in the world. Just being there a day, has caused me lung distress and coughing something fierce.
    I feel that the people there are all in danger of serious long-term illness and residents there are living in a gas chamber. Thank you for your time spent on these important issues.

  4. This is the main reference for this op-ed.

    Shale fracking allows several gases to flow to the wellhead, along with water locked in the shale rocks for millions of years. Processing facilities separate water and other gases from methane, the main component of natural gas.

    A 2019 breakthrough study by Dr. Robert W. Howarth on natural gas, found massive methane emissions from shale gas and oil fracking. There are other sources of methane, but the unique carbon footprint from shale gas proves the increased emission come from shale fracking. The only solution is to Ban Fracking.

    The study is a bit technical, here is a short description:

    The Methane molecule has one Carbon atom and four Hydrogen atoms, written as CH4.

    There are several types of carbon in nature: Carbon isotopes are carbon atoms with the same name and chemical properties but different masses. 12 C, 13 C, and 14 C are the key carbon isotopes. These isotopes create different methane molecules …

    Yes, this will be in the test.


Comments are closed.