Companies look deep under Michigan for energy and profits

Sep 28, 2010

What a fracking week on Michigan Radio!

Lester Graham of Michigan Watch and Rebecca Williams from the Environment Report are bringing us a series of reports on what might be a big part of Michigan's future: energy companies moving in and using a practice called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to get at gas deposits buried deep under Michigan.

Just how interested are energy companies in these gas deposits? Graham reports

An auction for drilling leases on state-owned property was held in May. It brought in $178,000,000. That's almost as much as all the revenue from all the leases from 1929 to May of this year. You can add to that even more money coming to the state for leases of privately owned land.

Right now, there's a test well in Misaukee County. Another well is underway in Cheboygan County. It's owned by a Canadian gas company, EnCana Corporation.

Drilling for natural gas in Michigan has been going on for decades, but this newer kind of drilling is allowing companies to get at gas trapped in layers of shale deep underground. Here's a demo of how it works from Chesapeake Energy:

The practice has been going on for awhile in some other states. ProPublica has extensive coverage about the concerns with the practice: water pollution from the fluids used to extract the gas. The companies have kept what chemicals they use secret.