natural gas

Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.

Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources.    She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.

“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove. 

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

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Hydraulic fracturing is getting some attention this week in Lansing.  You’ve probably heard it called fracking.  It’s a method of drilling for natural gas.

Drillers use fracking to get to the gas that’s trapped in tight shale rock formations below the water table.

Fracking pumps a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure to force open the rock and extract the gas.

In Michigan, drillers have used the fracking method for more than 50 years and the state regulates the industry. 

But what’s new... is that drillers want to turn their drills and dig horizontally along the shale rock.  That makes the well site much more productive.  But it also uses a larger amount of chemicals and much more water - anywhere from a few million gallons of water to as much as eight million gallons of water per well.  After it’s used, that water is usually disposed of in deep injection wells.

Right now in Michigan, there are two experimental wells that are using the horizontal fracking method.

This week the Michigan House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Natural Gas put out a report encouraging more natural gas production in the state.

Michigan politicians are beginning to wrestle with an issue that's proven to be contentious in other parts of the country.

"Fracking" or hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method of extracting natural gas by pumping water, sand and chemicals into deep underground wells. Both opponents and advocates of the process have started taking action in the state legislature.

The Associated Press writes that "House Democrats on Wednesday plan to discuss a bill that would regulate [fracking]," while "the House's natural gas subcommittee released a report Tuesday encouraging more natural gas production."

An official from Gov. Rick Snyder's administration says the governor is reviewing both the bill and the report.

Some exploratory drilling has already occurred in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Take a look at the video below to see an animated view of the fracking process:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Plans are underway for a natural gas company to construct a pipeline under the St. Clair River into Canada, stretching some 1,500 feet.

More from the Associated Press:

"A bike path in Marysville will be closed to the public as Bluewater Gas Storage LLC conducts the work. The project is expected to last about a month. The bike path will be used as a staging area, rather than using people's yards or driveways."

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Consumers Energy says its natural gas customers will be paying less this winter to heat their homes.  

Dan Bishop is a Consumers spokesman.   He says more plentiful supplies are leading to a 3 percent cut in natural gas prices.   

“In recent years there’s been a large amount of new natural gas discoveries in the United States and in Canada.  And that extra increase of supply has really put downward pressure on prices," says Bishop.  

www.michigan.org

Last May, oil and gas companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying up rights to drill in Michigan. By summer, private landowners in northern Michigan had signed leases promising record payments to drill on their land. But by the end of the year, the frenzy over the new gas play had fizzled. And, as Bob Allen found out, hundreds of people were claiming they’d been cheated.

The first person to file suit against the gas companies in Emmet County is Mildred Lutz.

A sturdy 92 years old, she still keeps a garden and cans her own vegetables.

Last summer, a man knocked on her door and offered to pay her almost a hundred thousand dollars for the oil and gas deep underground beneath her farm.

Mildred had just lost her husband of sixty-nine years, Carl. And she thought the money would come in handy for a whole list of expenses, including funeral costs. So after talking it over with her five children, she signed a lease and took the document to the bank in Alanson to be notarized.

She never heard another word from the oil and gas developers and she never got paid.

And how does she feel about that?

“Well, not very good. I don’t know, I’ve always kind of had the feeling of trusting a lot of people, I guess. I hate to see people being dishonest. When you do that, you’re just really hurting a lot of people that were depending on this.”

Attorney Bill Rolinski says he’s heard from a lot of people who ended up in the same boat as Mildred Lutz.

Since producing a Michigan Watch series on the "hydraulic fracking" boom in Michigan last September and October on Michigan Radio, not much has been said or done about this method of drilling for natural gas.

A leak has now put the issue back in the news.

The Associated reports a leak has shut down a drilling operation not too far from Traverse City.

It's not yet clear whether it will damage underground water sources.  It does raise questions as to whether Michigan regulations are adequate to protect the environment while exploiting the gas reserves in the state.

There was a explosion at a natural gas storage facility in St. Clair County this morning.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

An equipment malfunction lead to the explosion just before 9 a.m. at Blue Water Gas Storage on Wales Center Road near Rattle Run in Columbus Township, said Joanne Alberty, who works in the assessing office for Columbus Township.

“There was a loud boom at the township hall,” Alberty said. “The whole building shook.”

The Times Herald reports that "eleven people — six employees and five contractors — were at the facility when the incident happened."

One person was treated for minor injuries. The Michigan Public Service Commission has been called to investigate.

St. Clair county Emergency Management Director Jeff Friedland is quoted as saying the explosion was a "very minor event."

Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.
UAW

Hundreds of brokers for oil and gas companies are offering landowners in northern lower Michigan contracts to drill for natural gas. Energy companies are betting the access to deep shale gas reserves will pay off big. But landowners don't always know about the risks.

An exploratory well has produced good results from a new source of natural gas in northern lower Michigan. So, energy companies have hired agents, called landmen to go knocking on doors of private landowners, trying to get them to sign contracts to lease their land for drilling.

G.L. Kohuth

A regulatory agency in Michigan says it can handle a new type of drilling for natural gas. That's what regulators in other states said before complaints about water contamination and leaking gas started coming in.

Library of Congress

When the Great Lakes water levels fell a few years ago, people began thinking more about how much water we use. Now, this new kind of drilling, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, again is causing concern about how we use water.

Water already has been used for vertical hydraulic fracturing in thousands of gas wells in Michigan. It takes about 50,000 gallons to drill each well and fracture shale layers underground to release the natural gas.

Horizontal fracturing, also called horizontal fracking, uses a hundred times more water.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

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

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Environmentalists are concerned drilling for new sources of natural gas in Michigan could contaminate water. They're basing that on reports from other states that blame a new method of drilling for contaminating their water.

This new kind of drilling is called horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Until recently in Michigan, it was only used in vertical wells. Drill down, pump water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into a layer of shale, fracture it and release the natural gas trapped there.

Erik Olson

Michigan could be seeing the beginning of a new boom in drilling for natural gas. Leases for drilling rights are going for unheard of prices in northern-lower Michigan.

Drilling for natural gas in Michigan is not new. The first natural gas production began in the 1930s according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. Since then we've seen drilling booms come and go.

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