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Opinions fractured on idea of gas 'fracking' in NC

Posted October 10, 2011
Updated October 11, 2011

— State geologists say North Carolina's Sandhills region is sitting on a bonanza of natural gas, but some residents say the energy isn't worth the risk of drilling for it.

The shale rock throughout the region, which is as much as 800 feet thick in places, contains enough natural gas to satisfy North Carolina's needs for 40 years, according to experts. Three test wells were dug 20 years ago in Lee County to test for gas, but no one has been able to go further.

Simple drilling for the gas isn't possible because of the high cost of extracting limited amounts from deep deposits. But a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has been shown to increase output and lower costs.

In fracking, after drilling down a few thousand feet, crews drill horizontally and then fill the cavity with chemicals and water.

"You put that water under a great deal of pressure, which fractures the rock," releasing natural gas, said Russ Knight, a Lee County landowner who helped form a group called North Carolina Oil and Gas.

Natural gas well in Lee County 'Fracking' debate pits energy against environment

Knight said he favors gas exploration in the area if it can be done safely and if landowners can be properly compensated.

“Further regulations have to be put in place for us to feel overly confident in doing this in a safe way,” he said.

The question of safety is what brings controversy to the surface in the fracking debate.

"The U.S. Mint can't print enough money to induce me to let fracking take place on my land," said Moore County landowner Joe McDonald, who heads up a group called Save Our Sandhills.

McDonald says the group has not taken an official position on fracking.

“I’m concerned not just about the fracking operation, but the clearing of land and installation of equipment and truck traffic," he said.

Opponents say fracking poses environmental risks like contaminated groundwater. State geologists and environmental officials held a meeting in Sanford Monday night to address people's concerns.

Fracking proponents said such risks are overstated, and North Carolina cannot afford to ignore its own energy reserves.

“There is no real history of problems from fracking anywhere,” said Russ Patterson, a geologist with Patterson Exploration Services of Sanford.

"It's under us, and it's accessible," landowner Benny Lee said. "I think it would be foolish for people think that we shouldn’t explore it."


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  • RichardE Oct 20, 2011

    "The EPA is now doing a big study of this process and we should wait until the results are available.."

    The study is due in 2012. And the study may very well suggest results that the "fracking" process does not do anything sinister to the environment. I don't understand the rush to jump into the deep end of the pool for some of the forum posters. Common sense says to wait a bit to get better information. "If "fracking" does use chemicals that could be considered harsh, maybe the companies could change them or switch them out with stuff that isn't as harsh. There are a lot of options on the table.

  • bertbowe Oct 12, 2011

    I'm for U.S. sources of cleaner burning energy but - current fracking and associated gas collection processes have plenty of water, air and noise pollution hazards associated with them.

    This has been well documented not only by independent technical folks but many average citizens in states across the country. Real people having health, major drinking water contamination, and other problems (flammable kitchen tap water as just one example).

    Please do yourself a favor and learn more before hundreds of chemicals have been injected into our ground. An excellent PBS video is at: http://video.pbs.org/video/1452296560/ (copy and paste the link). For more details see http://www.cwfnc.org/what-we-do/current-campaigns/hydraulic-fracturing/

    The Environmental Protection Agency is now doing a big study of this process and we should wait until the results are available! Our well being and environment here in Chatham County and the great state of North Carolina is on the line.

  • doubletap357 Oct 12, 2011

    It seems that every time we think we have found a source of energy there are always reasons why it can't be done. I think we will be arguing about this until the very day that we run out of oil and civilization totally collapses. At that point it really won't matter if the environment is clean or not.

  • nc2gulf Oct 11, 2011

    Shale formations are typically found thousands of feet below the surface, where as "ground water " is not typically below 500 ft. in sand or silt stone formations. When and if ground water is contaminated, it is usually from poor handling of the produced fluids...post frac..not from the frac itself. Oversight of this process can be and should be highly regulated to protect our environment, but for everyone to dismiss such a job producing nascent industry that NC desperately needs for the unbeliveable number of jobs that come with gas exploration and production is short sighted and foolish at best, especially from our government leaders. What empty lip service !

  • ben94gt Oct 11, 2011

    "Wow! I'm simply amazed that we have so many all-knowing geologists living in this area! I have no doubt that every one of you anti-frackers also voted for Obama like the stinkin' Liberal/Democrats parasites that you are. Get out our way so we can get this country moving again. Your precious Earth won't be harmed any more than it is already by your simple existence in it. Either get with the program or GET OUT OF OUR WAY!"

    Yea, well see how long you say this when you have to fight the gas companies to get a water purification system for your home because they made your water so polluted that you can no longer drink, bathe, cook, brush your teeth, etc with it.

  • nc2gulf Oct 11, 2011

    Sure is a lot of hype arouind this. I've been on frac jobs for years..supervised many, so here's a brief tutorial. You drill your well straight down, lining the well bore with steel casing that is cemented in place. Once the shale formation is encountered, the bit is actually "driven" horizontally thru the middle of it. The bit is then removed, casing again ran and cemented in place, then the well bore is perforated with shaped "bullets" or charges if you will to introduce communication between the shell thru the steel casing and into the now cased well bore to surface. Then and isolation packer is ran and set and a slick fluid much like jello is pumped under high pressure into the perforations. Once a fracture is initiated, sand is added to the fluid that will act to fill and hold the fracture open so that gas and fluids can move into the well bore. Once the pumps reach a predetermined pressure, they stop.The well is then opened to flow back all the fluids to surface for disposal.

  • SARCASTICLES Oct 11, 2011

    Fracking is an EXCELLENT idea.....just what you would expect from a bunch of ignorant frackers. ;)

  • dib Oct 11, 2011

    @Gay Truth the problem with a bond in case something goes wrong is that the water supply effected may be more than what the bond will cover and you also have to prove the companies operations are the cause. So unless you got more many than these companies you won't get any help. These wells leak so much gas even into the atmosphere that it cancels out any gains in air quality when using it.

    I think it was in Alabama where they were facking near a fault and the town started to have earth quakes caused by the fracking or really is what they do is they pump the waste deep into the ground at really high pressure and they were near a fault line. They started having earth quake drills in the town as a result and the company denied that their fracking operation was to blame but the earth quakes kept happening at about the time they pumped their waste into the ground. This is why people are occupying wall street.

  • dib Oct 11, 2011

    " The possibility of an accident exists in everything we do, but we continue to do things regardless.. And this short message is just for those who don't know any better... fracking isn't drilling for oil. Do your homework before you comment." kjones026

    Yes and oil keeps destroying our ecosystems everyday. There are lands near a river in Michigan that is so polluted you smell it and the land value has dropped so much and they can't sell their land, eat the crops grown or even the live stock. Each farmer has to sue the big corps individually.

    Fracking, is worse we are giving them a license to pollute our ground and destroy millions of gallons of fresh water. In Wyoming they had to tell the population of a small town near a facking site to stay inside and to limit physical activity. EPA regulations that they are trying to stop would not only clear the air but also save the company money. The truth is fracking destroys the water supply and air quality so it is not cleaner than oil.

  • superman Oct 11, 2011

    Same old same old. We want cheap gas but I dont want to be bothered. Get it somewhere else.