Fracking with Propane
The Gas Companies’ Latest Tactic to Bring Fracking to New York State
A group of landowners in Tioga County in the Southern Tier of New York State have reached an agreement with gas drillers’ eCorp and GasFrac Energy Services to open up 130,000 acres to gas drilling and to use liquid propane gas (LPG) as a fracking agent. The coalition’s strategy appears to be to bypass the current de facto moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing through the use of this alternative fracking agent.
Our lawyers have advised us that New York law does not permit fracking with LPG because given its significant risk of adverse environmental impacts any application to use it would first require its own supplemental-generic or site-specific environmental impact statement. It is unfathomable that the state would consider allowing a process that forces explosive liquid propane gas underground under high pressure without first doing the proper environmental review.
What we do know is that this dangerous new technology resulted in two explosions/fires in 2011 - one left 3 workers hospitalized and one worker with second degree burns and the second, a flash fire, injured about a dozen workers, two of whom had to be evacuated to the hospital by helicopter. In a third incident, GasFrac Energy Services of Alberta Canada, the company who pioneered this technology, had to shut down the company for 2 weeks in January 2012 while they investigated a fire at a well site.
GasFrac has touted fracking with liquid propane as a major breakthrough because it eliminates the need for the millions of gallons of water that are needed to frack each well, however, it is not at all clear that fracking with liquid propane gas is any less threatening to the environment or to people’s health than water based fracking. There has been no independent empirical analysis or scientific studies done of the complete life cycle of the process and the only information about it comes from the company’s marketing materials, which claim, for instance, that it is a “green” alternative to water based approaches.
Also, the elimination of water does not eliminate the need to truck this highly explosive gas to the well sites, the need for chemicals in the fracking solution or the threat of air pollution. It doesn’t solve the problem of methane leaks and its highly combustible composition brings with it new levels of danger for both workers and residents. For more on the dangers of propane fracking, please see our website. The bottom line is that fracking with liquid propane gas should not be allowed in New York State.