Hydraulic fracturing is essential to successful production for most new natural-gas wells, and it is routinely used in communities throughout the nation. It is a proven process that takes place far below the surface and groundwater resources. Hydraulic fracturing is done after a well is drilled and lined with layers of steel and cement to protect water supplies. This technology, coupled with horizontal drilling, allows us to increase natural gas and oil production with much less surface disturbance.
So why are we talking about this? The most recent conversation about hydraulic fracturing in Alabama began when a federal agency — the Bureau of Land Management — scheduled a June 14 auction of the oil and gas leases on 43,000 acres of national forest land in Alabama.
According to the U.S. Forest Service office, in many cases public lands that are leased never have oil or gas wells drilled on them during the life of the lease. To date, in the national forests in Alabama, few wells have been drilled, and most leases expire without any activity.
Furthermore, there is no new information that would suggest that oil or gas deposits underlie the national forest in Alabama, the U.S. Forest Service said.
Natural gas development is regulated at the federal, state and local levels. Alabama and other states have tailored their regulations to the specific aspects unique to different geological formations.
Before a company could move forward with any well in Alabama, for instance, it must adhere to the State Oil and Gas Board’s thorough requirements and regulations. This is in addition to requirements from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies.
Nationwide, more than 100 oil and gas companies disclose the additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process through FracFocus.org. These companies work with communities, regulators and, where possible, environmental and conservation groups to ensure natural gas development occurs in harmony with the needs of the local area.
To be sure, we have talked to people about their concerns over truck traffic and water management. No question, all energy production requires significant volumes of water, and natural gas is no exception. Water protection and conservation are a top priority. Through the use of recycling, reuse, piping of water and other innovations, fewer trucks are needed for each well, reducing traffic moving through our towns.
We do this to ensure the safe and responsible development of this resource. Natural gas is a cleaner, more affordable option for power generation and transportation. It is an American fuel. It adds jobs in the state of Alabama, and across the country, and it gives us a strong measure of energy security that we did not have in this country just five years ago.
Dennis Lathem is executive director of the Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama in Birmingham.