Friday, August 12, 2011

Rust Belt Water World

There is a rebranding campaign attempting to replace "Rust Belt" with "Water Belt". The Great Lakes are a tremendous asset and resource. Via Energy Burrito, this narrative is taking an unexpected turn:

Nearly every stage of energy production requires water: from oil drilling, to coal mining, to power plant generation. And in general, many potential liquid fuel replacements require more water during production than conventional gasoline. For example, liquid fuel production from coal uses more water than conventional gasoline production on an energy-equivalent basis. Gasoline produced from enhanced oil recovery uses 55X more water than gasoline produced from standard drilling methods. At the far end of the water-intensity spectrum, corn ethanol production uses more than 39,000X more water than gasoline produced from standard drilling methods. And soy ethanol production requires 3.8X more water than corn ethanol production, 149,000X more water than gasoline produced from standard drilling methods.

What about the current “it” fuel of energy companies? Shale natural gas requires significant quantities of water – typically on the order of 100,000 barrels for a high-volume hydraulic fracturing. However, while shale production is water intensive, at 1 gallon of water per million BTU produced, it is relatively low in comparison to other energy production mechanisms.

The Rust Belt has ample water supply and raw resources for energy. It is also near major population centers. The icing on the cake is the abundant talent production, a legacy dividend. All are reasons to be bullish on Pittsburgh as a global energy player.

The economic and political geography of water usage in hydrofracking is interesting. There are different water quality regimes depending on the watershed, which I am sure influences leasing and drilling. Transporting water is one way to get around the variances in policy:

Residents in the hamlet of Limestone and the town of Carrollton will likely see large trucks hauling water from the community in upcoming days, weeks and months.

The trucks will haul the water for a Marcellus Shale operation in Pennsylvania, announced town officials at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Dave Frederick, town supervisor, said trucks from Triana Energy LLC, which is currently drilling in Mansfield, Pa., arrived in the community this week to purchase water.

The company had approached the community last year to set up a contract for the purchase of 100,000 gallons of water a day to be used for its drilling operation in Tioga County, located over 100 miles away.

Mr. Frederick said the company will pay $12 per 1,000 gallons of water, or $1,200 per day. He said the Triana trucks are filling up at a hydrant near the sewage plant on Railroad Avenue. Company officials also hope to purchase 120,000 gallons of water a day, slightly more than the original request.

Mansfield, PA is part of the massive (and well-protected) Chesapeake Bay watershed. Limestone, NY looks to be across a divide and part of the Allegheny River basin. The Pittsburgh watershed is less restrictive and more appealing for drilling activity.

For more about the watershed intrigue and hydrofracking, read this post from Chris Briem (Null Space).


ArroyoLover said...

This post is really depressing. Yes, the 'Rust Belt' has plenty of water but the water quality ranks among the WORST of American rivers due to a hundred plus years of manufacturing plant dumping of toxins into its streambeds.

You refer to an article on climate change, yet do not note that increased trucking of millions of gallons of water for fracking and other purposes will dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions (a major cause of climate change). Since Pennsylvania-Ohio vehicle emission standards are lower than in other states such as California, there will clearly be an environmental impact. This additional mass trucking of water will also generate larger usage of electricity and other energy.

Water was the Great Lakes best kept secret. Start bragging about it and you'll have all the money grabbers from the Southwest US coming in and using their political will to unravel the Great Lakes Compact so they can ship the waters to Texas and California for thirsty urban dwellers there.

I was so hoping that the Cleve-Burgh Renaissance would focus on clean energy, natural resource restoration & husbandry, and high tech jobs: the types of industry that leads to a high quality of life within a healthy urban-nature interface.

After reading this, all I can do is....sigh.

Paul Wittibschlager said...

Arroyo: Good comment, I fully agree. The Ohio River is the 3rd most polluted river in the US, Pittsburgh is the 7th most polluted city.

The hydrofracking business will hurt the region even more, environmentally and economically.

rootvg said...

You can't fix the Rust Belt because the people who live there don't want to change the culture, a key ingredient in resolving the demographics issues which have held the place back. Most of the people who live there are neither skilled nor educated or even socialized for a modern global economy.

You can't have tech jobs there in any significant quantity because that would require change. I work from home two or three days per week and my 71 year old father back in Ohio was incredulous that a company would let me do that.

Conclusions? The region and its leadership and its business culture are at least fifty years out of date. You have to surgically remove that element and it won't happen.