LPG-fracking in New York doranjclark/iStock/Thinkstock
GAS LOOPHOLE? LPG fracking may be an alternative process for natural gas fracking in New York.

Fracking legal in New York? Yes, with LPG

Law student discovers LPG fracking of Marcellus shale gas wells is legal in New York state, even while water fracking has been outlawed.

By Jim Willis

New York’s anti-frackers rage at the thought: Horizontal drilling in New York’s Marcellus shale may be legal after all — under a condition discovered by Kelsey Hanson, a third-year law student at University of Buffalo School of Law.

Hanson researched and wrote a “Hey New York, You Can Frack” paper on the potential for liquefied propane fracking in New York state. It was recently published in the Buffalo Law Review.

The paper explores LPG fracking’s benefits and pitfalls. She concludes that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation left the legal door open for shale LPG fracking in the Empire State.

Hanson points out the shortcomings of LPG fracking. It’s expensive and dangerous (i.e., highly flammable). She also points out that every year the technology improves, and LPG fracking is today safer and better than it was just a few years ago.

Another anti-frack argument
There’s one further argument against LPG fracking heard at industry events: Sometimes a reservoir’s characteristics respond better to the physics of water-based fracking. LPG goes down as a liquid, but it’s not water. It has different properties. Sometimes, you get more gas or oil out with water-based fracking than with LPG-based fracking. The point is: The fluid used should change depending on the characteristics of the reservoir.

Presently, New York doesn’t have the option to use water-based fracking — not while Andrew Cuomo occupies the governor’s mansion. Hanson notes: “As politics change with the electorate’s will, industry will continue developing new technologies to frack that may be more environmentally advantageous. These developments will be particularly vital in states like New York and Pennsylvania which are concerned with contamination of water sources and long-term disposal issues.”

Hanson’s paper makes these points: So what if LPG isn’t the “perfect” fluid to use in a reservoir? So what if it’s expensive? So what if it’s flammable? It’s here and available. If and when the DEC decides to allow it, it can be (legally) used.

She also tackles what happened to LPG fracking in Tioga County, N.Y. To read the paper, click on “Hey, New York, You Can Frack.” It’s full of great information and may be worth your time.

Willis is editor of Marcellus Drilling News.

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