Natural Gas

A map of Triassic basins in NC.
NC DENR

Energy speculators snapped up natural gas drilling leases over Lee County's Triassic shale in a frenzy in 2009. But some energy speculators have begun relinquishing their claims.

In February, Denver-based WhitMar Exploration walked away from a leasing agreement for more than 2,700 acres. That's according to records at the Lee County Register of Deeds.

WhitMar declined to comment to WUNC, but told other media outlets that North Carolina is moving too slowly on hydraulic fracturing.

A picture of segments of pipeline.
Harald Hoyer / Creative Commons

Two major energy companies want to build a second natural gas pipeline into North Carolina.

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are soliciting proposals for a pipeline that could carry 900 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Duke is shifting a significant portion of its energy portfolio from coal into natural gas. Piedmont transports gas for both companies via the Transco line from the Texas gulf.

Piedmont spokesman David Trusty said production was interrupted after Hurricane Katrina. He says the companies want to be able to diversify their natural gas sources.

Photo: A rig and gas well operation on the Marcellus Shale in Scott Township, Pennsylvania.
WCN247 via Flickr

The head of the commission appointed to write North Carolina’s rules for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas asked lawmakers Tuesday to halve the area for which drilling companies would be responsible in case of water contamination.

James Womack, chairman of the state’s Energy and Mining Commission, asked that drilling companies be held liable for contamination up to 2,500 feet from excavation sites. Under Senate Law 143, which was signed in 2012, mining companies are liable up to 5,000 ft.

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
wcn 247 / Flickr

Groundwater and sediment from a natural gas fracking treatment site in Pennsylvania is contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity.

That's the finding of a new study at Duke University. Researchers examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the stream water above and below a disposal site about an hour east of Pittsburgh. 

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Researchers at Duke University say they have shed more light on the prospects of using hog waste to produce energy. 

A drill rig on a fracking site.
EPA

The natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been a source of debate and contention in the state for quite some time now. It involves drilling horizontally through thousands of feet of shale and blasting the shale with water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas. Several states allow the process, some are in the process of figuring out how to regulate it, and some, like New York, have placed a moratorium on the process due to environmental concerns.

Fracking North Carolina: What Do We Do With The Waste?

Apr 23, 2013
Ed Harris on his farm in Lee County.
Richard Ziglar

The price of natural gas has fallen to all time lows and is replacing dirtier fuels like coal.  So why are environmentalists so concerned about drilling for natural gas here in North Carolina?  The process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to release the gas from the surrounding shale rock brings with it its own environmental problems including massive amounts of wastewater. This is the second story in our “Fracking North Carolina” series.

Fracking North Carolina: Why Now?

Apr 22, 2013
Butler #3 natural gas well in Lee County.
Ray Covington

North Carolina has never been a player in natural gas production, but that could change thanks to a new extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking involves cracking shale rock to release natural gas so that it can be pumped out of the ground. This story is the first in a special “Fracking North Carolina” series. 

There’s a North Carolina sound that only a few dozen people have ever heard: gas escaping from a well in Lee County.

Standing in front of a well called Butler #3, you can see that it’s a shut-in well, which means it’s been capped with something called a “Christmas tree.” The Christmas tree is only about five feet tall; it’s painted green and it has three shut-off valves coming out of it. It’s set up this way so people can come back and attach pipes to it, but it has been shut off since the 1990s.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University says new air quality standards could spur a shift away from coal power to natural gas as a means of generating electricity.  A natural gas boom has already made it almost as cheap as coal to turn into electricity, but when researchers factored in new emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, they found that most coal electricity will become as expensive as gas, even if gas prices rise.

Lee County is one of a handful of central North Carolina areas known to have natural gas reserves. Ever since state legislators passed a law to allow the horizontal drilling method of extracting natural gas known as fracking, county residents have been wondering when and if they’ll see gas wells sprouting up in their backyards. People in the community are divided over what fracking could mean for them.

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