One of the most pressing concerns is with regards to safety incidents that result from leakage. Most of the current pipeline system was constructed decades ago in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and as of today, a majority of these pipes can’t be inspected properly using a “PIG” or pipeline inspection gauge. Air pollutants, including methane, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and other hazardous air toxics can escape into the air unintentionally due corrosion of pipes and improper installation or maintenance of pipes. Work is being done within the industry to make the “pigs” more lightweight and accurate in detecting corrosion, cracks, and defects within pipelines.
Natural gas is often referred to as a ‘bridge’ fuel? What is meant by this, and is this moniker valid?
The ‘bridge fuel’ metaphor is used to describe an option for energy production that can be used as an alternative to a more dominant energy source that is unsustainable. In the US, natural gas was touted as a bridge fuel because it burns cleaner than coal and was meant to provide the US more time to pursue sustainable energies. Natural gas, however, still emits plenty of harmful pollutants like methane gas which can get into surrounding water sources and spread further. As we work towards more sustainable energy production, it’s important to see this metaphor as one in which natural gas is the bridge, renewable energy is the destination, and in order to arrive there, we need to ensure that renewable energy/alternative forms of energy become cost-efficient.
There are definite economic benefits to having increased gas production by the Marcellus shale in that natural gas prices domestically have lowered, but by exporting LNG, it would reduce domestic supply and therefore increase gas prices again. As well, there are also environmental consequences involved with LNG such as air pollution and methane leaks.
The discovery of these shales doesn’t seem to have had a huge impact on overall energy policy, mostly it has impacted locally because the shale is spread out across several states. One of the earliest studies done regarding the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania showed that local residents were able to benefit from an increase in jobs, and private landowners were also able to make money by allowing development on their land with sometimes additional royalties on production. However, even with more money going into the local economy, the public didn’t know about information like waste reports, locations of well pads, and regulatory violations. In these early years of the Marcellus shale’s development, citizens began to request for more transparency and launch different data collection initiatives. A result of this within the last 10 years would be the FracTracker Alliance which is a non-profit organization that was developed to investigate health concerns and data gaps surrounding western PA fracking. They also help to support other groups in the US addressing extraction-related concerns like health effects and exposure risks.
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