How railroads shouldered a risky oil rush

Five years ago, an explosion tore through the night in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Another blast quickly followed, then another, and another.

A 72-car train laden with crude oil had derailed and caught fire in the center of the small town near Canada's border with Maine.

By the time the flames subsided, downtown Lac-Mégantic was a tangle of twisted rails, flattened buildings and smoldering, jackknifed tank cars. Forty-seven people had died in one of the worst rail accidents in modern North American history.



In evolving world of oil and gas law, 'This ain't Texas'

A Pennsylvania court made oil and gas lawyers sweat in April when it ruled that drillers could be trespassing when hydraulic fracturing sends cracks through the ground next door.

The ruling could severely cramp the industry's style, leaving companies on the hook for the value of nearby natural gas that seeps across invisible property lines and rises up a production well.

The court was unpersuaded that fracking should fall under the "rule of capture," a long-standing legal doctrine famously portrayed in the movie "There Will Be Blood." CONTINUE READING >>>


Will China's Appalachian gas investments survive trade fight?

It fell to Brian Anderson, a West Virginia University professor, to break the bad news at a Pittsburgh conference celebrating a hoped-for economic renaissance based on a bonanza of Appalachian shale gas.

Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, has been a point man in negotiations with China Energy Investment Corp. (CEIC), a huge, state-controlled energy conglomerate. CEIC has proposed investments of up to $84 billion over a decade or more to help develop a gas extraction and petrochemical manufacturing complex along both sides of the Ohio River. CONTINUE READING >>>


Ethane is about to crack in Appalachia. Now it needs a market

"Rich, rich, rich, rich."

That's energy analyst Taylor Robinson describing the economic potential of the vast amount of "wet" natural gas in the shale rocks of Appalachia's Ohio River region. He isn't stumbling over his words. He's making a point.

The point has been recognized since the hydraulic fracturing revolution began a decade ago in the Marcellus Shale formation lying thousands of feet down in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. It has been repeated as the deeper Utica Shale layers were drilled.. CONTINUE READING >>>


In N.Y., farmers think about what might have been

SPENCER, N.Y. — When Kevin "Cub" Frisbie wants to see what shale can do for a place, all he has to do is get in his pickup and drive 15 miles south to Bradford County, Pa.

There, the pavement on the road smooths out. There are new hotels and a new Dunkin' Donuts. In front of the family farms, Frisbie, a farmer himself, will notice the new silos and equipment. "All this, there's just nothing but commerce going on, commerce going on," he said.



A decade of fracking research: What have we learned?

When oil and gas developers began using hydraulic fracturing to tap previously unaccessed sources of fossil fuels across the United States, the American public had a few questions.

Will this process pollute drinking water? Will it cause cancer in the communities close to well sites? What are the ramifications for global climate change?

Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking, as it is more commonly known — is just one small part of the broader process of unconventional oil and gas development. CONTINUE READING >>>


How a death in Texas shaped gas‑boom regulation

FORT WORTH, Texas — Twelve years ago, Robert Dale Gayan walked up to a Christmas tree of a natural gas well just outside the city limits.

It was a Saturday morning in April, and Gayan had arrived with a crew and two pump trucks. His instructions were to connect the pumps so the crew could perforate another section of rock beneath the well, which descended 7,300 feet to a gas-bearing formation called the Barnett Shale.