Yergin, A&M prof, environmentalist on new DOE frac study panel


The Department of Energy has formed its own panel of experts to review of existing rules and practices in natural gas drilling with an eye toward ways to make it safer.

The special subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board – which includes Texas A&M petroleum engineering professor Stephen Holditch, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, and IHS-CERA Chairman Dan Yergin – has a pretty tight time frame for its task.

The group is expected to identify within 90 days of starting its work any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of a key drilling technical in natural gas production, hydraulic fracturing.  

Within six months of beginning their work, the group is expected to create a consensus recommendation on advice to federal agencies on best practices for shale gas extraction to ensure protection of public health and the environment.

“America’s vast natural gas resources can generate many new jobs and provide significant environmental benefits, but we need to ensure we harness these resources safely,” DOE Secretary Steven Chu said in a release.

The group was created under the umbrella of President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, but industry supporters quickly labelled it a waste of government money.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce put out a statement saying the panel is hardly needed given plans forthe Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a lengthy study of fracking.

“It is important to study and understand the potential safety and environmental impacts of the fracking process, but how many Agencies need to get into the act?” the committee said in a statement. “Adding another study to the mix will do little to prove anything and only serve to waste more government resources.”

The EPA study is expected to be done by late 2012, so it’s possible the DOE panel could have its work done before then.

Here’s the complete list of panel members:

John Deutch, Institute Professor at MIT
John Deutch served as Director of Energy Research, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Technology and Under Secretary of Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy in the Carter Administration and Undersecretary of Acquisition & Technology, Deputy Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence during the first Clinton Administration.  Dr. Deutch also currently serves on the Board of Directors of Raytheon and Cheniere Energy and is a past director of Citigroup, Cummins Engine Company and Schlumberger. A chemist who has published more than 140 technical papers in physical chemistry, he has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1970, and has served as Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, Dean of Science and Provost.
Stephen Holditch, Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University
Stephen Holditch serves as Head of Texas A&M’s Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering and serves on the Boards of Directors of Triangle Petroleum Corporation and Matador Resources Corporation Texas. In 1977, Dr. Holditch founded S.A. Holditch & Associates, a petroleum technology consulting firm which provided analysis of low permeability gas reservoirs and designed hydraulic fracture treatments. He served as president of the company until it was bought by Schlumberger in 1997. Dr. Holditch has worked for Schlumberger, Shell Oil Company and Pan American Petroleum Corporation.
Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund
Fred Krupp has overseen the growth of EDF into a recognized worldwide leader in the environmental movement.  Krupp is widely acknowledged as the foremost champion of harnessing market forces for environmental ends.  He also helped launch a corporate coalition, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, whose Fortune 500 members – Alcoa, GE, DuPont and dozens more – have called for strict limits on global warming pollution. Mr. Krupp is coauthor, with Miriam Horn, of New York Times Best Seller, Earth: The Sequel.  Educated at Yale and the University of Michigan Law School, Krupp was among 16 people named as America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News and World Report in 2007.
Kathleen McGinty, Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Kathleen McGinty is a respected environmental leader, having served as President Clinton’s Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Legislative Assistant and Environment Advisor to then-Senator Al Gore. More recently, she served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and as Chair of the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority. Ms. McGinty is Senior Vice President of Weston Solutions, Inc. and a Director at NRG Energy.  
Susan Tierney, Managing Principal, Analysis Group
Susan Tierney is chairman of the Board of the Energy Foundation, and serves on the Boards of Directors of the World Resources Institute and the Clean Air Task Force. Until recently, she was a co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy. Currently, she chairs the National Petroleum Council Policy Subgroup’s study of North American natural gas and oil resources. Dr. Tierney served as Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department Energy during the Clinton Administration. In Massachusetts, she served as Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Water Resources Agency, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and executive director of the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Council.
Daniel Yergin, Chairman, IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Daniel Yergin is the co-founder and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He is a member of the Board of the United States Energy Association and a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council. He has chaired the U.S. Department of Energy’s Task Force on Strategic Energy Research and Development. Dr. Yergin is also CNBC’s Global Energy Expert and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power.
Mark Zoback, Professor of Geophysics, Stanford University
Mark Zoback is the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University. He was co-principal investigator of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth project (SAFOD) and has been serving on a National Academy of Engineering committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident. He was the chairman and co-founder of GeoMechanics International and serves as a senior adviser to Baker Hughes, Inc. Prior to joining Stanford University, he served as chief of the Tectonophysics Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.

Tom Fowler

9 Responses

  1. Dollar says:

    Grove emphasized the breach had “nothing to do with the well casing.”

    “The well construction is intact and sound,” he said. The location of the breach is in a wellhead connection, and our investigative efforts will initially focus there; there is no evidence of a downhole casing failure of any type.”

  2. Dollar says:

    Yes, here is where AP reported the well head connection

    A casing failure is far more severe and could allow frac fluid to the water aquifers. Its a big difference. I think the caption to the pic is misleading.

    Was the caption written by AP ?

  3. Dollar says:

    I’ve not read anything about the blow-out anywhere else , but I do recall specifically, a quote from a CHK spokesman, saying the casing was not the problem.

    My understanding, was the well blew out during fracing, and I took the equipment failure to mean something on the well head.

  4. Dollar says:

    The pic above says ” well-casing blowout ” , in reference to the CHK well.

    Was that what they finally said was the cause ?

    Originally, they said it was equipment failure.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      I haven’t seen the latest but they were considering the well-casing part of the equipment, I believe. It’s certainly worth a follow-up, but OTC had us pretty busy last week.

  5. Energy Moron says:


    “TT, what about Deutch and Zoback ?”

    Actually, Zoback is perfect from an environmental and natural gas production point of view.

    I once heard Dr. Zoback give a talk on natural gas where he put up the wedges of Socolow and Pacala on the associated slide.

    “Natural gas represents a wedge”

    CO2 mitigation wedges:

    From the Princeton site:

    “Substitute 1400 natural gas electric plants for an equal number of coal-fired facilities.”

    That is 1 of the 15 wedges that get us where we need to get to on the CO2 front.

    Think about this Dollar. The Princeton wedges stabilization CO2 plan is the only viable plan for getting from point A to point B in CO2 reduction (unless you want to live like a caveman).

    Those folks who want to put natural gas out of business are really hurting the environment more than RESPONSIBLE natural gas operators.

  6. Energy Moron says:

    Howdy Nieghbor:

    You also should note that Dr. Zoback is probably the world’s best expert on anthropogenic earthquakes. He was once asked to evaluate the potential for an earthquake at certain North Sea fields including Ekofisk and between the submission of the paper and its publication a magnitude 4 earthquake did occur at Ekofisk owing to out of zone water injection.

    So, getting back to the Guy Arkansas earthquakes…

    Dr. Zoback will straighten things out once and for all with high level folks…

    Fraccing cannot cause earthquakes. Water injection can over long periods of time.

    There are legitimate environmental concerns; PA law is a basket case so it is interesting that the former DEP person is on the committee. Perhaps she can explain why the laws up there ain’t like Texas

    Water injection in certain geological settings can cause earthquakes

  7. Dollar says:

    TT, what about Deutch and Zoback ?

    They both have industry connections.

    The Penn DEP has been very fair with gas producers in Penn.

    And Yergin, is Yergin, but I don’t think he’s an enviro wacko.

    Looks pretty balanced to me.

  8. Trail Trash says:

    Dr. Holditch, is a good man, but it looks like he is the “token” oil man on this panel.