Sunday, September 12, 2010

W-T-F(rack) Is Up With the Gas Company?

If the gas industry after 50+ years of practice can't distribute gas without blowing up houses and leaving a trail of corpses behind it, I don't think I want them fracking with the bedrock under the St. Lawerence River, thanks anyways.  

'Round these parts, a call to 9-1-1 mentioning a smell of natural gas will probably reward you with a battalion of fire trucks rolling down your street.

Not so, apparently, in San Bruno, CA, where a huge explosion and fires Thursday evening leveled  40 some-odd homes and rendered more than 300 at least temporarily unlivable. Four people were killed and scores injured.

This, despite the fact that numerous complaints of natural gas odors were received in the preceding days. It is not yet clear why the gas company, PG&E, failed to take action that would have prevented the disaster.

According to an industry rating system, There are at least 100 sections of pipeline across the U.S. that have received the same high risk assessment as this line had. Current efforts to identify a specific reason for the explosion have come up empty, Most likely a lengthy investigation is in the cards.

Recently, other natural gas explosions have occurred in LA, Texas (multiple), Edmonton, Chamberlin, Ont., Vankleek Hill, ON, Toronto, (Bloor Street - Enbridge Gas - 7 fatalities), Pennsylvania (2 fatalities), West Virginia... and innumerable other locations.

In the overview, one has to wonder what is going on with this industry. It seems as if the natural gas industry at large is unable to manage its most basic operations safely. The West Virginia incident above is notable as it occurred in the course of a "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing) operation.

The highly controversial fracking technique of accessing trapped natural gas reserves was developed by Haliburton and involves shooting pressurized mixtures of sand, water and chemicals down deep wells to break up rock structures.

Fracking is presently in use in parts of B.C., Alta, Sask. and N.B., is being proposed to open up huge natural gas reserves in Quebec and is raising serious questions.

Now the San Clara explosion, which so vividly exposes the industry's apparent incompetence in managing its supposedly tried and true fundamentals, is provoking intensified scrutiny not only of gas distribution in general but also of the fracking technique in particular.

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