Natural Gas Drilling Thesis

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Natural Gas Drilling

A Retrospect View on Natural Gas Drilling

Natural Gas Drilling in the United States

The United States of America possessed vast resources of natural gas and was as such able to support most of the demand from internal production. In 2007 for instance, the U.S. natural gas reserves produced an estimated 545.9 billion cubic meters of gas, in a context in which the average consumption per annum was of 652.9 billion cubic meters. Exports of natural gas accounted for 23.28 billion cubic meters and imports totaled 130.3 billion cubic meters; proven reserves of natural gas within the country reach a level of 5.977 trillion cubic meters (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009). The amount of natural gas exacted from the national territory is however decreasing.

Rich sources of natural gas are still constituted by the Marcellus Shale formation or the Bradford Field in Pennsylvania. The region has been successfully exploited for years, but recent concerns argue that this might be in the detriment of both environment, as well as local population. In beginning of the twentieth century, Pennsylvania hosted 125 wells and was among the first states to introduce vertical drilling technologies; these had little success at the time (Raymond and Leffler, 2005).

2. Natural Gas Drilling

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Natural gas drilling represents the process by which exactors make a hole in the ground using drilling machines in order to retrieve the natural gas. The improved technological process first occurred in Pennsylvania in 1865, with the realization that water and dissolved gas created enough energy to force out the reserves of oil and natural gas so that they could be collected for long periods of time. It was expected that the "crude oil and natural gas would arrive at the surface just like seltzer from a soda fountain" (Raymond and Leffler, 2005). There are three common types of natural gas drilling -- rotary, horizontal and vertical. Rotary drilling was introduced in the early 1900s and saw the circular movement of a sharp object into the ground until it perforated at the desired depth; it is today the most popular method of extracting natural gas.

Thesis on Natural Gas Drilling Assignment

3. History of Natural Gas Drilling in America

The recollections of natural gas drillings before the nineteenth century are rather scarce as this is the period that saw the commencement of modern oil and gas history. The United States began the modern process of natural gas extraction in the second half of the nineteenth century, when they introduced the first commercial drilling venture in Pennsylvania. At that time, the majority of the demand was for kerosene that would be used in lamps, but the emergence of the automobile lead to the major growth of the oil industry. The extraction of oil and natural gas was heavily tested by the World War I, which stressed on the need to drill for more sources, even outside the country and also, in waters, not just land. The end of the Second World War saw the growth of the natural gas industry into the number one supplier of heat to both industrial commercial as well as residential areas. Additionally, this period also stood for the time the pipeline networks were implemented to ensure easy transmissions between gas producers and consumers (Gallun, Wright, Nichols and Stevenson, 2001). Since then, the operations expanded drastically, in the meaning of both spatial and technological concerns. Today, the industry is facing the challenges of environmental policies, the need to reduce pollution, scarcity of global resources or the integration of the latest technological advancements available within the market. The industry was driven by international forces such as globalization and market liberation and it transcended geographical boundaries.

4. Pros and Cons of Drilling

The matter of drilling to extract natural gas has been highly debated throughout the years, with the dispute being far from exhaustive. A first argument in favor of drilling is given by the efficiency of the mechanism in extracting the source of heath for industrial and individual consumers. The population is in tremendous need for gas in order to support the life style they have become accustomed to. And not only that it maintains the current living standards, it is compulsory for life itself and it is a step forward in improving the current living conditions. Foremost, the limitations of the process will lead to a necessity for more technological innovations, which will in time generate benefits upon the environment.

The counter arguments that could be offered in the detriment of natural gas drilling refer to the fact that the processes exploit, endanger and even destroy the land's natural resources. Excessive drilling destroys the ecosystems and natural habitats in the region, disrupting as such the natural balance of the respective areas. And not only that it has negative effects upon flora and fauna, it also negatively impacts the populations in the respective regions. The people in Dimock, Pennsylvania for instance suffer from persistent diarrhea, stomach aches and vomiting, due to their drinking of the contaminated water, polluted by the drilling operations. Additionally, the water is also drunk by animals, which get sick; foremost, the inhabitants' wells have become flammable through methane release. Dimock is believed to support gas extraction for another one or two decades, but the natural reserves are found at great depths and under massive layers of rocks. This then means that the extractors have to use strong chemicals in order to get to the natural gas. This negatively impacts the health of the environment and the population (Hurdle, 2009).

5. Historical Debates

As mentioned before, the topic of natural gas drilling has raised both disclaimers as well as advocates. A major dispute occurred just last year between Senator John McCain and Senator (at that time) Barack Obama. The latter, with the support of the Democrats, refused to allow drilling operations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, stating that the endeavor would further jeopardize the stability of the already sensitive region. McCain, backed by the Republicans in the United States Congress, called Obama and his supporters wimps. The argument used by the Republicans was that the Democrats did not care about the fact that the average citizen was now forced to pay so much more for gas than in the past, translating as such in decreased living standards (Baker, 2008).

Another dispute occurs between governmental institutions and natural gas extractors and processors. The federal authorities strive to implement regulations that reduce the negative effects of drilling operations. In this, they impose several restrictions to using outdated technologies or dangerous chemicals. The entrepreneurs argue that they do not possess sufficient resources to constantly update their technologies, or that the market does not present them with less environmentally dangerous substitutes for the chemical compounds they must use in drilling for natural gas. This debate is still ongoing.

The final battle occurs between the natural gas extractors, motivated by the possibility of further increasing their profitability levels, and the local populations on the one side, and environmentalist institutions on the other side. While in some regions, drilling operations were modernized to reduce the negative impacts, in others, extractors still manage to get passed the law and fill their pockets, with the pretext of supporting the population, but with the effect of destroying local environments. Historically, locals and environmental institutions had little hope for a successful outcome in their favor. However, with the growth of the concern for global warming, the international context seems to lean the balance in their favor and to promote a more sustainable model of natural gas drilling.

6. Ethical Issues Surrounding Land Use and Conservation

The focus on the effects of natural gas drilling has exponentially growth throughout the past few years. In order to address these concerns, extractors are obliged to get a permit and send analyses of the effects their operations would have on land use and conservation. In the western regions of the United States, the most severely affected parties are the individuals who own public lands, pay the taxes and have to watch how their forests and other lands are being slaughtered. They are pretty much helpless in the face of the natural gas drilling force, but this is unfair as they own the land and pay taxes for it, yet, they cannot benefit from it. Hunters and fishermen are also impacted as the number of animals and fish significantly decreases. In Pennsylvania for instance, the numbers of mule deer decreased by 46% in only five years.

The focus of land owners and hunters, as well as the local population and environmental agencies is then turned to conservation of the land, which is rather compromised once the drilling operations commence. While the land owners do recognize the importance and side effects of natural gas drillings, the ethical problem revolves around the injustices they have to suffer. In this order of ideas, the contemporaneous endeavors are directed towards an achievement of multiple use of the same land, in the meaning that both extractors and owners can benefit from it… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Natural Gas Drilling" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Natural Gas Drilling.  (2009, March 26).  Retrieved February 24, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Natural Gas Drilling."  26 March 2009.  Web.  24 February 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Natural Gas Drilling."  March 26, 2009.  Accessed February 24, 2021.