Emerging Centrifugal Technology in Shale Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Management: A U.S.-France-China Selected Environmental Comparative Analysis

By Adams, James W., Jr.; Stocker, Craig D. et al. | Houston Journal of International Law, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Emerging Centrifugal Technology in Shale Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Management: A U.S.-France-China Selected Environmental Comparative Analysis


Adams, James W., Jr., Stocker, Craig D., Lawson, Nicholas R., Houston Journal of International Law


I.   INTRODUCTION

II.  SHALE PLAY GEOGRAPHY, GEOGRAPHY AND
     ECONOMICS
     A. Introduction
     B. U.S. Shale Plays
     C. French Shale Plays
     D. Chinese Shale Plays

III. OVERVIEW OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

IV.  OVERVIEW OF CENTRIFUGAL TECHNOLOGY
     A. The Centrifuge Process
     B. Typical Applications

V.   SELECTED ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS AND THE
     RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CENTRIFUGAL TECHNOLOGY
     A. United States
     B. France
     C. China

VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

As world energy use continues to increase, newly discovered natural gas shale plays in the United States, France, and China will become vital in satisfying future demand. (1) As a result, production from shale formations is one of the most rapidly expanding trends in international oil and gas exploration and production. (2) Hydraulic fracturing is the current technology of choice for developing most shale gas reserves. A key aspect of successful shale exploration and production is drilling waste management. (3) Drilling waste is generally composed of liquid and solid components, including water, caustic soda, various acids, methanol, and salt. (4) Many commentators have expressed serious concerns about the environmental impact of shale gas exploration and production, including hydraulic fracturing and how it will affect water supplies. (5)

The current approach to using hydraulic fracturing for shale development may be exemplified by three countries: (1) the U.S., (2) France, and (3) China. The U.S., through various state schemes, has utilized a combined approach ranging from variable bans to near laissez-faire approaches. (6) France has elected to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing for shale development. (7) China has given oil and gas exploration and production developers de facto free reign to utilize hydraulic fracturing. (8)

Shale gas in the United States is regulated though the same network of federal and state laws that control the production and exploration of conventional oil and gas. (9) Each individual state with oil and gas production typically has its own regulatory agency that controls the granting of well permits in that state and enforces state environmental laws. (10) These state agencies have broad powers in order to regulate drilling, well design and location, waste disposal, wildlife impacts, and pollution. (11) On the federal level, agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service manage oil and gas development on federally-owned land and administer federal environmental laws. (12) Federal agencies can also grant primary jurisdiction for implementing federal environmental laws to states by approving of state programs that adopt similar standards to federal ones. (13)

In France, production and development of oil and gas is largely regulated by a department within the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry, whose mandate is to "define and put into operation the energy policy of France and the supply of raw materials." (14) Wastewater treatment requirements are defined and regulated by the Ministries of Health, Environment and Agriculture. (15) In conjunction with French agencies, European Union directives also regulate environmental quality including wastewater management. (16) Many wastewater treatment projects in France utilize activated sludge or aerated lagoon processes. (17)

In China, development and exploration of shale formations are nominally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environmental Protection ("MEP"). (18) A set of environmental protection laws passed by the Chinese National People's Congress theoretically control all aspects of actions that affect the environment. (19) However, enforcement of these laws is still weak. (20) In fact, the MEP has only 2,200 employees nationwide, as compared to 18,000 employees of the EPA. (21)

The true power to regulate and enforce Chinese environmental statutes falls to local officials.

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