Massachusetts and fracking

From Global Energy Monitor
Hartford Basin.


Western Massachusetts might have the right geology to host small shale gas deposits, according to the USGS. In 2012 the group American Ground Water Trust said small-scale gas development could begin in several years. But as of 2012 no companies have expressed interest in exploring for shale gas, state officials say, and the type of wells needed to get to the gas, if any is found, are prohibited by the state's underground injection control regulations (although the rules do not specifically mention fracking).[1][2]


Part of Massachusetts is underlain by a geological feature known as the Hartford Basin, stretching 34 miles long in Massachusetts and varying in width from three to 15 miles. The entire basin lies under the Connecticut Valley from roughly the Vermont border to the Connecticut shoreline.

Geologists say that extractable shale gas deposits in the Hartford Basin are highly unlikely: a good portion of the basin was overheated from volcanic activity, which likely vaporized any oil or gas, while other places were not heated enough to produce gas. Geologists therefore say it is highly unlikely that exploration would occur for shale gas in the valley because current data strongly suggest that the source rocks for any deposits, if present, are too small, scattered, and of questionable quality.[1][2]

Texaco did exploratory geophysical work in the 1970s, and then paid for work in the 1980s to examine the hydrothermal history of the Connecticut Valley, but no further exploration took place.[1][2]

In June 2012, a US Geological Survey report assessed five East Coast basins, but noted the Hartford Basin as among among a number they did not examine due to insufficient data.[2] Many media outlets claim this report as documenting the discovery of shale gas in the Hartford basin. The report does not.

Urban Methane leakage

Boston area infrastructure loses two to three times more gas than state authorities say, adding to evidence of downstream operations' (including pipelines, storage terminals and power plants) role in greenhouse emissions according to a study published in January 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[3] This is the first peer reviewed study that quantifies emissions of methane, a gas is roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a period of 20 years, from natural gas operations in urban centers.[4] Many previous studies focused on methane leaks from the drilling and hydraulic fracturing wells. Less attention was given to natural gas storage and pipelines that deliver gas to homes.

The university researchers estimate the amount of Boston area methane lost over a year in the study area to be worth $90 million.[5]

LNG terminals

Everett Marine Terminal

Everett Marine Terminal is located on the Mystic River in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts and has been operating continuously since 1971. Everett Marine is the longest operating import terminal in the U.S. The terminal is owned and operated by Distrigas of Massachusetts (DOMAC), a subsidiary of GDF Suez North America. It is reported that as of 2013 the terminal currently supplies about 20% of New England’s natural gas demand every year.[6]

Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port

The Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port is located 13 miles from shore in Massachusetts Bay. The terminal is connected to the Northeastern natural gas grid through a pipeline lateral built by Algonquin Gas Transmission.[7]

Citizen activism

Legislative issues and regulations

As of 2013, three bills have been filed in the Legislature to pre-emptively ban hydraulic fracturing, and one would require disclosures about what chemicals are being used in the fracking process. Although fracking would be prohibited by the state's underground injection control regulations, legislators say the rules do not specifically mention fracking, requiring clarification.[8]

In November 2013 the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources approved a bill that would place a 10-year moratorium on fracking in the Bay State — through December 31, 2024. In addition, the bill would keep fracking wastewater produced by operations in other states from being treated, stored, or disposed in Massachusetts. The bill would still need to have the full House and Senate pass it and Governor Deval Patrick sign it to become law.[9]

The city of Amherst banned the use of hydraulic fracturing waste to thaw ice on roads in November 2015. The ban will eliminate crews using wastewater from the treatment plan on local roads.

Citizen groups

Industry groups




Related articles

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