A coalition of organizations on Thursday delivered a letter to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commission (DECC), calling on the agency to undertake an environmental review of “any” applications for shale gas exploration using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) stimulation processes — the precise process to be used to develop an unconventional leasehold in Tioga County.

Last month Southern Tier Energy Partners LLC, a landowners’ group that controls about 135,000 net acres in Tioga County, signed a preliminary agreement to allow eCorp International LLC and GasFrac Energy Services Inc. to drill natural gas wells using GasFrac’s proprietary waterless LPG stimulation technology (see Shale Daily, March 30). High-volume fracking using water has not been allowed since a de facto moratorium went into effect.

The coalition said media reports suggested that the landowners’ strategy “is to bypass New York state’s current de facto moratorium on high-volume fracking through use of an alternative fracking agent.” New York’s law is “clear” in that it “does not permit gas drilling with propane, butane or any other gases used in LPG fracking,” it said in its letter. “And despite newspaper stories to the contrary, an application to frack gas wells with liquefied petroleum gas like propane would require the preparation of either a supplemental generic or site-specific environmental impact statement prior to any well permitting.”

Beyond the oil and gas industry, “no one knows much about LPG fracking,” according to the coalition. It claimed that the technology had only been available “for a couple of years and it’s a proprietary process. But we do know that LPG fracking uses a highly explosive gas as its fracturing agent mixed with dangerous chemicals, has significant waste disposal challenges and the potential to forever alter the character and health of our communities.”

However, Calgary-based GasFrac executives said the LPG process has been used nearly 1,000 times over the last three years all over the world by operators that include Royal Dutch Shell plc and Husky Energy Inc. Most of the tests have been conducted in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick, with pilots at a handful of wells in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Signatories to the coalition’s letter were the Adirondack Mountain Club, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthjustice, Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Environment America, Environment New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, Riverkeeper Inc., Sierra Club, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Theodore Gordon Flyfishers.