A Colorado State University (CSU) team led by former Gov. Bill Ritter briefed California’s oil and natural gas officials about how Colorado’s drilling rules that encompass hydraulic fracturing stipulations were able to satisfy environmental concerns — an issue California faces as legislators consider whether to establish a fracking moratorium or not (see Shale Daily, June 28).

California is home to the Monterey Shale, a major oil-rich geological formation.

Colorado’s regulations helped to keep the state’s huge oil and natural gas industry a going concern, which are considered vital to the economy, said Ritter, who directs CSU’s 18-month-old Center for the New Energy Economy. The center is working nationally with state officials to promote what Ritter called “clean energy,” and oil and gas extraction are part of that agenda.

“We’re not advocates for the environmental community or advocates for the oil/gas industry, we’re advocates for more information,” Ritter said. “We would like to help states across the country develop a set of regulations that are environmentally sound, and we think in Colorado we have a good set of rules, but we also recognize that one size doesn’t fit all.

“There is a lot of individuality that needs to be taken into consideration state-by-state. We’re not coming to California to have you do everything that Colorado has,” he said at a recent half-day briefing.

“We’re here to say that oil and gas are resources will be part of our energy future. There are national security implications to how we extract those resources, and there are economic security issues about how we extract those resources and make use of them. And there are environmental considerations, and balancing all that is the job of regulators.”

The Colorado center recognizes that there are “a lot of myths” surrounding the use of fracking, and its leaders are offering an “antidote” to open a dialogue on fracking, said Ritter. “In the extraction process, it is extremely important that we get it right.”

Sally Sutton, who chairs CSU’s geosciences department, stressed the wide differences in the shale plays and in the geologic formations making them up. She said the Monterey Shale could be “expressed” at either the surface or 12,000 feet underground. “It is right to say that the Monterey is present at the surface in some instances,” she said. “This has to do with the tectonics of the state…This issue of hydrocarbons in Monterey shale exists without any human interference [or stimulation] of hydrocarbons.”

The economics of the shale play are complex and can vary greatly in the various shale plays, she said. The Haynesville Shale’s gas breakeven point is at about $8/Mcf, she said. In various parts of Marcellus it can be $4-6/Mcf. “It depends on a number of factors — whether it is dry gas or with oil and are there condensates involved,” she said. “All of those things change the economics.”

A spokesperson for the California Department of Conservation, which hosted the fracking presentation, said the briefing was “strictly informational” and part of a larger series of informal workshops for the general public that are being held in preparation of regulations expected to be released in the near future.