Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hello Pipelines

Why are pipelines carving up our pastures? To what purpose?

Why have the developers come into one of the last easily accessible scenic areas of Texas, a tourist and retirement destination of great beauty, to undermine what makes it unique? And, incidentally, the very thing that that makes its small towns economically vibrant, when all around the state other small towns are dying?

Why have they been allowed to do this? Who benefits?

I know selling pipeline ROW makes the landowner a little money. $500 every 16 feet (rod) in some cases. Or more; or less. Depending… 

I know that successful oil and gas production can make the mineral owners more than a little money. But many of those mineral owners around here have sold their land to newcomers over the past decade, pocketing their dollars and retaining the mineral interest whose exploitation can ruin the peaceful enjoyment of the purchaser for years. 

Why is it happening?  

Technology and the profit motive have combined to allow deep production of (usually wet) gas in this area through fracking and horizontal drilling. This isn’t shale gas at the moment, although that is coming. It’s the old Austin Chalk, at around 14,000 feet.

I’m told by people active in the industry that wet gas is rich in natural gas liquids, mostly ethane, but also propane, butane, etc. These hydrocarbons are enjoying boom conditions now. All along the Texas Gulf Coast, petrochemical companies are investing billions of dollars in crackers and processing facilities to turn NGL’s, particularly ethane, into plastics, along with petrochemical and refinery feedstocks. 

Wet gas requires a lot of processing, some of it quite close to the area of production. Thus, we have more disruption to look forward to. More oversized well pads needed for this kind of drilling, more noise and disruption related to the drilling process itself. More pipelines to carry the gas to market. More processing plants. The “state-of-the-art” cryogenic processing facility being completed near Burton is one example.  

The company building this infrastructure is Aspen Midstream. Here is what their website tells us: Aspen Midstream is backed by growth capital from EnCap Flatrock Midstream. The initial system will consist of more than 90 miles of 10-inch to 20-inch gas gathering mainlines, treating facilities, a state-of-the-art cryogenic processing plant with the capacity to process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, and a residue gas pipeline to the market hub at Katy, Texas.

The website goes on to say that they’re looking forward to expanding as the production expands. That means years and years of noise, toxic odors and visual ugliness. (For information on the shale play probability, check out:

In my view, the qualities of city life that no one wants are following us like a crime we hadn’t meant to commit—industrialization, truck traffic, pollution, toxic air, ugliness, grinding noise that elevates your heart rate and blood pressure. 

Mess, with no community benefit.

Only a very few will benefit, while many will suffer for years. For some, it’s the rest of their lives.

Mind you, these are private companies who are doing this because it makes them money. We who live here will lose money as well as our well-being and that doesn’t count at all.

Did anyone tell you this was coming? Did they ask your permission? Or did they keep the specifics sufficiently secret to prevent any meaningful opposition? 

The overriding argument is that our country needs energy. Texas has been dominated by the oil and gas industry, riding on this argument, for more than a century. But we are now exporting energy to other countries. We are now exhorted to look for non-carbon-based energy sources. Scientists are begging us to think about the excess of carbon in our atmosphere. Find a way to decrease it, sequester it.

The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, keeps rolling along on autopilot. Like those airliners whose software kept pushing their noses into the ground.  

Because the argument behind it has become a fallacy. The destruction of our lives here in Fayette and adjacent counties isn’t really so that America can be safe from her enemies. It’s not for America’s 
benefit, at all.

It is to make plastics for the world, which is already choking in the stuff.


Disclosure: I have personal investments in a highly industrialized part of Texas that benefit from the petrochemical boom. I say: leave our scenic areas alone.

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