in the earth. Drilling holes can disrupt pockets of
heavy metals, which then flow into drill water.
Mr. Citrone’s project aims to clean the metal
from the water once it has been used in the drilling
so that the water can be repurposed. But for many
people, the sudden appearance of heavy metals suggests that drillers are putting them there. “A lot of
people don’t understand what’s happening, and that
scares them,” he says.
GET THEM ON YOUR SIDE
Because every project and every stakeholder is different, there’s no project planning template for
avoiding outrage. There are, however, strategies that
project managers can use to minimize the risk of
public pushback. It begins with good communication early in the project.
“It’s important that the public
knows what you are doing as much
as possible,” Mr. Lathem says. “You
may still have people who don’t like
what you are doing, but there’s value
to getting ahead of the curve when it
comes to communication.”
Mr. Citrone says sometimes you
can win over the skeptics. “When
people are educated about our pro-
cess, and they understand that we
have geologists and engineers work-
ing with the drillers, they are more
likely to support us.”
Keeping stakeholders in the loop
can also help quell rumors. Mr.
Lathem recalls running a fracking
project in which his team produced
an advertising insert in the local
newspaper explaining the process,
complete with photos and descrip-
tions of the equipment used. “Most
of those vehicles were just carrying
water or sand, but people were see-
ing all these trucks traveling down
their roads, and they wanted to
know what was in them.”
He also advises holding public
events to answer questions and
educate people about how fracking
works, and meeting with local lead-
ers and landowners to communicate
the benefits of a project. In Alabama, 43 percent of
all natural gas produced comes from underground
coal seams that have been hydraulically fractured.
Those projects translate into local jobs, added reve-
nue streams and reduced dependence on foreign oil.
>>ON THE RISE
Fracking’s popularity in the United States largely stems from rich deep
resources coupled with tax incentives for alternative fuel projects.
This combination has enabled the industry to flourish over the last 20 years:
Shale gas’ share of total U.S. gas production rose from 1 percent in 2000 to 20
percent in 2009, according to The Shale Gas Revolution: Hype and Reality, a September report from think tank Chatham House.
But few other countries have been able to grow their fracking industries as
well. Europe, for example, lacks the resources and policy advantages that have
helped groom the U.S. fracking industry, according to the report.
Despite these constraints, shale exploration projects are slowly gaining
Lane Energy Poland partnered with Schlumberger to launch two drilling projects in the Baltic Basin of Northern Poland in 2010 to evaluate the potential of
shale gas production.
Similarly, while almost no shale exploration projects have begun in the
Middle East, Saudi Arabian giant Saudi Aramco’s chief executive, Khalid al-Falih,
announced in September that the firm was considering exploration of shale gas
reserves for future projects.
Saudi oil companies have traditionally considered such reserves too costly
and difficult to develop. But the success of projects in the United States, combined with a need for new gas resources, is sparking a reexamination.
Saudi Arabia currently burns significant quantities of crude oil in its power
stations, and the government would prefer to burn gas even if extraction costs
increase substantially, Samuel Ciszuk, a Middle East energy analyst at IHS
“For a long-term strategy, they would definitely want to go for shale gas—if
indeed available—rather than burning liquids,” he said. “With domestic demand
rising as fast as it does, I think they will look to all kinds of future gas opportuni-
ties available to them.”