There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of shale gas wells drilled in the U.S. during the past ten years. The most prolific shale gas fields are the Barnett (north central Texas), Haynesville (northeastern Texas and western Louisiana) and the Marcellus (portions of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York). Hydraulic fracturing (fracing) of the producing formation is the process by which high volumes of water are pumped downhole under high pressures in order to fracture the productive formation thereby releasing the gas to production.
As one would expect, the anti-fossil fuel green crowd and their lawyers have sought to do everything in their power to block drilling in these new gas fields. Their main ploy has been to claim that fresh groundwater has been polluted as a result of the fracing process. The main and simple truth of the matter is that (as illustrated above) the groundwater formation, just below the surface, is cased with surface casing pipe. Additionally, the entire production string is cased from the producing zone to the wellhead . The producing formation which is fraced, is a mile and a half below the groundwater formation. The idea that fracing a well causes ground water contamination has as much merit as someone who lives a mile away from you claiming that their ceiling leaks every time you flush your toilet.
The University of Texas’ Energy Institute last week concluded and published the results of an exhaustive investigation into many issues related to shale gas development. Their conclusions pretty much mirror what industry experts have been saying for years. The findings
Researchers found no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing chemicals in the subsurface by fracturing operations, and observed no leakage from hydraulic fracturing at depth.
Many reports of groundwater contamination occur in conventional oil and gas operations (e.g., failure of well-bore casing and cementing) and are not unique to hydraulic fracturing.
Methane found in water wells within some shale gas areas (e.g., Marcellus) can most likely be traced to natural sources, and likely was present before the onset of shale gas operations.
Surface spills of fracturing fluids appear to pose greater risks to groundwater sources than from hydraulic fracturing itself.
Blowouts — uncontrolled fluid releases during construction or operation — are a rare occurrence, but subsurface blowouts appear to be under-reported.
The study further shows that public perception of the fracing process has been negatively impacted by the overwhelmingly negative reporting by the biased and scientifically ignorant press.
Energy Institute researchers analyzed print, broadcast and online news media coverage of shale gas development in the Marcellus, Haynesville, and Barnett shale areas. They found that the tone of media coverage has been overwhelmingly negative in all forms of media. Roughly two-thirds of the articles and stories examined were deemed negative, a finding that was consistent nationally and at local levels.
Researchers also found that less than 20% of newspaper articles on hydraulic fracturing mention scientific research related to the issue. Similarly, only 25% of broadcast news stories examined made reference to scientific studies, and about 33% of online news coverage mentioned scientific research on the issue.