Preliminary findings from a study on the use of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas development suggest no direct link to reports of ground water contamination, according to the project leader at The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute.
we’ve seen so far, many of the problems appear to be related to other aspects
of drilling operations, such as poor casing or cement jobs, rather than to hydraulic
fracturing, per se,” says Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat, a university geology
professor and Energy Institute associate director who is leading the project, which
the Energy Institute is funding.
Institute’s final report, expected to be issued early next year, will include
an analysis of reports of ground water contamination ascribed to hydraulic
fracturing within North Texas’ Barnett Shale, as well as the Haynesville Shale
in East Texas and Northwest Louisiana, and the Marcellus Shale, which includes
portions of New York, Pennsylvania and several Appalachian states.
Researchers also expect to include an evaluation of allegations of fugitive air
emissions attributed to equipment leaks, evaporative losses from surface
impoundments and spills.
trying to do is separate fact from fiction,” Groat says.
Institute team includes experts from the university’s Center for International
Energy and Environmental Policy, Bureau of Economic Geology, Lyndon B. Johnson
School of Public Affairs, School of Law and College
Representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund will review and comment on
any recommendations included in the final report prior to its publication. A
peer group also will review the team’s findings.
that the final report will identify existing regulations related to shale gas
development and evaluate individual states’ capacity to enforce regulations.
Researchers also will provide an analysis of public perceptions of hydraulic
fracturing, as derived from popular media, scientific studies and interviews
with local residents.
is to inject science into what has become an emotional debate, and provide
policymakers a foundation to develop sound rules and regulations,” Groat says.
fracturing involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals
into a shale seam, which causes the rock to shatter, releasing natural gas. The
process is conducted after a wellbore has been drilled and lined with concrete
to prevent interaction between the deep, gas-bearing shale and shallow
freshwater aquifers. Hydraulic fracturing has been in use for decades, but
recently has come under scrutiny from those who fear it poses a threat to
public health through ground water contamination and air pollution.
finding from the study: Many allegations of ground water contamination appear
to be related to above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater
produced from shale gas drilling, rather than from hydraulic fracturing itself.
discusses two other Energy Institute initiatives related to hydraulic
fracturing for shale gas development.
project would evaluate claims of ground water contamination within the Barnett
Shale in North Texas. As proposed, the
research would entail an examination of various aspects of shale gas
development, including site preparation, drilling, production, and handling and
disposal of flow-back water. Researchers also would identify and document
activities unrelated to shale gas development that have resulted in water
second project, designed to be an extension of the current study, would involve
a detailed field and laboratory investigation of whether hydrological
connectivity exists between shallow ground water aquifers and fractures created
by hydraulic fracturing during shale gas development. The project calls for
university researchers to conduct field-sampling of hydraulic fracturing fluid,
flow-back water, produced water and water from aquifers and other geologic
units within the Barnett Shale.
Early Results from Hydraulic Fracturing Study Show No Direct Link to Ground Water Contamination
November 11, 2011