New study shows no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing

Feb 16, 2012

Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas has no direct connection to reports of groundwater contamination, based on evidence reviewed in a study released Thursday by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, released at the annual meeting of the (AAAS) in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that many problems ascribed to hydraulic fracturing are related to processes common to all operations, such as casing failures or poor jobs.

University researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground spills or other mishandling of produced from drilling, rather than from hydraulic fracturing per se, said Charles "Chip" Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the project.

"These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing," he said.

The research team examined evidence contained in reports of groundwater contamination attributed to hydraulic fracturing in three prominent shale plays — the Barnett Shale in North Texas; the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, New York and portions of Appalachia; and the Haynesville Shale in western Louisiana and northeast Texas.

The report identifies regulations related to shale and evaluates individual states' capacity to enforce existing regulations. In addition, university researchers analyzed public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing, as derived from popular media, scientific literature and online surveys.

"Our goal was to provide policymakers a foundation for developing sensible regulations that ensure responsible shale gas development," Groat said. "What we've tried to do is separate fact from fiction."

Faculty members from across The University of Texas at Austin campus participated in the research, which the Energy Institute funded. The Environmental Defense Fund also assisted in developing the scope of work and methodology for the study.

Groat said researchers will supplement the study released Thursday with an examination of reports relating to atmospheric emissions and seismic activity attributed to hydraulic fracturing, which have emerged as significant issues of concern in recent months.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into a shale bed, which causes the rock to shatter, releasing natural gas. The practice has been in use for decades but has come under scrutiny in recent years from environmentalists and others who fear it poses a threat to public health.

Other findings from the Energy Institute study include:

  • found in water wells within some shale gas areas (e.g., Marcellus) can be traced to natural sources and probably was present before the onset of shale gas operations.
  • Although some states have been proactive in overseeing shale gas development, most regulations were written before the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing.
  • Media coverage of hydraulic fracturing is decidedly negative, and few news reports mention scientific research related to the practice.
  • Overall, surface spills of fracturing fluids pose greater risks to groundwater sources than from hydraulic fracturing itself.
  • The lack of baseline studies in areas of shale gas development makes it difficult to evaluate the long-term, cumulative effects and risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.
Groat also provided an overview of two other Energy Institute initiatives related to the use of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas development.

The first project, which will commence in April, is a detailed case study focusing on claims of in North Texas' Barnett Shale. The research will 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 will identify and document activities unrelated to shale gas development that have resulted in water contamination. It will also assess the quantity of fresh groundwater used in shale gas development and evaluate ways to reduce the amount.

A second project, currently under development, would include a field and laboratory investigation of whether hydrological connectivity exists between water in the units above and below the shale unit being fractured as a result of the fracturing process. As envisioned, the project calls for university researchers to conduct field sampling of fluid, flow-back water, produced water, and water from aquifers and other geologic units within the Barnett Shale.

Explore further: Mining can damage fish habitats far downstream, study shows

Provided by The Energy Institute at UT Austin

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User comments : 14

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EverythingsJustATheory
3.3 / 5 (13) Feb 16, 2012
WOW! How reassuring! So the contamination isn't from fracking, but from the drilling company's incompetence and mishandling of waste. This still doesn't change the fact that after the drilling started, the groundwater became contaminated and people got sick. Regulation is obviously needed, whether or not fracking continues. And some people in this country want to get rid of the EPA...
dnatwork
2.7 / 5 (7) Feb 16, 2012
This doesn't say who funded it. Energy Institute in Texas... probably the oil companies.
StarGazer2011
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2012
@dnatwork: What if it was simulatneously funded by big oil, and TRUE? Does that compute? Or what if it was simultaneously funded by Greenpeace and FALSE? Maybe you should actually learn to think for yourself rather than relying on prejudice.
kevinrtrs
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 17, 2012
I'll wager a guess that the oil companies are hiding behind the respectable facade of the energy institute and the University of Texas at Austin to clear the way for further exploitation of natural resources at the least cost.

From what we've seen all over the world now, the people running those companies have absolutely zero conscience and will do anything to generate profits - no matter the cost in lives or state of environment when they're done.

There are a number of places where fracking has been blocked by public outcry - so this report should fool no one. It looks like a brazen faced way to get their own way - pointing to the results obtained here which ostensibly supports their own biased viewpoint.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2012
This study points the finger at other finger pointers, which is the point.
"I believe in pointing the finger where millions of finger pointers believe in pointing the finger that's the finger pointing millions of finger pointers believe in. That's the point I love." Mitt Romney (January 2012)
Kinedryl
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 17, 2012
New study shows no evidence of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing
Interestingly, many such a contaminations were reported http://www.osel.c...2549.jpg

http://www.usatod...745004/1

http://energyboom...ommunity

How is it possible, some "study" is able to rewrite history?
Shifty0x88
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 17, 2012
How is it possible, some "study" is able to rewrite history?


The only way it can rewrite history is if we let it by believing in it.
Shifty0x88
3 / 5 (6) Feb 17, 2012
For those of you that want proof of ground water contamination check out this youtube video where a resident actually lights his water on fire from the gas that has leeched in

http://www.youtub...ZkNsXfJE

Skip to around 1:20 in and just watch in amazement
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2012
This doesn't say who funded it... probably the oil companies.

I was gonna say: "That's baseless speculation" but then I started googling

Energy Institute at UT Austin quaterly report of 2011
http://energy.ute...read.pdf
I am pleased to announce the creation of the Diane and Samuel Bodman Energy Institute Endowment. This generous gift begins the Energy Institutes quest for a permanent funding base. We are indebted to the Bodmans for their generosity and for their confidence in the mission of the Institute.

Samuel Bodman is the former Minister of Energy under Presdient Bush. Former director of E. I. du Pont de Nemours (better known as DuPont).
http://en.wikiped...l_Bodman

Guess who makes the chemicals for fracking.
http://coyotegulc...enver-2/
DuPont
Kinedryl
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 17, 2012
...a good investigative job, antialias..
antialias_physorg
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2012
It gets even better...before he entered the Bush administration Bodman was the CEO of Cabot Oil and Gas company (1988-2001).

Guess what THEY currently do in Texas. Yup. Hydraulic fracturing.

And it seems that DuPont has been buying up patents on hydraulic fracturing left and right these past few years.

Naaaah...that's surely all a coincidence. I'll take off my tinfoil hat now.
bewertow
5 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2012
lol looks like someone is going through this thread downvoting everyone. Probably works for an oil company...
Kinedryl
3 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2012
Recently the earthquake connected with fracking lead to the premature close of all drills in England and Oclahoma.

http://articles.b...-tremors
http://grist.org/...klahoma/
So when some "scientist" begins to claim the opposite, he should be investigated immediately for fraud.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2012
Hmmm...Samuel Bodman is also listed on the advisory council of the Energy Institute at UT Austin. This gets weirder by the minute.

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