I’ll be live-Tweeting the Colorado River District Annual Seminar today assuming that I can find Two Rivers Convention Center from the bike trail from my camp spot in Fruita. I don’t know what hash tag we’ll be using yet so follow along (@CoyoteGulch).
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Seth Borenstein):
The drilling procedure called fracking didn’t cause much-publicized cases of tainted groundwater in areas of the states of Pennsylvania and Texas, a new study finds. Instead, it blames the contamination on problems in pipes and seals in natural gas wells.
After looking at dozens of cases of suspected contamination, the scientists focused on eight hydraulically fractured wells in those states, where they chemically linked the tainted water to the gas wells. They then used chemical analysis to figure out when in the process of gas extraction methane leaked into groundwater.
“We found the evidence suggested that fracking was not to blame, that it was actually a well integrity issue,” said Ohio State University geochemist Thomas Darrah, lead author of the study. He said those results are good news because that type of contamination problem is easier to fix and is more preventable.
The work was released Monday by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
In at least two cases around one well in Texas, scientists saw people’s homes have their water supplies go from clean to contaminated during the year of study, with methane levels jumping ten-fold, said Stanford University environmental sciences professor Rob Jackson, co-author of the study. Methane, while not particularly toxic, is explosive and a potent greenhouse gas.
“I don’t think homeowners care what step in the process the water contamination comes,” Jackson said. “They just care that their lives have changed because drilling has moved next door.”
The scientists reached their conclusions by chemically analyzing methane and other chemicals in the groundwater. That let them link the contamination to particular wells, and then to discover what part of the drilling process was responsible. For example, they studied the precise proportions of methane, helium, neon and argon. Those proportions pointed to leaky pipes and seals, because the results would have been different if the contamination had come from fracking…
Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who wasn’t part of the study, praised it, adding that he’s worried because “it’s impossible to drill and cement a well that will never leak.”
“There’s still serious and significant harm from what’s coming before fracking and what’s coming after fracking,” Ingraffea said.
More oil and gas coverage here.