UT Energy Institute Study Shows No Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing

 

Takeaway

  • The study, released Feb. 16, found that many problems ascribed to hydraulic fracturing are related to processes common to all oil and gas drilling operations, such as casing failures or poor cement jobs. 
  • Researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale gas drilling.

The practice of hydraulic fracturing within natural gas production has seen its share of controversy, driven by concerns that the practice of "fracking" may contaminate groundwater or pose other public health risks. However, a new study by The University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute finds there is no direct connection between hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas and reports of groundwater contamination.

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 by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that many problems ascribed to hydraulic fracturing are related to processes common to all oil and gas drilling operations, such as casing failures or poor cement jobs. 

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

Read more about the study on the Environmental Protection website.

Disclaimer

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily The University of Texas at Austin.
 

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Faculty in this Article

Chip Groat

Professor Jackson School of Geosciences

Dr. Charles G. "Chip" Groat joined the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas...

About The Author

Tanya Andrien

Associate Director , Energy Management and Innovation Center

Ms. Andrien joined the Energy Management and Innovation Center at McCombs in late 2010 to assist with strategy, events, operations and student...

Comments

#1 There is widespread ignorance

There is widespread ignorance of the global significance of the gas fracking process, and your organisation does not appear to be an exception to this rule. Regional pollution problems arising from particular energy extraction processes are of relatively little importance to our species. However, there is a far larger problem that is generally unrecognised, as is the Faustian penalty that underpins technology in general and energy extraction in particular. Your study does appear to have touched on the problem of fugitive methane emissions from well-head fittings, etc, but the main problem, general ground emissions, seems to have been grossly underestimated and ignored. For example, at least two rivers near Sydney Australia have been shown to be degassing ignitable volumes of methane, and aerial plumes have been detected over gasfields, both here and in Canada. In short, the Fracking process itself represents an additional threat to the future survival of our species. Please read: http://regmorrison.edublogs.org/2011/09/26/methane/

#2 This headline seems quite

This headline seems quite misleading. The study claims that fracking is not UNIQUELY tied to contamination, but that mistakes in the process can and have indeed led to groundwater contamination. See here the original Duke University study that found strong ties between fracking and contamination: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/hydrofracking/Osborn%20et%20al%20%20Hydrofracking%202011.pdf Match that with the widespread adoption of the process and the speed at which wells are being drilled, and it it could in fact be a recipe for a LOT of water and other environmental contamination. I'd hate for UT be on the wrong side of history on this issue, and I think that more careful presentation of the facts would benefit the conversation that's going on about this subject.

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