3. WELL INJECTION: PART III

3. WELL INJECTION: PART III FRACKING

    “Slick water hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a technology used to extract natural gas,
    and oil, that lies within a shale rock formation thousands of feet beneath the earth’s
    surface.”
    -stateimpact.npr.org

      Fracking is popularly associated with drilling of shale deposits, however it is good to be aware
      that the technique is also used to drill other deposits, such as coal methane beds. And though the
      technique is more efficient for horizontal wells, it can also be used with vertical wells. In the
      diagram below you can see a comparison of horizontal and vertical fracturing of a shale field.

    horizontalverticalfracking -wvsoro.org

    STAGE 1: PERFORATION

    Once the well hole has been drilled, steel piping is lowered into the ground and secured
    (usually with cement). After the pipe casing is in place, holes have to be blown out of the
    pipe casing and into the surrounding shale layer.

      “A device known as a perforating gun is first lowered into the well to a designated location in
      the shale, and a charge is fired down the well from a wire at ground surface to perforate the
      steel casing, cement and the shale formation. This perforation stage creates small cracks, or
      fractures, in the rock.” -pioga.org

    STAGE 2: FRACTURING

    Next a mixture of chemicals and water are pumped at high velocity into the well. Fluid enters
    the pipe perforations and expands into the shale rock. The pressure causes shale layers to
    crack. Sand, which is pumped down with the fracking fluid, enters the cracks to hold them open
    so that gas or oil can flow out of the rock and into the pipe casing.

      Stages of water, sand, and chemical injection:
      “It is important to note that not all of the additives [of the chemical mixture] are used in
      every hydraulically fractured well; the exact “blend” and proportions of additives will vary
      based on the site-specific depth, thickness and other characteristics of the target formation.

        1. An acid stage, consisting of several thousand gallons of water mixed with a dilute acid such
        as hydrochloric or muriatic acid: This serves to clear cement debris in the wellbore and
        provide an open conduit for other frac fluids by dissolving carbonate minerals and opening
        fractures near the wellbore.

        2. A pad stage, consisting of approximately 100,000 gallons of slickwater without proppant
        material: The slickwater pad stage fills the wellbore with the slickwater solution, opens the
        formation and helps to facilitate the flow and placement of proppant material.

        3. A prop sequence stage, which may consist of several substages of water combined with
        proppant material (consisting of a fine mesh sand or ceramic material, intended to keep open,
        or “prop” the fractures created and/or enhanced during the fracturing operation after the
        pressure is reduced): This stage may collectively use several hundred thousand gallons of
        water. Proppant material may vary from a finer particle size to a coarser particle size
        throughout this sequence.

        4. A flushing stage, consisting of a volume of fresh water sufficient to flush the excess
        proppant from the wellbore.”

      -FracFocus.org

    STAGE 3: PRODUCTION

    In “multi-stage” fracturing the process of perforation and fracturing are repeated several
    times. Each new section which is fracked is plugged off from the others so that fluids from
    another section won’t mix with the flowing gas or oil. Once all of the sections have been
    fracked another drill sent to break apart the plugs.

      After all miscellaneous fluids and debris are pumped out of the well, the gas and oil can then
      flow freely up the pipe. This is called “production”. The video below will give you a better
      idea of the process

      From ‘SMTLearning’ (horizontal drilling, perforation, fracturing, production):

    FRACKING: SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

    Social and environmental concerns related to fracking span from water and air pollution, to
    adverse health effects of contamination, and earthquakes.

    AIR POLLUTION

    CASE STUDY: USA (source)
    “In 2009 there were an estimated 1.02 million onshore oil and natural gas wells in the United
    States, split roughly evenly between the two types. The total is expected to steadily increase
    by about 17,000–35,000 natural gas wells and 9,000–10,000 oil wells per year between 2012 and
    2035. Connecting the wells, processing plants, distribution facilities, and customers are more
    than 1.5 million miles of pipelines.

      A number of primary and secondary pollutants are linked with this web of facilities.

      *One of them, methane, is over 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than
      carbon dioxide (CO2) when emitted directly to the atmosphere.
      *Hydrogen sulfide and VOCs such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, mixed xylenes, n-
      hexane, carbonyl sulfide, ethylene glycol, and 2,2,4-trimethylpentane are classified by the EPA
      as hazardous air pollutants, or air toxics.
      *Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and ground-
      level ozone are classified as criteria air pollutants.

      Both classifications of pollutants cause adverse human health effects, but whereas criteria air
      pollutants are regulated by air quality standards that localities must achieve, hazardous air
      pollutants are regulated by requiring specific control technologies for the targeted
      emissions… The pollutants are also associated with reduced visibility, climate change, and/or
      vegetation damage.
      ” -ehp.niehs.nih.gov

    TRAFFIC

      Truck driving is the most visible impact of large scale gas well development. According to
      estimates from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, one horizontal well can
      generate approximately 700 one-way truck trips (500 trucks for hauling water). The installation
      of water pipelines can dramatically reduce that estimate to about 300 one-way trips. This is
      not factoring in water disposal or well construction.

      Truck driving has been described as “the most common job” in an oil patch by national
      geographic, and aside from creating additional noise and traffic issues for locals, this can
      produce smog.

      “Diesel exhaust from the huge quantity of vehicles travelling to and from drilling sites
      contains carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide. Truck and heavy vehicle traffic also
      stirs up dust, which increases smog.” -catskillmountainkeeper.org

    FLARING

      The initial gas produced from a gas well is usually contaminated and uneconomical, and
      therefore disposed of. A common way of disposing this gas is to ignite gas flares and
      burn it off
      . This is considered an unpopular practice because it is wasteful and
      releases dangerous combustion pollutants into the environment. In 2015 the United
      States will enact a ban
      on the activity requiring companies to capture emissions.

      Noise and heat are the most apparent undesirable effects of flare operation. Flares are
      usually located away from populated areas or are sufficiently isolated, thus minimizing their
      effects on populations.

      Emissions from flaring include carbon particles (soot), unburned hydrocarbons, CO, and other
      partially burned and altered hydrocarbons
      . Also emitted are NOx and, if sulfur-containing
      material such as hydrogen sulfide or mercaptans is flared, sulfur dioxide (SO2).” -EPA.gov

    Gas flare. Photo: Les Stone/Corbis

    Farm, some distance from gas flare. Photo: Les Stone/Corbis

    CASE STUDY: WYOMING PEOPLE SUFFER HEALTH EFFECTS OF INDUSTRY SMOG

    [Excerpt from Wyoming plagued by big-city problem: smog by the Associated Press]

      CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming, famous for its crisp mountain air and breathtaking, far-as-the-eye-
      can-see vistas, is looking a little bit like smoggy Los Angeles these days because of a boom in
      natural gas drilling.

      Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of this outdoorsy state are complaining
      of watery eyes, shortness of breath and bloody noses because of ozone levels that have exceeded
      what people in L.A. and other major cities wheeze through on their worst pollution days.

      “It is scary to me personally. I never would have guessed in a million years you would have
      that kind of danger here,” Debbee Miller, a manager at a Pinedale snowmobile dealership, said
      Monday.

      In many ways, it’s a haze of prosperity: Gas drilling is going strong again, and as a result,
      so is the Cowboy State’s economy. Wyoming enjoys one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates,
      6.4 percent. And while many other states are running up monumental deficits, lawmakers are
      projecting a budget surplus of more than $1 billion over the coming year in this state of a
      half-million people.

      Still, in the Upper Green River Basin, where at least one daycare center called off outdoor
      recess and state officials have urged the elderly to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, some
      wonder if they’ve made a bargain with the devil. Two days last week, ozone levels in the gas-
      rich basin rose above the highest levels recorded in the biggest U.S. cities
      last year.

      “They’re trading off health for profit. It’s outrageous. We’re not a Third World country,” said
      Elaine Crumpley, a retired science teacher who lives just outside Pinedale.

      Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That’s
      two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit of 75 parts
      per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion,
      according to EPA records. Ozone levels in the basin reached 116 on March 1 and 104 on Saturday.

      The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality urged the elderly, children and people with
      respiratory conditions
      to avoid strenuous or extended activity outdoors.

      The Children’s Discovery Center in Pinedale set up indoor obstacle courses and turned kids
      loose on computers instead of letting them out on the playground in the afternoon.

      High levels of ozone happen in the Upper Green River Basin only during the winter. They result
      from a combination of gas industry emissions, snow on the ground, bright sunshine and
      temperature inversions, in which cool air near the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air.
      Pollution builds up during the day and becomes visible above the horizon as a thin layer of
      brown smudge – smog – by midafternoon.

      It’s not the kind of smog that clouds and chokes the air at ground level. Even so, people have
      noticed that details of nearby mountains don’t appear as razor-sharp as they used to.

      “It’s like maybe when you’re not wearing your glasses when you ought to be,” said Miller, whose
      daily commute from her log home includes an eight-mile snowmobile ride just to get to a plowed
      road.

      The gas industry has drilled hundreds of wells in the basin over the past decade and made the
      basin one of the top gas-producing areas in the U.S.

      “Ultimately it comes down to accountability,” said Linda Baker, director of the Upper Green
      River Alliance. “It doesn’t seem to me the companies are being very accountable to the
      residents here.” High ozone, she said, gave her a constant nosebleed three days last week.

      Crumpley, 68, reported having difficulty on walks and showshoe trips. “You feel a tightness in
      your chest. You seem to be less able to hold in air. My eyes burn and water constantly, and
      I’ve had nosebleed problems,” she said.

      Drilling of new wells, routine maintenance and gas-field equipment release substances that
      contribute to ozone pollution, including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Last
      week’s ozone alerts weren’t the first in the basin – they also occurred in 2008 and 2009 – but
      they were the first in more than two years.

      Gas industry officials say they are working hard to curb smog by reducing truck traffic and
      switching to drilling rigs with pollution control equipment. They have also postponed well
      completions and routine maintenance until the ozone advisories have passed, said Shell
      spokeswoman Darci Sinclair.

      “Shell has taken some meaningful measures to really reduce our measures. Some were voluntary
      and some were mandatory, but they’ve resulted in some significant reductions,” Sinclair said.

      Indeed, gas industry emissions that contribute to ozone pollution, as reported by the petroleum
      companies themselves, are down by as much as 25 percent in the Upper Green River Basin since
      2008, said Keith Guille, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality. Gas production
      in the basin is up 8 percent over that time.

      Gov. Matt Mead, state regulators and industry representatives met on Monday to talk about what
      else companies can do to control pollution.

      “We talked about the effectiveness of these contingency plans. We’ve seen them, they are good.
      However, we haven’t been able to prevent these exceedances,” Guille said.

      Crumpley said the warnings to stay indoors are hard to take.

      “We’re all outdoor people here. We don’t live inside,” she said. “That’s why we chose to be
      here.”

    WATER CONTAMINATION

    “Methane can be present in the dissolved phase in groundwater, in soil gas, or in the headspace
    of a wellbore. Methane gas will migrate to areas of lower pressure, such as water wells,
    permeableutility trenches, vaults, basements, floor or French drains, etc. It is not limited to
    areas of oil and gas production. Methane gas emerges in water wells because the cone of
    depression in the aquifer horizon formed by pumping the well creates a low pressure zone.” –
    all-llc.com

    Here are five risks of hydraulic fracturing to drinking water supplies according to the NRDC:

      Spills and leaks of fracking chemicals and fluids
      Fluids, potentially hazardous chemicals and proppant used in the fracking process are stored on
      the surface in tanks or pits. If not stored properly, they can leak or spill. Fluids can be
      stored at a centralized facility near multiple wellpads and then be transported to the well
      location by trucks or by pipeline. This transit period is another opportunity for leaks and
      spills. Fracking fluid can also spill during the fracking process. Leaks on the surface from
      tanks, valves, pipes, etc. as a result of mechanical failure or operator error at any point
      during these processes have the potential to contaminate groundwater and surface water.

      Well construction, cementing, and casing
      An oil or gas well is constructed using layers of steel pipe, called casing, that are cemented,
      completely or partially, into the surrounding rock and to each other. Casing and cement isolate
      gas, oil, and fluids in the rock from groundwater resources. Improperly constructed and/or
      maintained oil or gas wells can act as migration pathways for oil, gas, formation water,
      drilling fluid, or fracking fluid to contaminate groundwater.

      Out-of-zone growth
      When performing a frack job, out-of-zone fracture growth can occur, in which the fractures
      extend further than intended. The fracture can grow into other geologic formations including
      groundwater aquifers, depending on how much separation there is between the producing formation
      and the aquifer.

      Neighboring oil and gas wells
      An oil or gas well that was improperly constructed or plugged can provide a migration pathway
      for frack fluid or other contaminants to reach groundwater. This can happen if the fractures
      emanating from one oil or gas well intersect with either: (a) a nearby improperly plugged or
      constructed oil or gas well; or (b) fractures emanating from a nearby improperly plugged or
      constructed wellbore.

      Natural fracture networks
      Some geologic formations are extensively naturally faulted and fractured. In such formations,
      induced fractures may link up to these natural fracture networks. Over years or decades,
      natural fractures and faults may provide migration pathways for gas and fluids to groundwater.
      Fractures and faults may also cause complications in well drilling, construction, and
      completion. This can result in well integrity problems, which can also lead to water
      contamination.

    CASE STUDY: CANADIAN GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS CONTAMINATION OF GROUNDWATER

    [Excerpt from ‘Canadian Government Confirms Contamination of Groundwater from Hydraulic Fracturing
    by Deborah Rogers]

      “Energy In Depth, an industry funded advocacy group, issued an interesting post on the Canadian
      government’s recent admission that hydraulic fracture stimulation, or fracking, had indeed
      caused ground water contamination.

      EID stated in its post:

      “Numerous reports and independent experts — including federal officials — have stated clearly
      that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely when proper regulations and operating practices
      are in place…Companies also have high operating standards to ensure drinking water resources
      are protected.”

      This statement begs careful examination.

      The Canadian investigation was conducted by the Energy Resources Conservation Board(ERCB). The
      report states:

      “On September 22, 2011, Crew Energy Inc. was performing a hydraulic fracturing operation on the
      Caltex…well and inadvertently perforated above the base of groundwater protection at a depth of
      136 metres measured depth.”

      So it is clear that the company made a significant error in its operations. But what is more
      disturbing is that the crew was apparently unaware of its mistake. According to ERCB :

      “Hydraulic fracturing operations were subsequently conducted using gelled propane as a carrier
      fluid…”

      Clearly, “high operating standards” were lacking in this incident. In actual fact, the “high
      operating standards” were apparently almost non-existent. According to the investigation notes,
      ERCB stated:

      “The possibility that the perforating gun had fired at this depth while running in was not
      considered at this point. Consequently, the cause for the premature firing of the perforating
      gun was also not observed at this point.”

      Then:

      “The…observed pressure was not acknowledged during the operation by the service company or by
      Crew supervision as being significantly below the set pressure. This should have been
      recognized as the second indication of the premature firing of the perforating gun.”

      Then:

      “The GasFrac supervisor’s recognition of the low shut-in pressure and the declining stimulation
      pressure did not apparently trigger a question at the time as to whether or not there was a
      problem with this particular fracturing stage or that there may have been any out- of-zone
      communication.”

      ERCB’s concluded:

      “There were multiple opportunities to recognize that a problem existed, which could have
      prevented or at least minimized the impact of the hydraulic fracturing operation above the base
      of groundwater protection.”

      Consequently, ERCB issued Notice of High Risk Noncompliance. This was based on the “failure to
      use only non-toxic fracture fluids above the base of groundwater protection.”

      Moreover, and perhaps more troubling, one year later hydraulic fracture fluids are still
      migrating
      . ERCB states:

      “The groundwater composition on September 20, 2012, continued to be impacted by the fracturing
      fluids.”

      Energy in Depth dismissed the points in their post. They did, however, go on to make the pitch:

      “…does anyone really believe that a single entity in Washington, DC — far removed both in
      proximity and culturally from the areas of development — is the best equipped to regulate this
      activity?”

      This begs the question as to who or what Energy in Depth considers would be best at regulation.

      Shall we consider the crew? They are certainly the closest in proximity to the area developed.
      Further they are trained to carry out such operations and yet a monumental failure ensued which
      could have and, indeed, should have been caught on numerous separate occasions but wasn’t.

      Energy in Depth’s conclusion?:

      “…those who believe it “proves” the industry cannot adequately manage risks clearly haven’t
      been paying attention”.

      This is an extraordinary statement and with all due respect borders on the delusional
      particularly given the number and linear progression of mistakes in this incident. No amount of
      spin can twirl that away.

      It is also interesting to note, as David Slottje, the Executive Director and Senior Attorney at
      Community Environmental Defense Council, has pointed out that Energy in Depth is now crafting
      much more carefully worded statements such as:

      “There is no instance in Pennsylvania or (sic) elsewhere in the U.S. where groundwater has been
      contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.”

      Industry used to claim that “no-contamination” map for the entire planet. That map has shrunken
      quite considerably.” -energypolicyforum.org

    BLOWOUTS

    The most devastating environmental impacts of fracking occur as a result of blowouts and other
    accidents. The spilled fluids can contaminate ground water, air, and soil. Leaked emissions
    pollute the air.

      “Blowouts can occur during the original drilling of a well, during the fracking process or
      during the installation of a new water well in an area where fracking has taken place. A
      blowout is the uncontrolled release of oil or gas from a well…” -frackingofamerica.com

      EVENTS (examples)

      “This happened in Colorado where natural gas and produced water spewed at the surface for 72
      hours
      following a landowner’s drilling of a new water well in an area of active fracking after
      his previous well had become contaminated.

      In June of 2010, EOG Resources had a well blowout during the fracking process in Clearfield
      County, PA which flowed approximately 35,000 gallons of natural gas and fracking fluids onto
      the surrounding landscape and forested areas.” -frackingofamerica.com

      “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initially under an emergency administrative order
      forced three oil production companies operating on the Fort Peck Reservation, to reimburse the
      city of Poplar, MT for water infrastructure expenditures incurred as a result of drilling
      contamination
      .” -serc.carleton.edu

      One person is missing and four others are hospitalized after a gas well exploded in the
      southwestern province of Sichuan…The accident occurred at a gas well owned by the China
      National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in Dayi county in the city of Chengdu, the provincial
      capital, around 3:30 a.m. during a drilling operation… The fire was under control as of 9:40
      a.m. after the efforts of more than 100 firefighters.”

    CASE STUDY: COMPANY FINED THOUSANDS AFTER CONTAMINATING WATER

    [Excerpt from ‘Bradford County Blow-Out Costs Chesapeake More Than $250K‘ by Susan Phillips]

      “The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has levied the highest fine possible
      against Chesapeake Energy for three separate incidents. A blow-out in Bradford County, which
      made national news, will cost Chesapeake more than $250,000 in fines and reimbursements. Last
      May Chesapeake got hit with a $1million dollar fine for contaminating the water of 16
      households
      in Bradford County.

      The Oklahoma City-based company will also pay for contaminating a high-quality designated
      stream
      in Potter County with sediment. The sediment also entered water treatment filters in
      Galeton Borough. The company paid $190,000 to repair the water treatment facility. In North
      Towanda, Bradford County, the DEP says Chesapeake also allowed sediment to enter Sugar Creek.
      For all three incidents the DEP fined Chesapeake a total of $565,000.

      In a frack operation gone wrong, Chesapeake’s Atgas 2H well spilled ten thousand gallons of
      salty, chemical-laden fluid
      in Leroy Township last April. The frack water made its way into the
      Towanda Creek. Seven families were evacuated while Chesapeake workers and a private contractor
      from Texas took six days to bring the well under control.

      Kevin Sunday is a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.

      “We’ve since worked with Chesapeake to insure a commitment that they will have local well
      control responders on site in the event that there’s any further incidents,” says Sunday.

      The DEP says tests show no damage to the local groundwater. Chesapeake says no nearby private
      water wells were contaminated by the incident. But a November report issued by an arm of the
      Centers for Disease Control found high levels of salts and methane in a nearby residential
      water well
      . The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says the contaminants reflect
      gas drilling, but it wasn’t clear whether the spill was the source of the salts and methane.

      A statement released by the company says Chesapeake has cooperated with the DEP.

      “Chesapeake worked proactively with all appropriate regulatory agencies throughout the response
      and analysis of these incidents to achieve compliance, identify and implement operational
      improvements and ensure proper resolution,” said Brian Grove, senior director of Corporate
      Development for Chesapeake’s Eastern Division.

      Chesapeake also agreed to continued water testing and remediation at the sites.”

    EARTH QUAKES

      “Hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to unlock gas has been a hot-button issue, with
      concerns about the link to earthquakes. However, the fracking of the shale does not seem to be
      the main cause. There are about 35,000 fracked shale gas wells in the U.S., but, the report
      said, “hydraulic fracturing to date has been confirmed as the cause for felt, seismic events at
      one location in the world,” a weak but perceptible tremor in Blackpool, England.” -nationalgeographic.com

      The Blackpool tremors caused by fracking were 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. The
      geological factors unique to this experience were deemed “extremely rare”. -REUTERS

    HEALTH EFFECTS

    The exact health effects related to fracking activities is greatly understudied. The industry
    is known to cause air and water contamination which may impact human health. According to a
    recent UK review, health risk is low and can be mitigated with stringent safety guidelines.

      AIR

      We know that air pollution is an asthma trigger, particularly in young children, however,
      whether or not asthma and other pulmonary complaints are related to fracking activities
      specifically remains to be known.

      What we do know are the health effects associated with pollutants commonly emitted from fracturing facilities:
      “Among human health effects that have been associated with [pollutants linked with onshore
      oil and natural gas production] are cancer; cardiovascular, respiratory, neurologic,
      and developmental damage;
      and adverse outcomes such as premature mortality,
      emergency department visits, lost work and school days, and/or restricted activity
      days
      .” -ehp.niehs.nih.gov

      WATER

      Due to the high concentrations of methane gas and other contaminants found in wells near
      fracking sites, concerns about the industry’s effect on human health are growing. However, the
      exact effect of fracking related contamination on human health remains to be known.

      “Dissolved methane in drinking water is not currently classified as a health hazard and escapes
      quickly from water at low concentrations. High concentrations in air can create the risk of an
      explosion hazard in poorly ventilated or confined areas.” -all-llc.com

    Playground with gas well nearby. Photo: sierraclub.typepad.com

    Playing with gas well nearby. Photo: sierraclub.typepad.com

    METHANE (CH4)

    Natural gas is made up primarily of Methane (CH4). Methane emissions into the atmosphere are
    becoming increasingly regulated by environmental protection agencies because methane is an
    extremely potent greenhouse gas (i.e. a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere). Methane gas has
    also been found to contaminate ground water near fracking sites which poses an
    immediate danger to residents.

      “On a local scale, build up of methane poses an explosion hazard which can result in
      evacuation of areas over old landfills or mines. Compared to other volatile organic compounds
      (VOCs) methane does not contribute significantly to the formation of ground level ozone or
      photochemical smogs. The main impact of methane is on a global scale, as a greenhouse gas.
      Although levels of methane in the environment are relatively low, its high “global warming
      potential” (21 times that of carbon dioxide) ranks it amongst the worst of the
      greenhouse
      gases. -apps.sepa.org.uk

    CASE STUDY: HIGH OIL & GAS FIELD METHANE EMISSIONS, UTAH AND COLORADO

    [Excerpt from ‘Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas‘ by Jeff Tollefson]

      Scientists are once again reporting alarmingly high methane emissions from an oil and gas
      field, underscoring questions about the environmental benefits of the boom in natural-gas
      production that is transforming the US energy system.

      The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
      Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in
      February 2012 with a study suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near
      Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. If methane — a potent greenhouse gas — is leaking from
      fields across the country at similar rates, it could be offsetting much of the climate benefit
      of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.

      Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim, but at an American Geophysical
      Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new
      Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study
      in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9%
      of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from
      industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.

      “We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended
      the true magnitude of what we would see,” says Colm Sweeney, who led the aerial component of
      the study as head of the aircraft programme at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in
      Boulder.

      Whether the high leakage rates claimed in Colorado and Utah are typical across the US natural-
      gas industry remains unclear. The NOAA data represent a “small snapshot” of a much larger
      picture that the broader scientific community is now assembling, says Steven Hamburg, chief
      scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Boston, Massachusetts.

      The NOAA researchers collected their data in February as part of a broader analysis of air
      pollution in the Uinta Basin, using ground-based equipment and an aircraft to make detailed
      measurements of various pollutants, including methane concentrations. The researchers used
      atmospheric modelling to calculate the level of methane emissions required to reach those
      concentrations, and then compared that with industry data on gas production to obtain the
      percentage escaping into the atmosphere through venting and leaks.

      The results build on those of the earlier Colorado study in the Denver–Julesburg Basin, led by
      NOAA scientist Gabrielle Pétron (see Nature 482, 139–140; 2012). That study relied on pollution
      measurements taken in 2008 on the ground and from a nearby tower, and estimated a leakage rate
      that was about twice as high as official figures suggested. But the team’s methodology for
      calculating leakage — based on chemical analysis of the pollutants — remains in dispute.
      Michael Levi, an energy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, published a
      peer-reviewed comment2 questioning the findings and presenting an alternative interpretation of
      the data that would align overall leakage rates with previous estimates.

      Pétron and her colleagues have a defence of the Colorado study in press3, and at the AGU
      meeting she discussed a new study of the Denver–Julesburg Basin conducted with scientists at
      Picarro, a gas-analyser manufacturer based in Santa Clara, California. That study relies on
      carbon isotopes to differentiate between industrial emissions and methane from cows and
      feedlots, and the preliminary results line up with their earlier findings.

      A great deal rides on getting the number right. A study published in April by scientists at
      the EDF and Princeton University in New Jersey suggests that shifting to natural gas from coal-
      fired generators has immediate climatic benefits as long as the cumulative leakage rate from
      natural-gas production is below 3.2%; the benefits accumulate over time and are even larger if
      the gas plants replace older coal plants. By comparison, the authors note that the latest
      estimates from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that 2.4% of total natural-
      gas production was lost to leakage in 2009.

      To see if that number holds up, the NOAA scientists are also taking part in a comprehensive
      assessment of US natural-gas emissions, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and the
      EDF, with various industry partners. The initiative will analyse emissions from the production,
      gathering, processing, long-distance transmission and local distribution of natural gas, and
      will gather data on the use of natural gas in the transportation sector. In addition to
      scouring through industry data, the scientists are collecting field measurements at facilities
      across the country. The researchers expect to submit the first of these studies for publication
      by February, and say that the others will be complete within a year.

      In April, the EPA issued standards intended to reduce air pollution from hydraulic-fracturing
      operations — now standard within the oil and gas industry — and advocates say that more can be
      done, at the state and national levels, to reduce methane emissions. “There are clearly
      opportunities to reduce leakage,” says Hamburg.”

    METHANE WATER CONTAMINATION BY FRACKING SITES, PENNSYLVANIA & NY

    methanetap
    [Excerpt from ‘Methane Levels 17 Times Higher in Water Wells Near Hydrofracking Sites’ by Duke University]

      “A study by Duke University researchers has found high levels of leaked methane in well water
      collected near shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking sites. The scientists collected and
      analyzed water samples from 68 private groundwater wells across five counties in northeastern
      Pennsylvania and New York.

      They found no evidence of contamination from chemical-laden fracking fluids, which are injected
      into gas wells to help break up shale deposits, or from “produced water,” wastewater that is
      extracted back out of the wells after the shale has been fractured.

      The study appears this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National
      Academy of Sciences. It is the first peer-reviewed study to measure well-water contamination
      from shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking.

      “At least some of the homeowners who claim that their wells were contaminated by shale-gas
      extraction appear to be right,” says Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global
      Environmental Change and director of Duke’s Center on Global Change.

      “We found measurable amounts of methane in 85 percent of the samples, but levels were 17 times
      higher on average in wells located within a kilometer of active hydrofracking sites,” says
      Stephen Osborn, postdoctoral research associate at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
      The contamination was observed primarily in Bradford and Susquehanna counties in Pennsylvania.

      Water wells farther from the gas wells contained lower levels of methane and had a different
      isotopic fingerprint.

      “Methane is CH4. By using carbon and hydrogen isotope tracers we can distinguish between
      thermogenic methane, which is formed at high temperatures deep underground and is captured in
      gas wells during hydrofracking, and biogenic methane, which is produced at shallower depths and
      lower temperatures,” says Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality. Biogenic
      methane is not associated with hydrofracking.

      “Methane in water wells within a kilometer had an isotopic composition similar to thermogenic
      methane,” Vengosh says. “Outside this active zone, it was mostly a mixture of the two.”

      The researchers also compared the dissolved gas chemistry of water samples to the gas chemistry
      profiles of shale-gas wells in the region, using data released publicly by the Pennsylvania
      Department of Environmental Protection. “Deep gas has a distinctive chemical signature in its
      isotopes,” Jackson says. “When we compared the dissolved gas chemistry in well water to methane
      from local gas wells, the signatures matched.”

      Methane is flammable and poses a risk of explosion. In very high concentrations, it can cause
      asphyxiation. Little research has been conducted on the health effects of drinking methane-
      contaminated water. Methane isn’t regulated as a contaminant in public water systems under the
      EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

      Hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and
      chemicals deep underground into horizontal gas wells at high pressure to crack open
      hydrocarbon-rich shale and extract natural gas. Shale gas comprises about 15 percent of
      natural gas produced in the United States today. The Energy Information Administration
      estimates it will make up almost half of the nation’s production by 2035.

      The Duke team collected samples from counties overlying the Marcellus shale formation.
      Accelerated gas drilling and hydrofracking in the region in recent years has fueled concerns
      about well-water contamination by methane, produced water and fracking fluids, which contain a
      proprietary mix of chemicals that companies often don’t disclose.

      “Based on analysis of the 68 wells, we found no evidence of contamination from chemicals
      contained in fracking fluids and produced water,” Osborn says. Additional tests would expand
      the size of the sample, he says, and help further allay any unfounded concerns.”

    4. WASTEWATERS (coming soon)>>>>

    <<<<3. WELL INJECTION PART II: DRILLING

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    HEALTH EFFECTS
    http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/hf-report20121214.pdf#page=176 (water)
    http://www.npr.org/2012/05/16/151762133/medical-records-could-yield-answers-on-fracking (air)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/31/us-britain-health-fracking-idUSBRE99U0KX20131031 (UK)
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/how-fracking-is-bad-for-our-bodies/280384/ (news)

    AIR POLLUTION
    http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a272/ (contaminants, greenhouse gases)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/18/us-usa-fracking-emissions-idUSBRE83H0UH20120418 (2015 no flares)
    http://www.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch13/final/c13s05.pdf (EPA industrial flares)
    http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/fracking/whats-wrong-with-fracking-2/air-pollution/ (bad air pollution)

    WATER CONTAMINATION
    http://energypolicyforum.org/2013/01/04/canadian-government-confirms-contamination-of-groundwater-from-hydraulic-fracturing/ (confirmed groundwater contamination)
    http://www.nrdc.org/water/fracking-drinking-water.asp (NRDC)
    http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3677 (USGS)
    http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/hydrofracking/methane-levels-17-times-higher-in-water-wells-near-hydrofracking-sites (methane)
    http://www.fractracker.org/2013/05/welimpactsmap/ (MAP, suspected well impacts)
    http://www.eenews.net/special_reports/overflow (spills, maps, accidents)
    http://www.all-llc.com/e107_files/public/methane_bsp.pdf (all-llc, best practices)
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/10/09/AB-Regulator-Fracking-Suit/ (lawsuit)

    what is METHANE?
    http://apps.sepa.org.uk/spripa/Pages/SubstanceInformation.aspx?pid=65 (SEPA, general info)
    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html (greenhouse gases)
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/methane/lavelle-text (all about)

    EARTHQUAKES
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/02/us-gas-fracking-idUSTRE7A160020111102 (REUTERS)
    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13355 (research needed)

    ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
    http://frackingofamerica.com/ (overview)
    http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123 (methane)
    http://www.all-llc.com/publicdownloads/ArthurHydrFracPaperFINAL.pdf (all-llc)
    http://www.healthcanal.com/environmental-health/34330-fracking-in-michigan-u-m-researchers-study-potential-impact-on-health-environment-economy.html (UM study)
    http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/fracking-update-what-states-are-doing.aspx (USA regulation)

    FRACKING PROCESS
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/101022-breaking-fuel-from-the-rock/ (interactive)
    http://www.halliburton.com/public/projects/pubsdata/Hydraulic_Fracturing/disclosures/interactive.html (interactive)
    http://exploreshale.org/ (interactive)

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