Yesterday, the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin released the results of a study the environmentalist nuts won’t like at all.
Hydraulic fracturing in shale formations “has no direct connection” to groundwater contamination, a study released Thursday concluded.
The study, conducted by the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, found that many problems attributed to hydraulic fracturing “are related to processes common to all oil and gas drilling operations,” such as drilling pipe inadequately cased in concrete.
Many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale drilling and not from hydraulic fracturing, Charles “Chip” Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the project, said in a statement.
“These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing,” Groat said. In hydraulic fracturing, a mix of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into a well under high pressure to help release natural gas and oil from shale rock.
In other words, the study confirmed what the oil and gas industry has been saying for years – namely, that fracking a well simply cannot contaminate groundwater. That’s because wells which are fracked are cased in steel and concrete well below the lowest levels where underground water might be found.
This video, put together for a drilling company working in Canada, shows the fracking process. As you can see, you don’t mix fracking fluids with underground aquifers as part of the process.
And this one, put together by Chesapeake Energy, shows in a little greater detail how fracking fuild is prepared and distributed in a well.
The long and short of it is that the fracking process necessarily segregates fracking fluid – which is pretty much all water and sand anyway – from groundwater aquifers. And that’s what the UT study confirmed. That’s not to say human error can’t cause a spill and therefore release something, but mishaps can occur in pretty much any context of human behavior. Just look at the spill this morning from a collision of an oil tanker barge in the Mississippi River; we’re not going to put a moratorium on shipping in that river just because of one accident.
The study was pretty broad. It covered three of the largest shale plays – the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and New York, the Barnett in North Texas and the Haynesville here in Louisiana. Same story in all three places.
Justin Furnace, president of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, said the study “echoes what we as an association have been saying: The process is very safe and has been in place for 60 years.”
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, said he hasn’t seen the study, but “the fact of the matter is there has not been one contaminated well from the hydraulic fracturing process, not one.”
“It’s been over 50 years this thing has been going on, and there hasn’t been one documented case. This study seems to say just exactly what the record has said, basically it’s human error or something that’s common to all drilling operations,” he said.
Comically enough, the loons at the Environmental Defense Fund helped the UT researchers set up the study’s scope and methodology. That hardly stopped the anti-fracking folks from screaming.
“We need to know more about the study,” said Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger of Cuero, who has organized community meetings in DeWitt County because she’s concerned about hydraulic fracturing.
“It’s difficult for researchers to be objective if their university receives a lot of grants and funds from the industry,” she said. “How many grants does that university get from oil and gas operations?”
Scott Anderson of the Austin office of the EDF wrote in a blog that although the study didn’t confirm any cases of drinking water contamination caused by fracking, that “does not mean such contamination is impossible or that hydraulic fracturing chemicals can’t get loose in the environment in other ways (such as through spills of produced water).”
The study mentions there are ways “natural gas development that can pose significant environmental risk,” he wrote.
Which is hilarious. EDF helped set the parameters of the study, then when it was executed and the results came back they’re left to say “yeah, but somebody could spill something at some point and that would be bad.”
Fracking is not an environmental hazard regardless of what the Chicken Littles out there might say. Fracking also doesn’t need to be regulated by the federal government, since you drill a hole in the ground in a particular place and that place will be within a state – and regardless of the state you’re in, there’s a state agency available to regulate your drilling.
The UT study proves this, and it’s time for the environmentalist loons to find something else to howl about.