I’m interested in finding out what unbiased, responsible sources are available regarding shale gas drilling. The websites I’ve found most helpful in trying to understand the risks and opportunities involved are these:
I realize that community groups opposing fracking might be considered biased, but from what I can tell, most communities in shale gas territory started out supportive. In places where that has changed, as in Sharon, TX, it might be useful to understand why. But I’d be interested to hear recommendations.
Your statement, "Unless you deal with something everyday you probably don't know much about it." definitely applies to the oil and gas industry. Most people don't really understand either the technology or the industry. When they hear stories about animals dying or houses blowing up as a result of drilling operations, it's difficult to put this story into perspective, and to realize that it is a rare occurrence and an indicator that safety precautions were not followed or someone made a mistake. There wouldn't be so many vehicle accidents, if people didn't make mistakes all the time. The oil and gas industry is no different from any other human endeavor. There will be the occasional screw-up.
Regarding the environment movement and fracking, the word isn't even spelled the same way as it is in the industry (fracing). I've noticed that when industry people talk about this term, they actually mean hydraulic fracturing which has an exact technical definition. In other words, they use the term appropriately--so-called "fractivists", not so much. They often use it as a play on words, like "Frack-no". We all know its other meaning. Also, there is a Battlestar Galactica allusion. Think of it as a rallying cry, a slogan, or an expression of rudeness. Since, natural gas is popular for home heating in the northeast, and power companies use it to generate electricity, it's not like people feel that they have much choice about using this commodity. However, the little bit of control they can exercise is to say they don't want it drilled for in their backyard. In other words, we're talking serious NIMBYism. (Not In My Back Yard). They want the benefits of cheap, clean natural gas without having to put up with the inconvenience (occasional bad smells, noise, traffic congestion, etc.) and infrequent, although unpleasant, industrial accidents that occur whenever any heavy industry moves into an area. Can you blame them?
A house did not blow up in Dimock; the determination has been that a build up of gas had blown the cover off the water well. (Fiorentino). Did drilling cause the buildup? I don't know where I stand on that - some people say "yes", some people say "no". That's one of those issues in Dimock when there may be more to the story than just what is being told on both sides.
FYI Plenty of the houses in Dimock had vents installed for the release of built up methane - prior to drilling or fraccing.
You're probably right. I didn't remember many of the specifics. That's why I phrased it as a questions (as in, "didn't a house blow up?") Somehow these stories always get a lot more dramatic the more times they're told--it's the stuff of urban legends Mark was talking about. Here's all I have in Wikimarcellus about the incident. I know a lot more has been written about it, but I had a difficult time sorting out fact from fiction. Earlier I was writing extemporaneously and should have chosen my words more carefully. My apologies.
Tom, please, I hope you realize I wasn't jumping on you! You are one of the strong voices of reason on this forum. I see you approach things with such balance. My apologies if I it even bordered on an accusation towards you.
No, it's fine. Reviewing some of your other posts, and Mark's too, have convinced me that you guys have followed this story much closer than I, so I must defer. It also shows how easy it is to jump to conclusions, and the importance of keeping an open mind. Thank you for the compliment.
At the time the incident occurred, media reports said it blew the wellhead into pieces which were "strewn throughout the yard". However, a picture I found in one of the news articles (one which I can't seem to find now-sorry) shows the well head, yes cracked in two or three places, but still over the well.
Is there any actual evidence this was caused by drilling? From what I have been able to find, no...
Sworn affidavits given by two of the emergency responders show that when they arrived, they found a concrete slab that had apparently “moved off the well” (per the affidavit), saw no evidence of a fire or incendiary explosion, and no damage inside the well itself. Checks of the well pit and all surrounding buildings found no gas, also according to the affidavits. (http://www.cabotog.com/pdfs/Tab3.pdf)
Before new regulations were put into place regarding testing distances from local water supplies, the PA DEP could claim identification of migrating gas as being from wells using “presumptive guilt”, based only on proximity to the well. See page 4 of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Act: A Summary of Statutory Provisions dated March 2009, Section 208: Protection of Water Supplies (58 P.S. § 601.208) http://law.psu.edu/_file/aglaw/SummaryOfPennsylvaniaOilAndGasAct.pdf: which states, in part, “There is a rebuttable presumption that a polluted water supply located within 1,000 feet of a well is caused by the well.”
An explanation of their determination of guilt in a November 4, 2009 Consent Order and Settlement Agreement (COSA) which states (page 3-4, articles J-K). Starting in January 2009 PA DEP collected samples from water wells which showed elevated levels of dissolved methane as well as identified combustible gas in the headspaces of some of those water wells. Based upon those findings, and those findings alone, because all of the water supplies were within 1,300 or less feet of a Cabot well and because those wells were drilled within the preceding six months, PA regulations deemed a determination of guilt could be made.
After the initial COSA was established, Cabot hired their own independent consultant to perform an investigation as per the State statutes said they could. According to a review of data on the same wells determined to be problematic by PA DEP, Robert W. Watson, Ph.D./P.E. and Associate Professor Emeritus of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering and Environmental Systems Engineering, etc. etc., concluded that Cabot was using procedures for drilling, casing and cementing wells even at that time which met or exceeded the requirements of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Act, were adequate to protect the drinking water, and which did not cause or allow methane migration into the drinking water. (http://www.cabotog.com/pdfs/Dr_Bob_Watson_WhitePaper_101010.pdf - page 2 and again in the Conclusion on page 5). This fell on deaf ears.
If there is one important lesson learned from Dimock (and ensuing regulations) was the importance of initial baseline water tests - I believe the newest regulations signed into law last week call for testing 3,000 feet out. This protects both the landowners and gas companies alike.
As far as there being naturally occurring contaminants in the area, old-timers can tell you stories from years ago about lighting areas of the creek on water as well as drinking fountains from the old high school. See some of their signed affidavits here: http://www.cabotog.com/pdfs/Tab1.pdf
Mark, thank you, but I only try to add what I can. There are a lot of misconceptions about Dimock as well as what Cabot did and didn't do. Sometimes it can be hard to sort through all of it, but I have had the proximity and the good fortune to make friends who live in the Consent Order area. It is only through their patience with me that I have learned through them. The media is in it only for the "human interest" side which sells their papers and environmental groups are only interested in using it for their own purposes of killing the drill. They could care less about the actual facts, as long as it keeps serving their purposes of placing that shadow of a doubt on the safety of hydraulic fracturing or drilling.
Caveat: many of these documents are from Cabot's website, but they are included in the legal documents they have submitted in this case.
There's still testing going on in Dimock. But the Tudor Pickering report Sherry recommended ( http://www.scribd.com/doc/34109245/TPH-Report-on-Fracing ) makes an interesting point: the industry keeps saying "fracing doesn't impact water sources," but in fact there are situations where faulty well casings, spills, or other careless behavior HAVE contaminated water. Which, if it's denied, or companies give people the runaround when they're trying figure out what's happening, leads to mistrust, and a lot of anger. The report lists some examples (pp. 23-24 I think), and suggests the industry would do itself a big favor by being faster to offer assistance to those who complain. Saying "no evidence" when there are growing clusters of households impacted just makes people say "Okay, shut the whole thing down." I'm not sure anyone benefits when that happens.
Carol have you ever thought that those that might have supposedly changed their mind might have taken a attitude of revenge against big oil due to their own fault? Where a person for an example thought that overnight they would be wealthy and find out that the well was not going to be put into production right away.
Have you ever considered people in a oil and gas development area have a tendency to become employed with oil & gas but find that a O&G company will not keep pot heads or speed freals on a payroll?
I saw one anti fracker state their bulldog was killed by ethyol glycol and tried to tie it to fracking. Ever though the dog might have been a terror and a neighbor gave it some anti freeze? By the way I saw where someone had stated a well was fracked with I think it was 38 gallons of ethyl glycol. I also believe they used like 30,000 gallons of water in the same frack. All most a 1 to 1000 ratio. In comparison most vehicles use a 50/50 mix, some semis run even higher antifreeze ratios and have cooing systems that hold 1o gallons or more !
So say the school had a we bit of ethyl glycol as ground contamination at one part per thousand and of course it rains and we say 1 acre is 6,272,640 square inches. Since you want to cover it one inch deep you need 6,272,640 cubic inches of water. There are 231 cubic inches in a gallon. So divide 6,272,640 by 231 and you get 27,154.2857 gallons!
Thought I'd through that at ya so here is another facinating consideration the big scare of water use.
One driil pad of 640 acres in one thunderstorm getting one inch of rain will have over 17 MILLION GALLONS of Waterfall on it. I think the water usage fear has been debunked as well.
I'm sure there are some who have bogus claims and complaints, but I'm thinking of people like Ron Gulla - http://www.marcellus-shale.us/Ron-Gulla.htm . He worked in the industry, leased his land, and now is a very strong anti-fracking advocate. Or the Hollowitch family http://www.marcellus-shale.us/Stephanie-Hallowich.htm
I went to my first shale gas meeting last fall, just wanting to find out more, and met farmers with sick animals, sick kids, and no response from the gas companies drilling just feet from the edge of their land. They were not environmentalists, activists, or pot heads, just hard working people whose way of life is no longer possible because of mistakes by gas companies moving too fast. They may be in the minority - but blaming the victims isn't helpful.
Mark, I think the fearmongering happens when complaints are ignored, or people with real concerns are called liars, or communities feel like they have no control and no recourse. I'm not sure I know what a "far left enviro-statist" is - so sorry if my sites seem to present that point of view. They looked fairly balanced to me -
And I do know that there are quite a few people, in PA at least, who have tried to make calm reasonable contact with o&g companies and had no success - especially if they're not willing to sign forms saying no one is responsible. And I also know that Governor Corbett's refusal to meet with or talk with groups of concerned citizens has fueled much of the energy against hydraulic fracturing. If his original advisory commission had included a wider representative of stakeholders, we'd be in a very different place, with a lot less frustration on all sides.
Mark, I'm curious which specific site you consider conjectural or "urban legend." The initial sites I mentioned have reference to a wide mix of studies, and my two more recent posts do include some first person testimony from people impacted, but since they give their names, locations, and detailed specifics, I wouldn't consider that "anecdotal."
Here's just a sampling of links from fractracker - hardly urben legend stuff. You may not agree with their conclusions, but that's different. And you may say "who is behind that study?" but then I'd have to say the same about the studies you post -which won't get us very far.
¨ Duke U. Study: Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing. Read more (available via ProPublica.org)
¨ Human Health Effects of Oil & Gas Development: Dr. Roxana Witter & her colleagues recently published a research study & a white paper on the human health effects of oil & gas development. While more research is needed to properly assess risk, Witter said volatile organic compounds churned into the atmosphere by the industry present risks that are well-known.
Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations, by Cornell’s Robert Howarth, Renee Santoro and Anthony Ingraffea. Link
¨ Modeling Simultaneous Growth of Multiple Hydraulic Fractures and Their Interaction With Natural Fractures: Olson and Dahi-Taleghani. Read more
¨ Natural Gases in Ground Water: 2007 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Scientific Investigations Report — As of 2005, methane gas was leaking into water wells near Tioga Junction, Tioga County, North Central PA. Household-supply well water tests found concentrations of dissolved methane as high as 92 mg/L, which posed a significant safety hazard. The USGS with the PADEP investigated this problem & identified the likely source to be gas leaking from the Tioga gas-storage field, where a depleted gas reservoir had been converted into an underground storage area for non-native gases. Read more
¨ Evaluation of Slurry Injection Technology for Management of Drilling Wastes: PDF
I'm curious about the issue of methane contamination of drinking water mentioned in Carol's first reference. My limited understanding of this Duke report is there were design flaws in the study which compromised the ability to generalize on the basis of its results. The Duke researchers found a positive correlation between the proximity of drinking water wells with concentrations of dissolved methane to neighboring hydro-fractured natural gas wells. However, the study did not adequately correct for naturally occurring methane in the areas where the study took place and there were other sampling issues involved too.
My real question is what do people/homeowners do about naturally-occurring methane in their drinking water? Is there technology out there for removing it? My understanding is that when drinking water containing methane is disinfected with chlorine, it forms carcinogenic trihalomethanes as by-product. It is probably a good idea to get rid of any methane should it be in your drinking water well--regardless of the source--and not to drink it when you're chlorinating your water to disinfect. How do well owner's usually deal with this issue?