With your help, we’ve set the record straight on all the media’s misleading reporting.
Noise from the Mainstream…
Fracking wastewater contaminated — and likely radioactive
The concentrations of radium Vengosh and his team detected are higher than those found in some radioactive waste dumps, and exceed the minimum threshold the federal government uses to qualify a disposal site as a radioactive dump site, Vengosh told LiveScience.
INSTANT FACT CHECK: Energy in Depth’s Katie Brown has posted a response to the water analysis study— pointing out, among other things, that members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition stopped using the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in May 2011, that some samples were taken close to the discharge source, and that the levels of radioactivity were well below industrial discharge limits.
While the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility removes some of the radium from the wastewater, the metal accumulates in the sediment, at dangerously high levels, he added. Radium can make its way into the food chain by first accumulating in insects and small animals, and then moving on to larger animals, like fish, when they consume the insects and smaller animals, Vengosh added. But it’s not known to what extent this is happening, since this study didn’t address that question, he said.
“The occurrence of radium is alarming — this is a radioactive constituent that is likely to increase rates of genetic mutation” and poses “a significant radioactive health hazard for humans,” said William Schlesinger, a researcher and president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y., who wasn’t involved in the study. Researchers say they are sure the contaminants are coming from fracking because the Josephine facility treats this oil and gas wastewater, and the water contains the same chemical signature as rocks in the Marcellus Shale Formation, Vengosh said. This wastewater is often called “flowback,” as it’s the water that flows back to the surface from underground after being injected into rocks in the fracking process. In Pennsylvania, some of this water is transported by oil and gas companies to treatment locations such as the Josephine facility, where it is processed and released into streams and rivers. However, much of the water used in fracking is treated by oil and gas companies and reused, or injected into deep wells, said Lisa Kasianowitz, an information specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The treatment facility did remove some contaminants, including some of the radium, though enough made it through to accumulate in high levels in sediments, Vengosh said. It also “did nothing” to remove certain salts, like bromide, he said. Traditional wastewater plants are not built to remove these contaminants, he added.
State-funded study projects dramatic increase in emissions from oil and gas development by 2018.
What might the oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas look like in 2018? A newly released but largely unnoticed study commissioned by the state of Texas makes some striking projections. These projections are included in a study prepared by scientists with the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) in San Antonio and paid for by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The study was designed to determine the extent to which oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford region is contributing to rising ozone levels in the San Antonio metropolitan area, which lies north of much of the drilling. San Antonio’s ozone readings have violated federal air quality standards since August 2012, making the city vulnerable to sanctions under the Clean Air Act.
- The number of wells drilled in the 20,000-square-mile region could quadruple, from about 8,000 today to 32,000.
- Oil production could leap from 363 million barrels per year to as much as 761 million.
- Airborne releases of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could increase 281 percent during the peak ozone season compared to 2012 emissions. VOCs, commonly found at oil and gas production sites, can cause respiratory and neurological problems. Some, like benzene, can cause cancer.
- Nitrogen oxides—which react with VOCs in sunlight to create ground-level ozone, the main component of smog—could increase 69 percent during the peak ozone season.
The study’s findings also have implications beyond San Antonio. In February, the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel produced a series of reports about air quality in the Eagle Ford and found that the Texas regulatory system does more to protect the gas and oil industry than the public.
INSTANT FACT CHECK: Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter criticized the InsideClimate/CPI report on the Eagle Ford during a panel discussion this week in Dallas, defending the work that state regulators do to protect the public while also dismissing the authors of the report for being opposed to oil and gas development.
The TCEQ has installed only five permanent air monitors in the region, which is nearly twice the size of Massachusetts, and all of them are on the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
Studies, facts & expert feedback from the industry…
From the U.S. Department of Energy
Preliminary data finds no link to water supply contamination
Washington Post: The leading federal research effort into the controversial drilling method known as fracking has turned up no evidence so far linking the process to water contamination — a connection continually drawn by many environmentalist critics along with some Democrats in Congress. Department of Energy research, being conducted at a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in western Pennsylvania, thus far has shown that chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing practice have stayed thousands of feet below drinking-water supplies. The fracking boom has led to a massive surge in U.S. natural gas supplies and is helping to rewrite the global balance of power among energy suppliers. But there are many detractors, who say fracking is dangerous for the environment. Specifically, they argue that the practice is inherently harmful to water supplies. Such claims formed the basis of the recent documentary “Gasland 2,” a highly critical look at fracking and its impacts in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Recent research from the federal government and state officials, however, indicates that fracking — when done correctly and in line with proper rules and environmental regulations — is safe. In addition to these initial results from the Energy Department, there was a determination in April of 2013 by Pennsylvania investigators that fracking isn’t to blame for high methane levels in three families’ drinking water in a northern Pennsylvania town.
From Energy in Depth
Activism and Deception Underlie Weather Channel’s Eagle Ford Shale Report
A new investigative report by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity – promoted and produced by the Weather Channel – concludes that shale development in south Texas is “releasing a toxic soup of chemicals into the air.” But shaky research underlying the report raises serious questions about the validity of those claims, including the use of widely discredited literature promoted by activist groups. The InsideClimate/CPI report claims that, despite complaints from residents in the Eagle Ford Shale region, regulators have done little to nothing to protect them. The facts, as they say, tell a much different story.
With great reporting from Energy in Depth’s Steve Everley, we have a compiles a list of ten claims made in the InsideClimate/CPI report and in excerpts from the Weather Channel video, each followed by an explanation of reality. Link to this post at OilmanMagazine.com. It’s pretty entertaining.
JOSEPH DeWOODY The argument that Hydraulic Fracturing contaminates drinking water is completely unmerited and without any scientific evidence. The typical rock formation that requires hydraulic fracturing to achieve commercial oil and gas production is thousands of feet below the average depths of fresh water rock or aquifers. Between the fresh water and the potential productive zones are multiple strata of solid rock that are often times very low in permeability and porosity. The oil and gas industry is a highly regulated industry. Operators are required by state regulatory agencies to set adequate casing and cement to protect the annulus of the wellbore and prevent any communication of the fracs and the fresh water zones. Each frac is extensively monitored throughout the process to make sure that the frac is completed properly to produce the most hydrocarbon and provide an economic return for the operator. Even if it was possible for a frac to break through thousands of feet of rock under the pressure of massive amounts of gravity and weight and reach fresh water, the economic interest of the operator would be to ensure that it did not.
Joseph P. DeWoody (@jpdewoody) is the president of Clear Fork Royalty, an oil and gas royalty investment company located in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Fracking has helped this nation by unlocking vast resources of oil and gas, to make our country more secure and have a stronger economy by providing thousands of jobs.” James Oestreich – Landman, Devon Energy
“Our economy job base is held up by our recent surge in oil & gas exploration, mostly due to hydraulic fracturing.” Russ Didlake – Manager, Pike Energy, LLC
“Hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades. It is only until now that the successful combination of it with directional drilling that has exponentially grown the ability to exploit our bountiful hydrocarbon resources that the pseudo-environmental crowd has deemed it “dangerous.” The plight of hydraulic fracturing is eerily similar to what happened with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), which the government regulated refiners to produce an oxygenate to replace lead (tetra-ethyl) and therefore clean the air. Then it was banned when faulty underground gasoline tanks leaked and polluted the water. It wasn’t really the MTBE that did the damage; it was the old and leaky gasoline tanks. And don’t get me started on the replacement for MTBE: ethanol!! At the end of the day, like any industrial operation, there are risks involved. But if the contractor performing the hydraulic fracturing ensures proper techniques, it is a proven safe operation.” Steven McGinn – Energy Researcher, OTR Global
“From a Pipeliner’s point of view, the only noticeable effect from hydraulic fracturing operations I observed was an occasional leak in an aboveground spoil water tank, where earthen levees we unsecured or not compacted. Minor leaks from a single tank out of hundreds. This Nation needs the oil & gas captured by whatever modern means we can devise. There’s an older field just south of Houston, Texas, where CO2 gas is piped from an extinct volcano in Mississippi then pumped into this field to extract surprisingly huge amounts of crude & gas…will CO2 be the next media villain? Hydraulic fracturing creates jobs, drives technology, bolsters crude reserves and contributes to national strength.” Steven Ray Estes – Boundary & Pipeline Survey Specialist, Eagleton Engineering LLC
“Because of Hydraulic Fracturing, natural gas is abundant and inexpensive. Utilizing the technology of hydraulic fracturing has produced a direct, unquestioned, effect of lowering green house gases in the United States. My vision is lowering green house gases around the world; with more US natural gas exported to make a beneficial change on the world’s environment. In addition, the transportation sector is the second largest producer of green house gases. Converting more cars, trucks and busses to natural gas will greatly improve our environment.” James Duerr, Director of Sales & Marketing at SandCan LLC
“Most people don’t realize that the oil and gas industry has been fracking since World War II. The first applications of hydraulic fracturing were used 65 years ago in Stephens County, Oklahoma. We’ve been employing this technique ever since, a fact conveniently omitted by anti-development alarmists who want to make fracking seem unproven and unsafe. As an industry, we need to do a better job communicating the long history of safe, proven success that we’ve had with hydraulic fracturing so that the general public understands that this isn’t an untested process.” Shane M. Saunders, MBA – President, Trident Energy, Inc.
“Mainstream media is concerned with narrowed knowledge of oil and natural gas structure and operations because of assorted patterns of interaction formed by insufficient conditions of justified oil and natural gas knowledge. The problem is what makes justified beliefs justified and how can mainstream media become justified in the oil and natural gas industry…only to provide a solid foundation of knowledge justified as true belief through incorporating various organizational structures and social reinforcement to support oil and natural gas knowledge claims.” Mike Thomas – Pipeline Inspector