Frack attacks are clearly off target

As modern drilling techniques have moved eastward, to states like Pennsylvania and New York, more and more people and environmental groups have raised concerns about the practice of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking.

But, in fact, there is increasing evidence — and growing consensus — that fracking isn’t the culprit in contaminated groundwater near natural gas wells. Poor well construction is.

That’s a gusher of a difference.

If poorly cemented wells are the reason that chemicals sometimes leach into groundwater aquifers, that’s a correctable issue. Strictly enforced standards on well construction and better oversight are the answer.

It doesn’t suggest, as some fracking critics contend, that the process itself is flawed and a threat to water supplies.

Fracking involves forcing a combination of water, sand and selected chemicals — under pressure — into drill holes to fracture rocks and release gas and, increasingly, oil.

The process has been used for decades, but has become more and more important — along with directional drilling — in allowing the recovery of deposits of gas and oil that previously weren’t productive. The oil in North Dakota’s massive Bakken Formation is being recovered using fracking techniques.

Fracking has been a widely used practice in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado for 15 years or more, with few problems. Only lately has it been adopted to shale formations in other parts of the country. And that has led to new complaints that fracking is a threat to water supplies.

But, as an article in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday noted, a growing group of experts and some environmental leaders are coming to view well construction, not fracking, as the problem.

“The groundwater pollution incidents that have come to light to date have all been caused by well construction problems,” A. Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Journal.

Also, the most famous report that purported to find a link between fracking and water pollution is being re-examined.

Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report on aquifer pollution in a Wyoming natural gas field. It concluded chemicals associated with fracking had reached the aquifer, probably as a direct result of fracking.

But industry officials and the state of Wyoming quickly took issue with the EPA report, questioning both its methodology and its conclusions. Last week, the EPA announced it will work with Wyoming and two American Indian tribes to retest the aquifer and “clarify” questions about previous tests. It will also work with other agencies to improve its testing methods.

Those who rushed to the judgment that fracking is the problem need to re-examine their conclusions. Meanwhile, industry officials and state oversight agencies nationwide must work to ensure wells are properly constructed and cemented. And they must make it known that companies which take shortcuts and put water supplies at risk will be punished severely.


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Let’s examine what was said.
Immediately starting with a premise, “… fracking isn’t the culprit in contaminated groundwater near natural gas wells. Poor well construction is.”
Then, the answer of how to correct poor construction is given – not complete but rendered as if a ‘solve all’.
This is a fallacy of assumption that the premise is correct, not proven correct, but assumed.
Then the writer(s) contend fracking is not flawed and a threat to water. They go on to recite where and when fracking has been used and some changing expert views.

It is not a simple yes or no involved here.

Poor well construction does indeed put contamination in the water. But so does the fracking. Look at each in turn.
a. Poor well construction.
The ‘culprit’ here is generally the annulus or space between gas pipe and drilled hole. Hydro carbons here migrate from well plug up to last casing or beyond. If the drilling went through a fault, it will follow the fault also. The genie is out of the bottle.
If the well plug is faulty, then the frack zone leaks hydrocarbons into the annulus, including frack fluids and ‘production’ water besides the hydrocarbons. The fracking process can cause this breech just like it breaks the rock. This cement plug can also shrink or just be sufficient for test pressure and then blow under frack pressure.
This should read in high Bradenhead pressures and be an indicator and companies are supposed to report this, but as you can see if a fault is bleeding off the contamination, the pressure won’t show.
b. Fracking (and yes, it is flawed).
The culprit in this case is generally is the fracking intersects faults and/or formation anomalies. Sometimes, as the attempt is made to maximize yields, fracking extends upper ‘so called’ seal formations. This more common in shallow wells ( and they are at all kinds of depths – not just thousands of feet as claimed) and fracks go vertical because of sufficient overburden pressure. They can also penetrate an “over” formation because it is slanting to one side or other of the well bore. These formations may be salt water “basements” of potable water above and an aquifer because of porosity.
The frack may just penetrate a nearby fault.
In the Divide Creek Seep, it appears both a. and b. occurred.  After all remediation of a faulty plug, the seep was only reduced to about 50%. Unknown hydrocarbons also surfaced, but agencies would not test them according to an observer. On the Pavillion EPA study, it appeared a. and b. occurred with contamination of ‘basement’ waters leading the hydrocarbons floating to the potable waters. The indicator here was the presence of frack unique fluids.

Besides the faulty assumption to a conclusion shifting guilt to ‘one over the other’, they are both present. Truly, two wrongs don’t make a right!

Note: Chevron does ‘top to bottom’ cementing as practice.

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