Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development


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A summary of research done by a team at the University of Texas, headed by Dr. Charles Groat. The research shows (proves) that hydraulic fracturing in shale formations has not and does not pollute groundwater. The full study is titled "Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development".

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  • Apparently not nearly enough 'separation'...
    Interesting this compromised 'study' is still here in 2013. Is there mention anywhere of the resignation of this lead investigator, Groat? Back in December 2012? This followed an investigation that found conflicts of interest...


    'The head of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin resigned following an investigation that found conflicts of interest in a study on the risks of natural gas drilling.'
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Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development

  1. 1. SeparatingFac tFROM teION FiSc l Gas In ha Development A report By
  2. 2. Assessing the Real and Perceived Consequences of Shale Gas Development t h e a st on ish ing su rge in domestic natural gas production, brought on by the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, has transformed the outlook for U.S. energy. Conservative estimates project the use of these techniques in shale gas development will all but assure a clean and affordable natural gas supply for generations to come, creating new jobs and enhancing our nation’s energy security. That sanguine view has been tempered, Marcellus Shale, in Pennsylvania, New however, by concerns that hydraulic York and portions of Appalachia; and the fracturing may contaminate groundwater Haynesville Shale, in western Louisiana and and pose other threats to public health. northeast Texas. While little evidence exists directly linking the practice to environmental harm, such The Energy Institute team investigated fears have ignited a controversy that has an array of issues related to shale gas dominated public discourse on the issue. development, including groundwater In fact, some areas have halted shale gas contamination, toxicity of hydraulic development altogether, at least temporarily. fracturing fluids, surface spills, atmospheric emissions, water use, drilling waste In response, the Energy Institute at The disposal, blowouts, and road traffic and University of Texas at Austin funded an noise. independent study of hydraulic fracturing in shale gas development to inject science into The goal of this research is to provide a highly charged emotional debate. policymakers a fact-based foundation upon which they can formulate rational For this study, the Energy Institute regulatory policies that ensure responsible assembled an interdisciplinary team of shale gas development. university experts to examine a broad array of issues associated with hydraulic fracturing in three prominent shale plays — the Barnett Shale, in north Texas; the2 | Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute
  3. 3. Fact-Based Regulation forEnvironmental Protection inShale Gas DevelopmentFor this study, the Energy Institute at TheUniversity of Texas at Austin assembled ateam of experts with broad experience and Dr. Charles “Chip” Groatexpertise, from geology and environmentallaw to public affairs and communications.In addition to university faculty, theEnvironmental Defense Fund was actively “Our mission is toinvolved in developing the scope of workand methodology for this study, andreviewed final work products. alter the trajectoryUnder the leadership of Institute Associate of public discourseDirector Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat,researchers examined three critical areas in a positive manner,related to shale gas development: • Environmental and health effects as exemplified in our related to all phases of shale gas development in the Barnett, Marcellus credo — good policy and Haynesville shale plays, including hydraulic fracturing, groundwater based on good science.” contamination and air emissions. Where problems were reported, researchers determined the actual Dr. Raymond L. Orbach cause of problems, based on a review Director, Energy Institute The University of Texas at Austin of scientific and other literature. • Public perceptions of shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, The following pages provide an as well as the tone of popular media — overview of key findings from the positive, negative, or neutral. Energy Institute’s study. • State and federal regulations related to shale gas development, including an For the complete report visit: analysis of individual states’ capacity to enforce existing regulations.The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development | 3
  4. 4. Scientific Investigation into Groundwater Contamination and Other Environmental Impacts the public debate over hydraulic development until additional research fracturing in shale gas production has is conducted. been marked by fears that the process will contaminate groundwater. Concerns also For this report, the Energy Institute have been raised that underground methane research team focused on reports of releases are contaminating water wells. groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts of shale gas Though little scientific evidence exists to exploration and production in states support such claims, policymakers in some within the Barnett, Marcellus and areas have banned the practice, and others Haynesville shales. have imposed moratoriums on shale gas Key findings: • Researchers found no evidence • Methane found in water wells of aquifer contamination from within some shale gas areas hydraulic fracturing chemicals (e.g., Marcellus) can most likely in the subsurface by fracturing be traced to natural sources, and operations, and observed no likely was present before the onset leakage from hydraulic fracturing of shale gas operations. at depth. • Surface spills of fracturing fluids • Many reports of groundwater appear to pose greater risks to contamination occur in groundwater sources than from conventional oil and gas hydraulic fracturing itself. operations (e.g., failure of well-bore casing and cementing) • Blowouts — uncontrolled fluid and are not unique to hydraulic releases during construction or fracturing. operation — are a rare occurrence, but subsurface blowouts appear to be under-reported.4 | Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute
  5. 5. Regulation ofShale Gas Developmentresearchers surveyed federal and The research team also examined severalstate laws and regulations related to shale exemptions of shale gas development fromgas development in 16 states that have or are federal environmental laws, includingexpected to have shale gas production. This the Resource Conservation and Recoveryanalysis covered all major phases of the Act, the Comprehensive Environmental,shale gas lifecycle — exploration, well siting, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act,drilling and fracturing, production, well the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinkingplugging, and site closure. Water Act. Key findings: • Primary regulatory authority for • Gaps remain in the regulation of shale gas is at the state level, and well casing and cementing, water many federal requirements have withdrawal and usage, and waste been delegated to the states. storage and disposal. • Most state oil and gas regulations • Regulations should focus on were written well before shale gas the most urgent issues, such as development became widespread. spill prevention — which may pose greater risk than hydraulic • Some states have revised fracturing itself. regulations specifically for shale gas development, with particular focus on three areas of concern: > disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals > proper casing of wells to prevent aquifer contamination > management of wastewater from flowback and produced waterThe University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development | 5
  6. 6. Enforcement of State Regulations researchers also reviewed state Key findings: agencies’ enforcement capabilities, including a review of staff responsible • Enforcement capacity is highly variable for conducting inspections and attorneys among the states, particularly when supporting enforcement. The review measured by the ratio of staff to numbers covered violations recorded, enforcement of inspections conducted. actions, field sampling, and monitoring. • Most violations recorded are of the type associated with conventional gas drilling rather than being specific to hydraulic fracturing and shale gas production. • Enforcement actions tend to emphasize surface incidents more than subsurface contaminant releases, perhaps because they are easier to observe. Treatable groundwater aquifers Private well Municipal water well; <1,000 feet Shale Gas Extraction Additional steel casing and cement to protect groundwater Protective steel casing Shale fractures N OT TO S CA LE Approximate distance from surface: 8,000 feet Graphic by Chesapeake Energy6 | Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute
  7. 7. Public Perceptionof Shale Gas Developmentenergy institute researchers analyzed Researchers also found that less thanprint, broadcast and online news media 20% of newspaper articles on hydrauliccoverage of shale gas development in the fracturing mention scientific researchMarcellus, Haynesville, and Barnett shale related to the issue. Similarly, only 25%areas. They found that the tone of media of broadcast news stories examined madecoverage has been overwhelmingly negative reference to scientific studies, and aboutin all forms of media. Roughly two-thirds 33% of online news coverage mentionedof the articles and stories examined were scientific research on the issue.deemed negative, a finding that wasconsistent nationally and at local levels. Tone of Media Coverage Negative Neutral Positive National Newspapers 64% 25% 12% Local Newspapers 65% 23% 12% National Television 64% 19% 18% & Radio Local Television 70% 27% 3% Online News 63% 30% 7%The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute Separating Fact from Fiction in Shale Gas Development | 7
  8. 8. For more visit: