Appalachian Basin

A Factually and Scientifically Bankrupt Opposition

Dr. Scott Cline
PhD, Petroleum Engineering

Recent letters to the editor published in the Binghamton Press epitomize the continuing misconceptions and lack of scientific understanding prevalent among the public that the Press publishes without, apparently, fact checking anything – anything at all.  Are there no standards for journalism these days?

In “Water Supply Must be Safeguarded” we read “horizontal hydrofracking for shale gas formations is essentially a hydrobaric underground explosion — a very powerful, dusty, dirty bomb that will eventually pollute our water.” Nonsense! This scientifically bankrupt idea comes from simply regurgitating fiction spewed by Cooperstown poseurs and others. There is no explosion, there is no bomb and there is no water pollution caused by the underground fracture stimulation activities.

Hydraulic fracturing is simply the very short lived application of increasing hydraulic pressure on the reservoir. This creates additional micro-cracks in the already naturally fractured reservoir. Pressure is then released and all flow directed toward the wellbore and safely into tanks (not pits) at the surface. The frac fluid that does not return to the surface is locked into place for geologic time by the capillary forces and permanently separated from any groundwater sources. These are the indisputable and proven scientific facts.

And in “Drilling will Use up Precious Resources” the author bemoans the loss of water from the hydrologic cycle through use in fracture stimulation while conjuring up visions of the Jordan and Colorado rivers drying up which has nothing to do with fracturing operations and all to do with agriculture and human consumption. While approximately 80% of the water used in fracturing does not return, the amount used is both insignificant in comparison to the local sources and the combustion of natural gas returns eight times what is lost!

There are 18 billion gallons a day of water flowing from the SRBC to the Chesapeake Bay and 158 (Cornwall) – 380 (Saguenay) billion gallons a day through the St Lawrence to the ocean. Together, the one day flow is enough to supply 35,000-80,000 wells and we will never drill that many wells in NY. The combustion of the methane produced by a single average Marcellus well (4 BCF) over its lifetime will return approximately 43 million gallons of water to the hydrologic cycle since the two byproducts of combustion are carbon dioxide and water. This is eight times the amount of water even needed to fracture stimulate that well.

And, deforestation? Give me a break. The old Route 15 future I-99 road construction has taken more forest than all of the future Marcellus wells combined. Horizontal drilling pads that  utilize less than 8 acres for combined roads and pad for every 1280 acres make the surface footprint minimal and certainly orders of magnitude less than windmills for the equivalent energy supplied. If you drive down I-99 you are hard pressed to even see a drilling rig or pad but there are plenty of windmills to disrupt the forested landscape.

The truth is that abundant natural gas has come at just the right time for our nation and the energy hungry world to reduce dependence on dirty coal and oil yet power economic recovery and increase standards of living. The world has several billion energy hungry people just coming out of 17th century living standards and they are not going back. Natural gas offers phenomenal long-term positive economic impact with environmental benefits in terms of cleaner air and minimal surface impacts and a better standard of living for an energy hungry world.


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