Appalachian Basin

A Failure to Communicate: Cornell’s Ingraffea Comes to Youngstown

This week, Tony Ingraffea, a Cornell Professor and well-known anti-fossil fuel development activist, hosted a webinar at Youngstown State University.  With an audience of nearly 50 students, a webinar plagued with technical difficulties made one thing clear;  Dr. Ingraffea continues to use bad science, anecdotal evidence and a little misdirection to promote a flawed agenda.

The webinar, which lasted roughly an hour and a half, tackled topics such as his thoroughly debunked emissions study, and far-from-factual measurement regarding the possibility of casing failures.

While these assertions have been addressed previously at Energy in Depth, this marks his first trip to the Buckeye State, although be it virtual, and there are more than one of these claims worth revisiting.

If you notice that cement layer is only an inch thick.  So that cement layer is a tube of cement three miles long and an inch thick. – Dr. Ingraffea

Its surprising to see someone who purports industry expertise to propagate the notion that, in developing these wells, there is only a single casing of steel and one inch of cement that goes 3 miles deep to develop these wells.  That assertion is a far cry from reality.  Below you can see an actual picture of casing and cement, showing more than 7 layers of casing and cement.

Later in his presentation, Dr. Ingraffea made a pitch for the Josh Fox produced “The Sky is Pink“, with unfounded claims that well casings fail at a rate of 5% immediately and increase over time. The truth is, again, far removed from these claims.

Brand new wells fail at a rate of about one in 20. About one of every twenty new wells fails immediately.  As well as aged failure goes up and that’s expected.

A quick glance at actual data in Ohio since demonstrates Dr. Ingraffea is off the mark. And not only does he miss the mark,  but misses the actual figure by an astounding 167%.

A recent Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) study looked at 34,000 wells developed in Ohio from 1983-2007, and found only 12 incidents of well casing failures during that time.  That comes to .03% rate of casing failures during a 20-year time frame – a far cry from what the good doctor is prognosticating in his lecture – with not one of the incidents having resulted in hydraulic fracturing fluids contaminating groundwater aquifers.

It should also be noted that this study does not reflect advancements in technology for cementing and casing since the study was completed,  nor does it take into account the new well casing standards put into place with the passage of SB 165.

As we’ve highlighted previously, Ohio leads the nation in well construction regulation, boasting 54 standards in place:

Source: ODNR

Dr. Ingraffea’s next major topic on natural gas development focused on his oft debunked findings that natural gas development produces more greenhouse gases than coal.  It is interesting that he continues to promote a study that has been thoroughly discredited by not only his fellow colleagues at Cornell, but also the Department of Energy, as well a report for the European Union on shale gas and many others.

These claims also fly in the face of  findings from the EIA that demonstrate that, thanks to the increase in the use of natural gas as an energy resources, the United States now leads the world in the reduction of CO2 emissions, which are at the lowest levels since 1992.

While these unsubstantiated, baseless claims may hold sway with Hollywood B-listers, there is no room in the conversation of Ohio’s future energy development for anything other a fact-based dialogue.

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