DOE Report Finds No Evidence of Hydraulic Fracturing Contaminating Water

A new landmark study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) echoed the statements of America’s top energy experts and regulators: hydraulic fracturing is a safe a proven technology.

In this new study, NETL researchers injected tracers into the hydraulic fracturing fluid in a well in Greene County, Pennsylvania to track for any signs of possible migration. After twelve months of monitoring, the researchers found no signs of migration into groundwater. Here’s what the report concluded:

“Current findings are: 1) no evidence of gas migration from the Marcellus Shale; and 2) no evidence of brine migration from the Marcellus Shale. (p. 2)”

“Conclusions of this study are: 1) the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the rock mass did not extend to the Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian gas field; and 2) there has been no detectable migration of gas or aqueous fluids to the Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian gas field during the monitored period after hydraulic fracturing.” (p.2) (emphasis added)

NETL’s  twelve-month monitoring effort looked for evidence of fluid and gas migration from six unconventional wells; additionally, observations were taken two months before, during and after hydraulic fracturing. The results were then compared to the historical data of the sample wells.

This study has pretty thoroughly debunked groups like Food and Water Watch, which just released a new report claiming that fracking is “contaminating water wells” and putting “families’ health, safety and property at high risk.”  Of course, these anti-fracking groups have long contended that the physical break in the rock formation extends further than its intended, impacting neighboring geological layers and possibly releasing shallower pockets of gas to contaminate water. The findings from this report highlight the near-physical impossibility for this phenomenon to occur in the region:

“All events were at least 2,000 feet below producing zones in the overlying Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian gas field, and more than 5,000 feet below drinking water aquifers” (p.2).

The report goes on to say:

“Within the timeframe of this study, there has been no increase in production and pressure that would suggest communication between the Marcellus Shale and the Upper Devonian/Lower Mississippian.” (p. 23)

Of course, this report bolsters what regulators and administration officials have been saying for years.  Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recently said, “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”  Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson made several similar comments.  And let’s not forget the U.S. Government. Accountability Office:

“[R]egulatory officials we met with from eight states – Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas – told us that, based on state investigations, the hydraulic fracturing process has not been identified as a cause of groundwater contamination within their states.”

Two recent peer-reviewed reports confirmed that water contamination from hydraulic fracturing is “not physically plausible.”

With NETL’s report, the evidence is even more overwhelming that fracking does not pose a credible threat to drinking water – this should put anti-fracking activists’ dubious claims about water contamination to rest for good.


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