Appalachian Basin

Refuting Common Misconceptions about Natural Gas Production

I stumbled across an article yesterday in the Youngstown Vindicator and was taken back by the author’s disparaging assessment of and the grim vision of a contaminated environment outside any realm of possibility.  Joseph Hilko, the writer, foresees a scarred landscape where land is left unusable and water aquifers are irreversibly damaged.  The inherent idea expressed in Mr. Hilko’s article is that the natural gas production process contaminates drinking water, pollutes the air and is ultimately detrimental to the continued existence of mankind.   But a closer look at the facts, and science, behind natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing show these alarmist claims are not what they seem.

Vindicator: “I wonder if at these meetings anyone asks why harmful chemicals are injected with water and sand and whatever else, to fracture the shale rock. What are the chemicals, and what they will do to the land, air and water? My own personal opinion is that much land will be left unusable and our water tables will be damaged irreversibly.”  “What will we drink when the water is not fit to drink?” (“Thinking beyond the need to drill,” Joseph P. Hilko, Nov. 22)

The composition of fracturing fluids is no secret

More than 99.5 percent of the fluid is composed of water and sand, and the small fraction of what remains includes materials found in the food we eat, beverages we drink and household cleaning items we keep under the sink.  By both weight and volume, the most prominent of these materials is a substance known as “guar.” Sounds frightening, right? It’s actually an emulsifying agent more typically found in ice cream.  In fact, the ice cream industry hasn’t been too pleased with us recently, since, thanks to shale, we’ve been using a good bit of the stuff as of late (though the guar bean growers don’t seem to mind).

Ohio is a full-disclosure state.  The requires that companies submit all wireline electric logs and well completion records with data including the type, volume, and concentration of acid; the type and volume of fluid used to stimulate the reservoir; methods used to contain recovered fluids and the company that performed the well stimulation.  DMRM maintains a library of for all chemicals identified through the completion reports.

The truth is, there isn’t a single “harmful” additive used in the fracturing process that’s hidden from public view. An effort led by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) culminated in the creation of A searchable, nationwide database with specific well-by-well information on the additives used in the fracturing process.  You can literally go this site, search by address, well-site name, county, etc and pull up every constituent contained in fracturing fluid on a well-pad by well-pad basis.

Hydraulic fracturing has been deployed safely in the United States more than 1.2 million times over the past 60 years without a single incidence of water contamination

You don’t have to take my word for it. In June, 2011 the(ODNR) Tom Tomastik  told WYTV that “historically, since we have been tracking since 1983, we’ve done over 1,000 groundwater investigations in Ohio and there is not one incident in Ohio that hydraulic fracturing has caused ground water contamination.” In May 2011, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson told the U.S. Senate that she wasn’t aware “of any proven case where the fracking process itself affected water.”

This statement is confirmed by over fifteen state environmental agencies that have been regulating the fracturing process for decades .  The engineering practices perfected over the last 60 years and effective state regulation in Ohio ensures the integrity of the water supply and the environment.

Obviously, just because fracturing’s record is clean doesn’t mean there’s never been a single issue with a single one of the more than 500,000 natural gas wells active in America today. Accidents, though rare, have occurred – and as long as human beings are doing the work, we’ll never be able to tell you that an accident in the future is impossible.

Drilling a natural gas well is not an endeavor without risk. Neither is riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. The key question is: are those risks manageable? And in the case of natural gas, are regulations in place to ensure those risks are being managed properly? Five-hundred thousand wells later, many of which are fractured, we’d suggest that they are.

See the following video to learn more about the hydraulic fracturing process.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President, Tom Stewart weighs in on hydraulic fracture technology being employed in Ohio, as well as the regulatory structure here which safeguards Ohioans as part of natural gas production.

Instead of espousing a doom and gloom scenario based on non-factual, personal opinions Mr. Hilko would have been better served by informing himself on Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry, its long and successful history and the outcomes of numerous groundwater investigations to provide readers with a complete and informed discussion of the risks and rewards associated with oil and gas development here in Ohio.


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