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Wednesday, October 29, 2014
By Alex Mills,
president, Texas
Alliance of Energy
Three important stud-
ies dealing with oil and
gas drilling procedures,
including hydraulic frac-
turing, were released in
September apparently
clearing the fracturing
process from allegations
that it has caused con-
tamination of groundwa-
ter wells.
One of the studies con-
ducted by the Depart-
ment of Energy found no
evidence wells fractured
in Pennsylvania caused
gas or fluid migration up-
ward into water wells.
Researchers fromOhio
State University, Duke
University and the Uni-
versity of Rochester re-
leased their study that
concluded hydraulic frac-
tured wells in the Marcel-
lus formation and Texas'
Barnett Shale were not
the cause of water well
The two studies were
not coordinated, but the
DOE study examined the
drilling process from the
surface to total depth and
the Ohio State study took
the opposite approach
from the bottom of the
well to the top.
The third study, re-
leased by the University
of Texas at Arlington,
dealt with the quality of
water in aquifers overly-
ing the Barnett Shale.
It tested 100 private
drinking water wells and
found some levels of con-
tamination that exceeded
the Environmental Pro-
tection Agency’s Drinking
Water Maximum Con-
taminant Limit (MCL),
but it did not state that
drilling and production
activities were the cause.
It did state that 29 per-
cent of the samples oc-
curred with 3 kilometers
of an active natural gas
DOE Study
The DOE monitored
drilling activity that in-
cluded hydraulic frac-
turing for 18 months us-
ing tracer fluids, seismic
monitoring and other
tests to create a detailed
report on what happens
to fluids during this pro-
The report stated that
researchers found frac-
turing fluids stayed more
than 5,000 feet below
drinking water supplies.
Ohio State
Researchers analyzed
113 and 20 samples from
drinking water wells
overlying the Marcel-
lus and Barnett Shales,
respectively. They docu-
mented fugitive gas in
eight clusters of domestic
water wells. The report
states “gas geochemis-
try data implicate leaks
through annulus cement
(four cases), production
casing (three cases), and
underground well failure
(one case) rather than
gas migration induced
by horizontal drilling or
hydraulic fracturing deep
UT Arlington
The study admits that
“there is very little infor-
mation on groundwater
quality prior to natural
gas extraction activi-
It notes that 16,743
wells have been drilled
in the Barnett Shale as
of May 2013.
“Natural gas extrac-
tion in the Barnett Shale
formation should have
little effect on the over-
lyng Trinity and Wood-
bine aquifers as they
are separated from the
shale formation by over
a thousand meters of
impermeable rock,” the
study said.
“Our results show el-
evated concentrations
of constituents in the
Barnett Shale region;
however, we are unable
to determine the ultimate
source of these elevated
concentrations directly,”
the study stated.
However, one of the re-
searchers, Dr. ZacHilden-
brand, a UTA biochemist,
was quoted in the Denton
Record Chronicle aying:
“This is indirect evidence
that drilling does affect
the water.”
Dr . Hi ldenbrand ’ s
comment conflicts with
the conclusions of the
The UTA study creates
more questions. Why did
the study not include any
information about the in-
tegrity of the natural gas
Alex Mills
Studies review
fracking process