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What goes wrong

overview

faulty cementing
spills
leaks
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methane in water
fractures reaching aquifers
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WHAT GOES WRONG : AN OVERVIEW

"Groundwater contamination from a spill, leak, or failure of a cement job presents a threat to public health and the environment and must be addressed in drilling operations.

"To be sure, we have found other instances where activities associated with oil and gas operations have impacted water supplies. These events have typically been tied to incidents such as a leaking storage pit, a poorly cemented oil and gas well, or leaking production equipment."

— David Neslin, Director, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, May 17, 2011, Written Answers to Follow-Up Questions from the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works

According to COGCC, there were 17,000 inspections in 2010 by 15 inspectors located throughout the state . Most inspections are unannounced. A new report by Earthworks explains how inadequate these inspections are. Enforcement Report COGCC

In Colorado, wells can be a mile or two deep -- far below drinking water aquifers . So w hat goes wrong?

- faulty cementing

- spills

- releases of gas

- leaks from corrosion holes in the pipe, storage pits, equipment and pipelines

- frac tures reaching aquifers

- unexplained contamination

The first four problems (faulty cement jobs, spills , releases and leaks ) are documented. The oil and gas industry may dismiss their severity, but can't deny they happen.

Whether fractures actually reach aquifers is hotly contested. People in the oil and gas industry regularly say , “There has never been a proven case of water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing.” This can be misleading if you don't understand that t he industry narrowly defines fracking as the moment underground fractures are split — and not the entire drilling process.

Roan Plateau

However, i n December 2011, the EPA linked contaminated water in Wyoming to fracking . Fracking fluid chemicals, such as benzene in concentrations well above standards in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act , and high levels of methane were found in two monitoring wells in the aquifer.

T her e are also cases of groundwater contamination where no one can explain what happened.

Fracking hasn't been fully investigated by the EPA. The ir 2004 study, which concluded that the process of hydraulic fracturing did n' t pose a threat to drinking water, has been widely criticized, partially because the agency didn't conduct any water tests .

"The use of hydraulic fracturing has significantly increased well beyond the scope of the 2004 study," said EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones. Now horizontal drilling can reach up to a mile and five times more chemical-laden fluids are used.

In March 2010 the EPA began a new study of fracking, so more revelations are expected . Preliminary reports are due December 2012.

"To hear the natural gas industry tell it, the only problem with natural gas is bad public relations . ' The public is skeptical of anything we say ,' says Tisha Conoly-Schuller, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

"Her advice is for industry to get ' other messengers to carry positive messages about oil and gas to a skeptical public ,' and she touts university professors as the ideal: they ' polled highest and are well-positioned in that regard .'

"I am a university professor, but I' m certain Conoly-Schuller and her colleagues decidedly wo n' t like my simple message for them: ' Tell the whole truth .' "

-- Anthony Ingraffea , Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering m Faculty Fellow at the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) at Cornell University and president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2011/11/28/nb-f-shale-gas-anthony-ingraffea-122.html

REFERENCES:

David Neslin, Director, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, Written Answers to Follow-Up Questions from the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works

Neslin Testimony EnviroPublicWorksQA.pdf

Affirming Gasland Affirming_Gasland_Sept_2010.pdf

E.P.A. Links Tainted Water in Wyoming to Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/us/epa-says-hydraulic-fracturing-likely-marred-wyoming-water.html?_r=1&scp=10&sq=fracking&st=cse

EPA Releases Draft Findings of Pavillion, Wyoming Ground Water Investigation for Public Comment and Independent Scientific Review
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/EF35BD26A80D6CE3852579600065C94E

EPA Launches National Study of Hydraulic Fracturing
http://www.propublica.org/article/epa-launches-national-study-of-hydraulic-fracturing

State regulator admits, but not to Congress, that gas production led to water contamination in Colorado

Does the natural gas industry need a new messenger?
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2011/11/28/nb-f-shale-gas-anthony-ingraffea-122.html