17 February 2012 19:42 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--University of Texas researchers have concluded there is no direct link between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination, a university official said on Friday.
Researchers at the University of Texas have released a study showing no direct connection between hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas and contamination of groundwater sources.
“I think the public can be relieved that the hydraulic fracturing itself isn’t tied to groundwater pollution, however there are other paths for fracturing fluids and flow back and produced waters to get into groundwater,” reseach project leader Charles Groat, associate director of the university's Energy Institute.
Many problems accredited to hydraulic fracturing are risks posed by all oil and gas drilling operations, such as faulty casing or poor cement jobs. Contamination can also be traced to above-ground spills or mishandling of wastewater produced from shale drilling, which is not a problem specific to hydraulic fracturing, said Groat.
“Our goal was to provide policy makers a foundation for developing sensible regulations that ensure responsible shale gas development,” Groat said. “What we’ve tried to do is separate fact from fiction.”
Analyst Anne Keller with Midstream Energy Group said the environmentalists and the industry will view the study differently.
“Environmentalists could take this as saying that the oil industry needs to continue to act in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” Keller said. “An oil and gas operator, in particular the companies who operate fracking businesses, would say the results clear the fracking technique from blame.”
The research included faculty members from across the University of Texas.
Other findings included: most state regulations were written before production of shale became widespread; media coverage of hydraulic fracturing is decidedly negative; and, surface spills of fracturing fluids pose greater risks to groundwater.
The study focused on reports of groundwater contamination in the Barnett Shale in north Texas; the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, New York and portions of Appalachia; and the Haynesville Shale in western Louisiana and northeast Texas.
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