Traverse City Record-Eagle


July 11, 2014

Another View: Study suggests problem with shale gas wells

A recent study of leaks from shale gas wells raises more questions than it answers.

And because of the growing presence of shale gas wells in Pennsylvania, it’s essential that both government and industry provide clarity. If problems with wells are not being properly addressed, the public will grow increasingly skeptical of shale gas operations.

At issue is a study of Pennsylvania wells headed by Cornell University professor Anthony Ingraffea. A report on research involving 41,000 old and new wells in the commonwealth appeared in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In short, this appears to be a detailed analysis of Pennsylvania wells with the results appearing in a highly respected publication. Disturbingly, one of the findings is that newer shale gas wells drilled horizontally - and using the process known as hydraulic fracturing - appear to leak more than older, conventional gas wells.

Specifically, older wells have a leak rate of about 1 percent, the study says. But wells drilled after 2009 have a 2 percent leak rate. The findings are based on inspections conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

According to the DEP, the rate of gas leaks peaked in the commonwealth in 2010 and have been on the decline ever since. They credit tougher standards for the casing of such wells in the state. At least that seems to be good news.

Yet the study does not explain what happens to the gas that leaks. For instance, does it go into the atmosphere? The water table? Or does something else happen to it?

There is also the question of whether or not new inspection standards are identifying leaks that could have been missed in the past.

Meanwhile, representatives of the drilling industry are attacking the study and Ingraffea. They note he is an outspoken critic of fracking and suggest his study is a distortion of reality.

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA