Groundwater unaffected by shale gas production in Arkansas

From Duke University , something sure to irritate people like Josh Fox, Joe Romm,  and Bill McKibben who are certain that fracking is terrible.

DURHAM, N.C. — A new study by scientists at Duke University and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds no evidence of groundwater contamination from shale gas production in Arkansas.

“Our results show no discernible impairment of groundwater quality in areas associated with natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in this region,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The scientists sampled 127 shallow drinking water wells in areas overlying Fayetteville Shale gas production in north-central Arkansas. They analyzed the samples for major and trace elements and hydrocarbons, and used isotopic tracers to identify the sources of possible contaminants. The researchers compared the chemical composition of the contaminants to those found in water and gas samples from nearby shale gas drilling sites.

“Only a fraction of the groundwater samples we collected contained dissolved methane, mostly in low concentrations, and the isotopic fingerprint of the carbon in the methane in our samples was different from the carbon in deep shale gas in all but two cases,” Vengosh said. This indicates that the methane was produced primarily by biological activity in the region’s shallow aquifers and not from shale gas contamination, he said.

“These findings demonstrate that shale gas development, at least in this area, has been done without negatively impacting drinking water resources,” said Nathaniel R. Warner, a PhD student at Duke and lead author of the study.

Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke, added, “Overall, homeowners typically had good water quality, regardless of whether they were near shale gas development.”

Vengosh, Warner, Jackson and their colleagues published their peer-reviewed findings in the online edition of the journal Applied Geochemistry.

Hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground into horizontal gas wells at high pressure to crack open hydrocarbon-rich shale and extract natural gas. Accelerated shale gas drilling and hydrofracking in recent years has fueled concerns about water contamination by methane, fracking fluids and wastewater from the operations.

Previous peer-reviewed studies by Duke scientists found direct evidence of methane contamination in drinking water wells near shale-gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale basin of northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as possible connectivity between deep brines and shallow aquifers, but no evidence of contamination from fracking fluids.

“The hydrogeology of Arkansas’s Fayetteville Shale basin is very different from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale,” Vengosh noted. Far from contradicting the earlier studies, the Arkansas study “suggests that variations in local and regional geology play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development. As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins.”

Human factors — such as the drilling techniques used and the integrity of the wellbores – also likely play a role in preventing, or allowing, gas leakage from drilling sites to shallow aquifers, Vengosh said.

“The take-home message is that regardless of the location, systematic monitoring of geochemical and isotopic tracers is necessary for assessing possible groundwater contamination,” he said. “Our findings in Arkansas are important, but we are still only beginning to evaluate and understand the environmental risks of shale gas development. Much more research is needed.”


Vengosh, Warner and Jackson’s coauthors on the new study were Timothy M. Kresse and Phillip D. Hays of the USGS, and Adrian Down and Jonathan D. Karr of Duke.

Funding for the study was provided by Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Center on Global Change. Field sampling activities were funded by Shirley Community Development Corporation; Faulkner County, Ark.; the University of Arkansas; the Arkansas Water Resource Center; and the USGS Arkansas Water Science Center.

CITATION: “Geochemical and Isotopic Variations in Shallow Groundwater in Areas of the Fayetteville Shale Development, North-Central Arkansas,” Nathaniel R. Warner, Timothy M. Kresse, Phillip D. Hays, Adrian Down, Jonathan D. Karr, Robert B. Jackson, Avner Vengosh. Applied Geochemistry, May 15, 2013.

DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2013.04.013

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Ashby Manson
May 15, 2013 9:24 pm

Good news!

May 15, 2013 9:43 pm

More good news if these folks can make enough of it. But I wonder how they plan to dispose of the foam after it has soaked up the contaminates?
The process of fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water about two miles into the ground at an extremely high pressure. That pressure then causes fracturing of the shale formation, which pushes natural gas up to the surface.
The process, though, also pushes millions of gallons of now toxic water to the surface.
“It’s actually a toxic waste problem that we just deal with,” said Scott Bolin, CEO of Tethis. “When you are doing mining or any kind of industrial processing, you end up generating millions and millions of gallons of water that is very salty.”
Bolin says Tethis has created a biodegradable foam that could transform that toxic problem.
The sponge was created by two professors in the forestry department at N.C. State who were trying to figure out what to do with waste that comes out of the pulp and paper industry. So they mixed it with seashells and created the material that now makes up Tethex sponge.
Tethex binds with dissolved salts, mineral and other materials, allowing them to be physically removed from waste water.
Scott says the material is the key to soaking up dangerous metals, nuclear material and salt, which is produced during the highly controversial practice of fracking.
In the past, the water was dumped into what are called re-injection wells; which means, in the last 30 years, 70 trillion gallons of the water has been dumped back into the ground. Tethis says, with its fracking sponge, that water can be re-used…

May 15, 2013 10:04 pm

Good news as far as it goes, but it doesn’t cover everything, only shallow groundwater quality in Arkansas’s Fayetteville. What causes the difference between the two samples showing shale gas methane and the other samples? What is the difference between Arkansas’s Fayetteville Shale and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale – depth, geology, or what? Are there possible problems not addressed by this study and therefore not cleared by this study, eg. contamination of deeper aquifers, contamination in different geologies, loss of water from aquifers, land subsidence, etc? I’m not saying these are existing problems, just that the study is limited to other things.

May 15, 2013 10:09 pm

Fracking is dangerous, sorry man.

George E. Smith
May 15, 2013 10:10 pm

“””””……Much more research is needed.”……””””””
In other words, send more grant money.

May 15, 2013 10:22 pm

Seems to me Tethex is throwing more gunk at the problem of what to do with an already large volume of tainted water that is now tainted with Tethex. The water becomes two stages removed from the pure state it was in before it was used for fracking and then made ever less safe with Tethex. We’re no closer to curing the problem. Maybe they could toss it all into the Berkeley Pit in Montana – everything else is going in there. How could it get worse? It has now become the Hotel California for migratory water fowl.
To put a fine point on it – we would like the water back, clean and drinkable. After we toss in Tethex, a waste by-product like flouride, and fracking snot which is the slurry used to pass gas professionally, I’m betting it delivers the runs to anyone who drinks it. The sun is going down on a work-a-day at the fracking mill and America wants to know where we’re putting the Tethex and fracking snot left-overs, and is the water that goes into it drinkable when it comes back out? Not fracking likely.
It sounds to me like we don’t have an adequate tariff on fracking snot to make reclaiming and reusing it profitable. Sounds an awful lot like Obamacare for efficiency and problem solving. Why are we not using compressed/liquified CO2 what at least has shown significant benefit to the world at large. Unlike Tethex, we would all die without CO2.

Bill Parsons
May 15, 2013 10:23 pm

The article raised a few questions in my mind:

Previous peer-reviewed studies by Duke scientists found direct evidence of methane contamination in drinking water wells near shale-gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale basin of northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as possible connectivity between deep brines and shallow aquifers, but no evidence of contamination from fracking fluids.

I thought the fracking fluids were brines – or at least a byproduct of the fracking procedures – and thus contamination.
Also, I wondered what Duke tested for in their Arkansas field study? Did they survey for all the contaminants found in the Marcellus operation?

May 15, 2013 10:43 pm

My understanding that no drinking water anywhere has been found to have been affected by fracking.

Richard George
May 15, 2013 10:43 pm

The only thing dangerous about hydraulic fracturing of rocks miles in the ground to allow hydrocarbons to be produced is the hysterical response of the Gaia-worshiping bunny people.
Water is commonly unusable for drinking once it has migrated to 2,500 to 3,000 feet below surface because it has collected to much dissolved salt getting that deep. In many cases the major quality problem with many domestic water wells are drillers drilling too deep trying to find more producible water zones. The methane found in the landowner well which started the USEPA Range Resources enforcement case was most probably caused by this problem.

May 15, 2013 10:50 pm

My brother-in-law lives in rural central Alberta. About 3 years ago he noticed a hissing sound from his water well. Not sure what it was he did something rather dumb…he took a match to it and a small jet of flame shot out from the wellhead (fortunately his well is outdoors). They had been fracking not far from his home and apparently they managed to get natural gas into the well water reservoir. He told me that he had an interesting dilemma: does he keep it quiet and find a way to use the free gas or does he tell someone that there is a problem. Fortunately I convinced him to tell the authorities and a few days later there was no more gas leakage. Later I asked how often the well water has been tested. It has not been tested.
I am not against finding ways of extracting gas from the ground but there needs to be more regulation, monitoring and research in place as there seems to be a “wild west” attitude toward fracking. Unfortunately reports like the one above do not address all possibilities, only probabilities, and they provide the industry a misdirected sense of safety.

May 15, 2013 11:01 pm

OK, so who’s most likely to be secretly funding the anti-fracking rent-a-crowd? The evil coal industry or the evil nukular/military guys?

Richard George
May 15, 2013 11:23 pm

My experience with the anti-fracking loonies is they are simply lonely and dimwitted people who are searching for a cause to make themselves relevant. You get them together at a meeting and each will present their particular brand of paranoia, land subsidence, poisoned drinking water, using up all the water, et cetera, ad nausium. They meet and bond and are buddies for life. Money cannot buy that level of willful ignorance.

May 16, 2013 12:03 am

I don’t think they believe fracking is terrible, they just want it to be terrible so they can have a reason to stop it.
The sooner people wake up to what these civilization-haters are really up to, the better.

Hari Seldon
May 16, 2013 12:52 am

The take home message is ..gimme more grant money!

Peter Miller
May 16, 2013 12:54 am

The anti-fracking movement is:
1. Funded and supported by Gazprom, the Russian producer which supplies natural gas to much of Europe.
2. Funded and supported by the ilk of Greenpeace, who need an alternative scare story to replace global warming now that it has become boring and continually demonstrated to have been grossly exaggerated.
3. A boon for ambulance chasing lawyers who specialise in promoting bad science lawsuits.
4. Oblivious to the huge economic benefit the USA is deriving from fracking. Ultimately the rest of the world will follow.
5.Subject to virulent attack from the providers of wind turbines and solar power because, unlike them, fracked natural gas provides an energy source which is both cheap and reliable.
6. Supportive of totally unsubstantiated, bad science, scare stories, such as “Fracking will cause earthquakes, fracking will pollute ground water and fracking uses poisonous chemicals.” None of which are the slightest bit relevant for properly constructed wells, which are deep (>1,000 metres) in a stable geological environment.
So what is wrong with: i) cheap energy, ii) energy independence and iii) reliable energy?
For those who say: “Hey man, fracking is dangerous.” All you are doing is expressing your complete ignorance on the subject. There are around 550,000 fracked wells in the USA today. If there had been any real problems with the industry, then these would have been exposed long ago, but Greenpeace inspired problems are another matter altogether.

Ed Zuiderwijk
May 16, 2013 1:08 am

“variations in local and regional geology play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development. As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins.”
This is called an open door, I believe.

May 16, 2013 2:01 am

Good news but mat not satisfy the NIMBY element in the UK who seem to want to live in caves warmed by open wood fires.

Peter Wilson
May 16, 2013 2:08 am

“The take-home message is that regardless of the location, systematic monitoring of geochemical and isotopic tracers is necessary for assessing possible groundwater contamination,”
Which we will happily carry out for a fat fee….

May 16, 2013 2:48 am

if its so bad???? why has Germany been fracking with no problems since the early 60’s!!

T. G. Brown
May 16, 2013 3:17 am

Much of this is reminiscent of the power line and cell phone scares of the early and mid 1990’s. Does anyone remember when power lines were going to give all of us Leukemia? And a cell phone near your head could produce a brain tumor? The epidemiology finally put that to rest, but not before there was a great deal of time, expense, and misinformation.
Continue independent monitoring, by all means. But people have been drinking water from the ground with trace levels of methane since the stone age–our bodies are likely adapted to it. People have also had spontaneous gas leaks on their lands for hundreds of years. I have not yet seen hard evidence of contamination well above the baseline–assuming that the good folks doing the monitoring really know what the baseline is.

Tom in Florida
May 16, 2013 4:26 am

Richard George says:
May 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm
“… people who are searching for a cause to make themselves relevant”
Well said, that applies to just about everyone who finds some kind of issue with modern ways of life.

May 16, 2013 4:36 am

Opto, I live in Calgary. My family heritage includes 4 farms, one east of High River, one west of Airdrie, and two others in the general area.
All four of those farms at some point had natural hydrocarbons in their well water, long before fracking, according to my parents who are in their 70s. I distinctly remember the sour gas smell when I was very young in the 60s at the Airdrie farm. Lo and behold, some people came to their door one day in the early 70s and said their land was over a prime formation for exploration, and a test well is STILL producing today (that farm was near the highest hill in the vicinity).
This is Alberta, we have all hell for a basement. I suspect that if your brother in law gets testing done he’ll find that any hydrocarbon presence in his well water was coincidental with any nearby activity. It’s NORMAL in this part of the world to have oil and gas underneath you, especially as you get closer to the sands.
There have been a few people in Alberta that are complaining about fracking near their property affecting their well water, and each time a team goes to investigate and can’t find any connection. These teams aren’t the oil companies, they’re usually environmentalist types who WANT to find a connection. If there was a demonstrable connection it would have been impossible to hide it.
I realize that people WANT fracking to be a horrible thing, but the evidence to date shows that as practised now it is not. Those involved are not maverick wild-west types. Contrary to popular belief Alberta oil and gas production is under very tight control and is being watched by practically every enviro and special interest group in the world. Oil execs are not reckless cowboys (well, some are cowboys).

Gary Pearse
May 16, 2013 4:54 am

I raised 6 kids and livestock on a farm in eastern Canada that had sulphur and natural gas in the well water – the whole area was affected and it was natural – there was no production of oil and gas in the region. The well drillers even put a small elbowed pipe on the top of the cap to vent it. I’m 75, healthy as a show horse and still working in the mining industry. My children are all healthy and their children. Visitors raved about the great coffee it made (tea- well not so much, except for we being used to it.). We had the water checked and they said there was no problem, the area had been farmed for 200 years.
In a mine setting, we do a baseline environmental study before development and then monitor water, etc. beyond the life of the mine to detect and ameliorate problems if and when they start. We aren’t the delicate plants we are made out to be these days, although there seems to be more cranial problems which manifest themselves as fear. The water seems to have been just fine for the folks in Alberta who lived on top of the world’s largest natural “oil spill” for a few generations.

Jeff L
May 16, 2013 5:30 am

The results are no surprise to anyone who is actually involved in drilling modern oil & gas wells.
What we truly need is the same type of studies in all the major resource play areas of the country (at least the Bakken, Eagleford & Marcellus / Utica for starters). I am certain that the results for these areas would also come out the same. It would certainly go a long way in debunking the latest eco-alarmist myth that “fracking” is bad. Everyone should remember that this myth is brought to you by the same folks that brought you the CAGW -CO2 myth.

Mike jarosz
May 16, 2013 5:49 am

Socialists hate capitalism because it works. They will go to all extremes to end it. It was never about saving the planet and it’s not about saving the farm now.

May 16, 2013 5:53 am

Pennsylvania, where the oil and gas can SEEP OUT OF THE GROUND and to the surface naturally. Compare North Dakota, where the minimum starting depth in the Bakken is 6000′ (Lots of “cap rock” on top of the shale.) NO COMPARISON! The “anti’s” use BOGUS THINKING and “historical non-connected precedent” to make their case. Shallow, simplistic thinking at work! (But then again, that describes 98% of the AWG crowd to begin with!)

May 16, 2013 5:56 am

Here in Kansas, we have been fracking for nearly 70 years (since 1947). We are a major natural gas producer in the US. No apparent problems in that time. But yes, there are some who have methane in their water–it exists in any and every sedimentary deposit, so you will never get rid of it if your well is in those deposits.

May 16, 2013 6:00 am

This really is becoming an exercise in impossible. There is no evidence of any damage, yet they still have to run test and test, study after study to disprove what has never been proven.
The difference between Fracking and Climate Alarmism is at least Obama is not running science yet. So the Alarmists still have to PROVE their case (but of course we saw with his twits that he is trying to reverse science as well).

Matthew R. Epp, P.E.
May 16, 2013 6:16 am

Johnsonas says:
May 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm
Fracking is dangerous, sorry man
Fracking is only dangerous to the Anti-capitalist green movement.
While there are very, VERY isolated cases of wells contaminating ground water, virtually all are caused by poor casing/ cementing jobs done by the drillers. Still there have been 100,000’s of wells drilled through fresh water aquifiers, properly cased and sealed that have resulted in no contamination.
Another element of fracking fluids, some companies are using food grade additives and oils to eliminate the possibility of contamination in event of a spill.
Fracking is like any industrial process, if done properly, there is no harm only the benefit of increased productivity from the oil/ gas bearing formation.
Matthew R. Epp P.E.

May 16, 2013 6:28 am

Dr. Bill Chameides, (aka The Green Grok) will not be amused at these findings…

May 16, 2013 6:44 am

Speaking of ground water….
This article is an interesting post topic and is wrong on multiple levels, to be discussed on that pending thread….meanwhile….
Mostly….we see what we….or ‘they’….want us to see….
Mostly….we do NOT see….what we are NOT looking for….
Mostly….is now over….for many are discovering greater Truth….
Every epiphany is permanent….find and share Truth.

May 16, 2013 6:47 am

“I thought the fracking fluids were brines – or at least a byproduct of the fracking procedures – and thus contamination.”
Little known fact, apparently: Once you get past about 900′ under the surface (with some local variations and excepting a few unique geological conditions in some areas) ALL fluids trapped in the earth are brines. (except for the part that’s oil; gas is sometimes dry but more typically in solution with either brine or oil) So when someone says “brine” is contamination, well yeah, it’s the same type of “contamination” as 97.5% of the water on this planet. That’s why it’s not really doing much to put this water away about 10K feet down – you’re just adding brine to brine. If there was some pathway to the surface, the high pressure brine that is ALREADY THERE and has been there for millions of years would have already found a way up.
for real geology buffs, almost all sedimentary rocks (the only kinds capable of holding and producing fluids) were laid down in ancient ocean environments. The brines in them are remnants of those ancient oceans, after they’ve been cooked and pressurized for several million years. (qualifier “almost” because I know there are some wind-driven dune formations and a few very rare and limited lake deposits that exist)

May 16, 2013 6:56 am

One of the things which annoyed me about Josh Fox and Gasland was the fact that i was earlier taken in by some of the movie’s claims. But a little research later shows that much of it varies from misinformation, deception and downright lies.
People claim that it contaminates the drinking supply whilst nobody is learning some basic facts like the water aquifer’s for drinking water and the gas shale zones are separated by thousands of feet of bedrock. It’s nonsense and immoral.
If your readers have not seen Phelim McAleer’s documentary ‘Fracknation’ then I urge that they do so. Apologies that this is a poor quality 4:3 ratio video taped of the aired episode in January but it’s the only full length version i can find.

May 16, 2013 7:36 am

Preservation of freshwater aquifers from pollution by oil and gas production has been mandatory in the regulations for about a hundred years, more or less. This is done by “surface casing” which does the job well enough. Every well drilled will set the casing to a point below the deepest freshwater aquifer. Freshwater aquifers in petroleum producing regions sometimes have methane associated with the water, but methane naturally occurs within shallow sediments (shales, lignites, etc.) and contiguous to FW aquifers. The alarms about FW contamination by fracking are just more screeching by rabid global warmers who, if queried, show a complete ignorance of the issues.

May 16, 2013 8:09 am

Opto says:
May 15, 2013 at 10:50 pm
Any link to that story ….. I am sure in Canada if he reported it, it must have made the news. Unless “Big Oil” somehow covered it up.

William ason
May 16, 2013 8:35 am

Years ago I read an alarmist article online and I became concerned enough that I was ready to champion the cause. Not being one to go off spouting off about one thing I read online I went back and started researching. It’s wise to gain knowledge before yelling the sky is falling. As I went along I noticed this one phrase that kept cropping up in each of the alarming stories I was reading. I saw it enough to get me wondering if it wasn’t so much about the world having a fever but more about this one thing. The phrase was “Much more research is needed”. That got me thinking that maybe it was more about the grant gravy train than it was about a true problem. Now I see it in this story. That’s unfortunate because to me the entire story just became suspect.

May 16, 2013 8:48 am

Johnsonas says:
May 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm
Fracking is dangerous, sorry man.

You are absolutely correct. The list of other dangerous things includes: everything!
I do have to tell you that fracking is a great deal less dangerous than freezing in the dark.

May 16, 2013 9:05 am

Everyone who believes that fracking should be regulated by government should keep in mind that there is no one in either the federal or state governments that knows enough about fracking to establish appropriate criteria and procedures for regulation. Moreover, those in government with some knowledge and comprehension about fracking are typically biased against the exploitation and production of fossil fuels. Nothing good can come from government regulation under current circumstances.

May 16, 2013 9:25 am

I’m skeptical. All science funded by government is corrupted by political motives, not just the global warming scam.

May 16, 2013 9:32 am

Thanks! I’d never seen that film. Nice to see counterbalance to factually challenged propaganda like “Gasland” though it appears Fracknation may have also elided full disclosure in a few minor spots…

Jason Miller
May 16, 2013 9:36 am

“The scientists sampled 127 shallow drinking water wells in areas overlying Fayetteville Shale gas production in north-central Arkansas.”
I’m curious why they did not also test deep drinking water wells. Shallow wells tend to run dry during droughts and must be replaced with deep wells. Deep wells are more expensive, but when homeowners tire of having to haul drinking water to there houses every few days they tend to have deep drinking water wells drilled. It seems to me that contamination would first show up in deep wells.

May 16, 2013 9:49 am

What is methane contamination? What are the negative effects and at what levels?

May 16, 2013 9:50 am

One of the most important questions to ask in evaluating any study is to ask, “So what?”

May 16, 2013 10:06 am

William ason says:
May 16, 2013 at 8:35 am
… The phrase was “Much more research is needed”. That got me thinking that maybe it was more about the grant gravy train than it was about a true problem. Now I see it in this story. That’s unfortunate because to me the entire story just became suspect.

Actually the phrase you really have to worry about is: “The science is settled.”
The phrase, “More research is needed”, is almost always true. The statements of trustworthy experts will be full of ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, ‘buts’ and “more research is needed”. It means they are looking at all sides of an issue. The folks who will give you a simple, straight story are probably no more accurate than a “dart playing monkey”.
Check out the work of Philip Tetlock.

Gail Combs
May 16, 2013 10:23 am

Johnsonas says:
May 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm
Fracking is dangerous, sorry man.
Spoken without thought or research. The usual Protest for the sake of Protesting because it is for the benefit of humans.
Fracking has been around since shortly after the Civil War (the War between the States)
Civil War veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts, took out the first patent on fracking on April 25, 1865. He was awarded U.S. Patent (No. 59,936) in November 1866 for what would become known as the Roberts Torpedo.

The Titusville Morning Herald newspaper reported:

Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo. The results have in many cases been astonishing.
The torpedo, which is an iron case, containing an amount of powder varying from fifteen to twenty pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it.
It is then exploded by means of a cap on the torpedo, connected with the top of the shell by a wire.

Filling the borehole with water provided Roberts his “fluid tamping” to concentrate concussion and more efficiently fracture surrounding oil strata. The technique had an immediate impact – production from some wells increased 1,200 percent within a week of being shot – and the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company flourished….
American Oil & Gas Historical Society

Donald Mitchell
May 16, 2013 10:53 am

Large areas of this country have coal beds much closer to the surface than the petroleum deposits. These coal beds often have methane in them which, in addition to being a hazard to miners, often migrates into even shallow water wells. One of my uncles bought an abandoned country school (frame construction-2000 sq ft) and converted it into a house. The water from his well was unpleasant to drink until it had been allowed to set in an open crock for a day or so. He was finally motivated to solve the problem after one day when he lowered himself into a nice hot bath while smoking a cigarette. No harm was done except for minor loss of body hair including eyebrows and a significant reduction in his complacency about smelly water. Investigation the next day revealed that the wellhead was sealed in compliance with federal regulations for the former school. He removed the seal and the water was soon fit to drink right out of the tap. I doubt that he even considered whether he should have inquired about the legal ramification of removing the seal.
A google search for “sulfur springs” gets about 4 1/2 millions hits. I do not know if any towns received a similar name after hydraulic fracturing was developed.
Some coal producers (including Peabody) are looking heavily into horizontal drilling into coal beds to allow removal of the gases before mining the coal as a safety precaution which might produce enough salable gas to offset the costs.
I know that if I lived above a coal bed, I would be delighted for any progress on removing the gases before they leaked to the overburden.
Donald Mitchell

Janice Moore
May 16, 2013 11:55 am

Jason Miller asks at 0936 on May 16, 2013, “I’m curious why they did not also test deep drinking water wells. … It seems to me that contamination would first show up in deep wells.”
I hope someone who knows answers your question, Mr. Miller.
I must say, though, that it seems to me more likely that natural contamination would show up in deep wells.

May 16, 2013 2:00 pm

Johnsonas says:
May 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm
Fracking is dangerous, sorry man.
Getting out of bed in the morning is dangerous, sorry man.
Driving to work is dangerous, sorry man.
The list goes on and on.
It’s all about risk verses reward. Sorry man.

May 16, 2013 5:26 pm

“OK, so who’s most likely to be secretly funding the anti-fracking rent-a-crowd? The evil coal industry or the evil nukular/military guys?” Sorry Pied Piper….wrong and wrong,at least here in Canuckville. It’s the FruitFly Dr Suzuki,the Tides Foundation(Soros).Greenpeace,etc. And in the USofA,Warren Buffet,who is all ready benefiting greatly with his coal trains.So I guess the first one isn’t that wrong.

May 16, 2013 6:18 pm

Oh boy! People like Josh Fox, Joe Romm, and Bill McKibben who are certain that fracking is so terrible do burn and also use other energy from the natural gas anyway.
That is such a perfect example of a hypocrite. Seems if they would instead just drop out of society, move somewhere they can cut down forests for all of their fuel, never hear from them again… you know, I just might think they must have been serious.

May 16, 2013 6:19 pm

Everything you wanted to know about fracking: This whole Fracking scare came about due to a dumb reporter. She was reporting on the new shale gas drilling and reported on the “new” technology of “fracking”. She glommed on to the “sexy” industry jargon of “fracking”. But, fracking has been done since the 50s. We have fracked over 1 million wells since that time. However, we were fracking vertical wells with maybe 40 ft. of perforations. Along came horizontal drilling. The problems was you had 1-2 miles of productive zone due to the horizontal bore. However, you can’t frack 1-2 miles as you’ll lose pressure once one zone fractures. So there was new technology. The new technology was the ability to do multi-zonal fracking. One such procedure is ball-and-sleeve fracking. THAT was the new tech, not fracking itself. So when the reported wrote her article, all the eco-freaks came out whining about “big oil” experimenting on ground water. Totally bogus.
A few comments on water wells containing methane. First, oil and gas oftentimes naturally seep to the surface. That is how you used to find the oil and gas, look for surface seeps. In fact, companies sell “methane separators” for homeowners to use on their well water. Long before shale gas these were sold. Second, if there is a problem from a gas well, 99.9% of the time it is due to a bad cement job. Nothing to do with fracking.
Finally, I work in the Bakken oil fields. The brine up there is many times saltier than the ocean. It can’t be used for anything so it is pumped back down into the formation it came from.

Ashby Manson
Reply to  JamesD
May 16, 2013 7:16 pm

Yeah, out here in California we have the La Brea Tar Pits. Talk about surface seeps! You walk around that fancy neighborhood and there’s been oil coming to the surface for tens of thousands of years. (Hence the Spanish name La Brea.) Still seeps into all the underground parking garages too. No big deal. Put an orange cone on the space until it gets cleaned up. My understanding is we’ve been fracking extensively out here in California for about sixty years without much problem.

May 16, 2013 7:14 pm

I’ve encountered some startling articles which do not agree with the tone of this post at all. Characterizing people as eco-freaks is not helpful in evaluating reports – though I certainly agree there is a false eco agenda. You report on it routinely : the climate caper.
We do not hear about water pollution from the scrubbers ash coming out of coal plants or often appreciate the devastation of mountaintop strip mining. Energy politics are convoluted and the truth is not obvious. Still :
Source file :

They don’t agree, so what? It doesn’t change this research, it only illustrates that you value FUD over science. – Anthony

Janice Moore
May 16, 2013 7:21 pm

Hey, James D., thanks for the helpful information from an informed, intelligent, source. Hope all is well with you out there and you have good housing, etc… .
Talking with a clerk as I checked out at a local grocery store this afternoon, she said that her fiancé was home again after tiring of the on-again-off-again work schedule. Apparently, the Fantasy Science Club keeps shutting things down in ND. She said, “There’s a lot of politics out there.” I replied, “It’s those enviro-n–z–s… fantasy science… .” I think one was standing behind me in line. She stiffened noticeably. She said nothing, however. Rats. I was ready to fire the truth at her with both barrels.
Hang in there, James!

Janice Moore
May 16, 2013 7:28 pm

“Yeah, out here in California … .” [Ashby at 7:16PM]
Brings to mind the parallel situation along the California coast where natural oil slicks have appeared on the Pacific Ocean and its beaches for centuries (if you want, I’ll look up the history on it — not going to bother for now!) and the Fantasy Science Club has used that to frighten people off of oil drilling [and MILES off shore — so, not an aesthetic issue either].

Alan Clark, paid shill for Big Oil
May 16, 2013 9:45 pm

Holy Man! I can’t stand by and allow disinformation on this august site. I am a fracer. That is, I supervise hydraulic fracturing as a completions supervisor for various oil and gas companies. I know of what I speak.
1) Frac fluid (water) is NOT brine. Some companies are EXPERIMENTING with using brine water for fracing but this is likely less than 1% of all fracs currently taking place. “Frac fluid” is typically fresh water or a specialty fluid such as “Frac oil” which is essentially a mixture of diesel fuel and an aromatic solvent such as xylene. Once the fresh water is pumped into the formation 3000+ feet below surface, it mixes with formation salts and becomes brine. The best way to “remediate” any “waste-water”, in my highly knowledgeable view, is to simply put it into a pit and let it evaporate.
2) Fracing, particularly in Alberta, is highly regulated. Prior to fracing a well, we establish an “envelope” based upon subsurface pressure and geo-phone sensing equipment, determine the likely radial and lateral spread of our planned frac, then look at a survey map of the adjacent area and establish all of the other wells that are within our “envelope”. We then install surface gauges on all of those wells (including any fresh water wells) and monitor for a pressure response, in real time, during the fracturing operations. If ANY pressure response is notes on an adjacent well, the frac is stopped immediately.
So there.

Janice Moore
May 16, 2013 10:00 pm

Holy Cow, Alan Clark, thanks for more useful information from an informed, intelligent, source. That you can’t stand by and just say nothing shows why you must do very well at that supervisor job.
Go, Big O’!

May 17, 2013 11:34 am

I bet Alan will be invited to make entries soon. Good info!

May 27, 2013 2:26 am

In Australia the anti-gas lobby are full on. But conditions in the sub rock levels differ from place to place. I lived on a small 100 acre hobby farm and we drilled for water. We stopped at 205 ft as if we had gone deeper we would have needed a submersible pump that cost thousands. We had it tested and it wasn’t too bad for stock, but heavy in iron. It was yellowish and children were not advised to drink it. It tasted lousy anyway. But the driller told me that in the outback drilling for either water or oil, 3,000 ft down, the water comes out hot. And is often sulphur and methane is present that will settle on standing. Anyway, I find it obnoxious when they show scenes from CSI ‘Fracked’ episodes, and people lighting a match to create a flame from a tap when they don’t come from Australia! Deep underground water or wells is not the best to drink and surface water from natural springs often becomes contaminated from insecticides, herbicides and some nitrite fertilizers, that should worry farmers. Give me rain water or at best chlorinated tap water as many water born diseases can kill or make people very sick.

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