A report on the hyperbole behind the politicized issue of ‘fracking’

I wrote this report a couple of years ago, when local misguided fracktivists tried to get our local board of supervisors to issue a county-wide ban against fracking. I thought it might do some good for my readers here, so I decided to publish it.

A report to the Butte County Board of Supervisors and to the Butte County Planning Commission


I had considered speaking before you, but in the emotionally charged venue of your chambers it is often difficult for a rational voice to be heard without being shouted down. Plus, I have a hearing impairment that makes interaction difficult. Therefore, I thought I’d prepare a document.

My intent here is to help you make the most enlightened decision possible, by sorting through the hyperbole, political agendas, and emotions which have presented themselves in this debate by providing a factual guide that is based on reality, and not on any viewpoint from any vested interest.

The history of hydraulic fracturing aka “fracking”

Modern hydraulic fracturing technologies started on April 25th, 1865, when Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts received the first of his many patents for an “exploding torpedo.” Nitroglycerine and later Dynamite was used back then to provide the force. Roberts was awarded U.S. Patent (No. 59,936) in November 1866 for what would become known as the Roberts Torpedo. The new technology would revolutionize the young oil and natural gas industry by vastly increasing production from individual wells.

On March 17, 1949, a team of petroleum production experts tried a new technique on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma – to perform the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing. This began the modernized process that is still in use today.

Since 1949, hydraulic fracturing has done more to increase recoverable reserves than any other technique. In the more than 60 years following those first treatments, more than two million fracking treatments have been drilled and pumped with not a single documented case of any fracking treatment polluting an aquifer.

Reference: American Oil and Gas Historical Society

RELEVANCE: Hydraulic fracking is not a “new” technique. History of use shows it has not polluted groundwater/aquifers.

How does “fracking” actually work?

Fracking is simply a technique use to increase the surface area of a drilled well. By having an enlarged surface area of cracks, crevices, and seam splits, more oil or natural gas can be recovered. It improves the production of a new well or an existing well.

In virtually every case, the shale seams are far below the water table, as seen in this cross section below showing how shale is fractured to increase surface area to retrieve more natural gas.

The gas is pulled from the ground through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which large volumes of water, plus sand and chemicals, are injected deep underground to break shale apart and free the gas.


Figure 1: Cross section of a fracked shale gas well Source: US. Dept. of Energy


RELEVANCE: most fracking is conducted well below the water table.

What is in fracking fluid? Water, sand, and, some common chemicals.

Water accounts for about 90 percent of the fracturing mixture and sand accounts for about 9.5 percent. Chemicals account for the remaining one half of one percent of the mixture. This graphic illustrates the breakdown.


Figure 2: makeup of fracturing fluid


RELEVANCE: Traditional fracking fluid is mostly water & sand, with 0.5% common household chemicals. There are no large amounts of “highly toxic” chemicals as some activists claim.

Why the worry over fracking water?

Many people worried about what chemicals are used in fracking cite the potential danger of a hypothetical scenario where fracking fluids leaking into the groundwater as the primary reason for their concern. However, there are many misconceptions about how fracking water is collected and disposed of after it has been pumped into the shale to release natural gas trapped inside.

Once the fracturing process is completed, the water rises back to the surface, forced upward by the geologic formation’s natural pressure. Then, the fluids are stored in pits or tanks to be treated – if the water is to be discharged into surface water – or is injected deep underground.

Spent or used fracturing fluids are normally recovered at the initial stage of well production and recycled in a closed system for future use or disposed of under regulation, either by surface discharge where authorized under the Clean Water Act or by injection into Class II wells as authorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Regulation may also allow recovered fracturing fluids to be disposed of at appropriate commercial facilities. Not all fracturing fluid returns to the surface. Over the life of the well, some is left behind and confined by thousands of feet of rock layers.

Treatment of fracking water is highly regulated by EPA rules, and many states are working to revise or create their own laws overseeing gas drilling operations in their areas. So, there is a huge financial incentive for drilling companies to do it right, otherwise they are faced with fines, and possible shutdowns.

A 2004 study from the EPA investigating the environmental impact of disposing what chemicals are used in fracking into coal bed methane production wells found no confirmed cases of drinking water wells’ quality being compromised as a result. The study noted that:

“Where fluids are injected, EPA believes that groundwater production, combined with mitigating effects of dilution and dispersion, absorption, and biodegradation, minimize the possibility that chemicals included in fracturing fluids would adversely affect [underground sources of drinking water],”

Source: EPA: Hydraulic Fracturing of Coaled Methane Reservoirs; National Study Final Report, June 2004 http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/uic/pdfs/cbmstudy_attach_uic_final_fact_sheet.pdf

It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,500-2,400 m) underground have returned to contaminate ground water.

John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Fracking fluid is now going through a change to make the small 0.5% portion of chemicals even safer.

As The Associated Press reported in August 2011, one Halliburton executive drank a new recipe for hydraulic fracking fluid at a conference by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The intent was to quash fears about what is hydraulic fracking and the chemicals that are used – Halliburton’s development uses food industry materials – by showing how safe they can be.

“During a keynote lunch speech at the conference presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar talked about addressing public concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which extracts natural gas by blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground.

He raised a container of Halliburton’s new fracking fluid made from materials sourced from the food industry, then called up a fellow executive to demonstrate how safe it was by drinking it, according to two attendees. The executive mocked reluctance, then took a swig.

The thing I took away is the industry is stepping up to plate and taking these concerns seriously,” Ken Carlson, a Colorado State University environmental engineering professor, told the AP. “Halliburton is showing they can get the same economic benefits or close to that by putting a little effort into reformulating the fluids.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/22/halliburton-executive-drinks-fracking-fluid_n_933621.html

The process is safe, and continues to be proven as such.

For example, on May 13th 2011, the New York Times reported:

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” got a clean bill of health this week in the first scientific look at the safety of the oil and production practice.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/13/13greenwire-baffled-about-fracking-youre-not-alone-44383.html

In a May 6th 2011 story on a senate hearing, E&E Newswires reported:

The debate about hydraulic fracturing has intensified as advances in the technology have opened vast gas-bearing formations in densely populated areas, like the Northeast. Critics say fracturing could cause some of the hazardous chemicals in the fluid to find its way into groundwater, but industry representatives say the fluid would have to travel upward through thousands of feet of rock, and there has never been a proven case of that happening.

Source: http://www.eenews.net/public/eenewspm/2011/05/06/2

The British also aren’t worried about it:

The British government’s health agency is the latest body to give fracking a clean bill of health, in a move that should galvanize the country to act on its considerable reserves of shale gas. Reuters reports:

Public Health England (PHE) said in a review that any health impacts were likely to be minimal from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations deep underground….

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/31/us-britain-health-fracking-idUSBRE99U0KX20131031

RELEVANCE: The EPA sees no threat to drinking water in studies they have conducted. Neither do the British.

There is a huge financial incentive by drilling companies to manage fracking water properly or face fines. Newer formulations of fracking fluid are safe enough to actually drink.

Scientific studies show the process is safe.

If fracking is safe, and has been in use since 1949, with it used in over 2 million wells, how did it get such a bad reputation?

The answer lies in an activist movie known as “Gasland”, seen on HBO in 2010 and also shown in “alternative” theatres in the USA, such as the Pageant Theater in downtown Chico.

In that movie, a claim is made that fracking caused groundwater to become flammable, due to methane gas leaking into the water table. This frame from the dramatic scene in that film shows a Colorado resident igniting his tap water with a cigarette lighter.


Figure 3: igniting methane in tap water in Weld County, CO.

Source: GASLAND trailer, 2010 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZe1AeH0Qz8

The implication made by the director/producer (Josh Fox) in the film is that this was caused by the recent increased in fracked wells in that part of Colorado, Weld County. To the untrained and uncurious, this certainly seems like a valid conclusion.

However, research shows that a few inconvenient facts about that movie. A 1976 study by the Colorado Division of Water found that this area was plagued with gas in the water problems back then. And it was naturally occurring.

As the report stated there was “troublesome amounts of methane” in the water decades before fracking began. It seems that in geographical areas gas has always been in the water.

But Josh Fox knew this and chose not to put it in Gasland anyway.

Another filmmaker asked Fox about this omission at a screening at Northwestern University in Chicago. You can watch that video here:


And as way of verification of the Gasland’s claim of fracking causing methane in groundwater was based on a fabricated claim or not, I went looking for the 1976 report that McAleer cited. I didn’t find it, but I did find another report from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) which was equally damning:


Figure 4: Abstract of 1983 study that found naturally occurring methane in Colorado groundwater


Source: http://search.datapages.com/data/doi/10.1306/03B5B46B-16D1-11D7-8645000102C1865D

Also, the state of Colorado Department of Natural Resources came to a similar conclusion in a report they produced about the Gasland movie, saying that the methane came from nearby coal seams (biogenic) and what not from fracking operations, and had been present for quite some time:

…we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand.

The Markham and McClure water wells are both located in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Weld County. They and other water wells in this area draw water from the Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer, which is composed of interbedded sandstones, shales, and coals. Indeed, the water well completion report for Mr. Markham’s well shows that it penetrated at least four different coal beds. The occurrence of methane in the coals of the Laramie Formation has been well documented in numerous publications by the Colorado Geological Survey, the United States Geological Survey, and the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists dating back more than 30 years. For example, a 1976 publication by the Colorado Division of Water Resources states that the aquifer contains “troublesome amounts of . . . methane.” A 1983 publication by the United States Geological Survey similarly states that “[m]ethane-rich gas commonly occurs in ground water in the Denver Basin, southern Weld County, Colorado.” And a 2001 report by the Colorado Geological Survey discusses the methane potential of this formation and cites approximately 30 publications on this subject.

Finally, it should be understood that the COGCC Director, Dave Neslin, offered to speak with Gasland’s producer, Josh Fox, on camera during the filming of the movie. Because the issues are technical and complex and arouse concerns in many people, Director Neslin asked that he be allowed to review any material from the interview that would be included in the final film. Unfortunately, Mr. Fox declined. Such a discussion might have prevented the inaccuracies noted above.

Source: http://cogcc.state.co.us/library/GASLAND%20DOC.pdf

Essentially, what we have is an activist movie director making false claims that can be easily refuted with geologic studies done by the State of Colorado, refusing to have his work reviewed, and those false claims being used to incite and worry people who are otherwise unable to make distinctions themselves.

Despite this and many more inaccuracies being well documented, activist organizations like Greenpeace, with multi-million dollar budgets, include the “flaming faucets” claim in their own anti-fracking materials, such as this one from their website, seen below.

Item# 10 says: “Concentrated Methane gas create flammable water and poisonous fumes”


Figure 5: Screen capture of Greenpeace web page claiming fracking contaminates groundwater


Despite the science being well known and well documented, anti-fracking activist groups simply don’t care; they’ll make the claims anyway. Their goal is to stifle energy development, more on that later.

This is what is happening in Butte County with the “Frack Free Butte County” activists. Much of the claims they are making can be easily refuted if you bother to do a modicum of research.

For example, one of their claims is:

Fracking uses gross amounts of water. In a drought, the last thing we should rely on is fracking for purposes supplied by other sources.

What they don’t seem to realize is that fracking is a closed water system, it does not use “millions of gallons of water” (a common citation to position fracking as a water hog), but instead uses water that it treats and recycles at the surface.

The shale gas industry uses water: 1-5 million gallons per well. However, its needs are not great in comparison with those of other industries, such as the power generation industry, or even the quantity used in domestic appliances. Gas drilling in Pennsylvania uses less than 60 million gallons per day, compared with 1,550 million gallons per day used in public water systems, 1,680 million gallons per day used in industry and 5,930 million gallons per day used in power generation in the state (US Geological Survey). A single shale gas well uses in total about the same amount of water as a golf course uses in three weeks.


If you look at the amount of water used by the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico per year, you’ll find it far and regularly exceeds any expectation of water to be used for hydraulic fracturing in Butte County, should it ever occur in Butte County.

For example in 2007, SNB used over 6 million barrels of water (31 US gallons/barrel) for a total of 186 million gallons of water.
Source: http://www.sierranevada.com/sites/default/files/content/sustainability/reports/SN_SustainabilityReport2012_2.pdf

Approximately one-third of the water pumped down the well for fracking returns eventually to the surface together with gas during production. In the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, this water is saline, because the shale rock was formed on the bed of an ancient sea. The water is extracted from the gas, collected in pools doubly lined with heavy-duty polythene, and either re-used for fracking in other wells or desalinated, treated and disposed of as waste. This is no different from the treatment of waste water in any other industrial process. Pollution incidents involving such `produced water‘ are rare. A gas well operated by EOG Resources blew out in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, in June 2010, spilling 35,000 gallons of slick water. The water was contained by berms and linings, and there were no injuries or significant damage to the environment.

Another claim used by activists is that the water coming to the surface is radioactive.

The returning water is also slightly more radioactive than surface water because of naturally occurring isotopes within the rocks. However, this radioactivity drops when the salt is removed and before the water is disposed of in the sewage system. In any case many granite rocks have higher natural radioactivity, so exposure to waste water from gas drilling is likely to be no more hazardous than exposure to some other kinds of rock. There is no evidence that either gets close to being hazardous. Indeed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has tested the water in seven rivers to which treated waste water from gas wells is discharged and found not only no elevation in radioactivity but:

All samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228. — Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 7 March 201140

All technologies have environmental risks. Press coverage that talks about `toxic‘, `carcinogenic‘ and `radioactive‘ `chemicals‘ is meaningless. Vitamin A is toxic. A single cup of coffee contains more known carcinogens than the average American ingests from pesticide residues in a whole year. Bananas are radioactive. Dihydrogen monoxide is a chemical (water, H2O).

RELEVANCE: As demonstrated above, the list of easy refutations to activist’s claims about fracking is quite long, if any of you want to have them specifically addressed, I’ll be happy to do so personally on request.

This will surprise you – fracking has actually helped solve the “global warming” problem

The same people who complain that fracking will kill the planet also say similar things about carbon dioxide emissions related to “global warming”.

The great irony of fracking to produce more natural gas is that it has helped make a shift from coal to natural gas in energy production, actually reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the USA.


As demonstrated in this article, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. are at their lowest level in 20 years thanks to fracking.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/project_syndicate/2012/09/thanks_to_fracking_u_s_carbon_emissions_are_at_the_lowest_levels_in_20_years_.html

The EIA data shows natural gas on the rise:


Figure 4: US CO2 emissions from energy consumption sources 1973-2012

So many activists want us to get off “dirty coal” as an energy source, yet they seem unwilling and unable to accept a much cleaner burning fuel, natural gas, because it involves “fracking”.

But, you shouldn’t take my word for it, read what they say at U.C. Berkeley about Natural Gas in their August 2014 report:

Climate Impacts of Coal and Natural Gas

In a world where a cost-­‐competitive near-­‐ zero carbon energy source is not readily available, particularly in developing countries, replacing coal electric generation with natural gas could provide an effective strategy to mitigate climate change and reduce harmful air pollution.

Source: http://static.berkeleyearth.org/pdf/climate-impacts-of-coal-and-natural-gas.pdf

Just as surprising, the leader of the group that produced that report, Berkeley Earth, is an advocate of fracking to produce more natural gas.

Deadly particulate pollution known as PM2.5 (highly regulated in California) is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world, demonstrates Richard Muller (Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley since 1980) in Why Every Serious Environmentalist should favour Fracking. His co-author, Elizabeth Muller, is his daughter and co-founder (with him) of Berkeley Earth, a non-profit working on environmental issues.

The summary from that report:


See the full report: http://www.cps.org.uk/files/reports/original/131202135150-WhyEverySeriousEnvironmentalistShouldFavourFracking.pdf

Study: Fracked shale gas impacts have positive and negative benefits, but there’s no reason not to make it part of the energy mix – September 22, 2014

From The University of Manchester: Fracking’s environmental impacts scrutinised

Greenhouse gas emissions from the production and use of shale gas would be comparable to conventional natural gas, but the controversial energy source actually faired better than renewables on some environmental impacts, according to new research.

The UK holds enough shale gas to supply its entire gas demand for 470 years, promising to solve the country’s energy crisis and end its reliance on fossil-fuel imports from unstable markets. But for many, including climate scientists and environmental groups, shale gas exploitation is viewed as environmentally dangerous and would result in the UK reneging on its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Climate Change Act.

University of Manchester scientists have now conducted one of the most thorough examinations of the likely environmental impacts of shale gas exploitation in the UK in a bid to inform the debate. Their research has just been published in the leading academic journal Applied Energy and study lead author, Professor Adisa Azapagic, will outline the findings at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on Monday (22 September).

“While exploration is currently ongoing in the UK, commercial extraction of shale gas has not yet begun, yet its potential has stirred controversy over its environmental impacts, its safety and the difficulty of justifying its use to a nation conscious of climate change,” said Professor Azapagic.

“There are many unknowns in the debate surrounding shale gas, so we have attempted to address some of these unknowns by estimating its life cycle environmental impacts from ‘cradle to grave’. We looked at 11 different impacts from the extraction of shale gas using hydraulic fracturing – known as ‘fracking’– as well as from its processing and use to generate electricity.”

The researchers compared shale gas to other fossil-fuel alternatives, such as conventional natural gas and coal, as well as low-carbon options, including nuclear, offshore wind and solar power (solar photovoltaics).

The results of the research suggest that the average emissions of greenhouse gases from shale gas over its entire life cycle are about 460 grams of carbon dioxide-equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. This, the authors say, is comparable to the emissions from conventional natural gas. For most of the other life-cycle environmental impacts considered by the team, shale gas was also comparable to conventional natural gas.

But the study also found that shale gas was better than offshore wind and solar for four out of 11 impacts: depletion of natural resources, toxicity to humans, as well as the impact on freshwater and marine organisms.  Additionally, shale gas was better than solar (but not wind) for ozone layer depletion and eutrophication (the effect of nutrients such as phosphates, on natural ecosystems).

On the other hand, shale gas was worse than coal for three impacts: ozone layer depletion, summer smog and terrestrial eco-toxicity.

Professor Azapagic said:

“Some of the impacts of solar power are actually relatively high, so it is not a complete surprise that shale gas is better in a few cases. This is mainly because manufacturing solar panels is very energy and resource-intensive, while their electrical output is quite low in a country like the UK, as we don’t have as much sunshine. However, our research shows that the environmental impacts of shale gas can vary widely, depending on the assumptions for various parameters, including the composition and volume of the fracking fluid used, disposal routes for the drilling waste and the amount of shale gas that can be recovered from a well.

“Assuming the worst case conditions, several of the environmental impacts from shale gas could be worse than from any other options considered in the research, including coal. But, under the best-case conditions, shale gas may be preferable to imported liquefied natural gas.”

The authors say their results highlight the need for tight regulation of shale gas exploration – weak regulation, they claim, may result in shale gas having higher impacts than coal power, resulting in a failure to meet climate change and sustainability imperatives and undermining the deployment of low-carbon technologies.

Professor Azapagic added:

“Whether shale gas is an environmentally sound option depends on the perceived importance of different environmental impacts and the regulatory structure under which shale gas operates.

“From the government policy perspective – focusing mainly on economic growth and energy security – it appears likely that shale gas represents a good option for the UK energy sector, assuming that it can be extracted at reasonable cost.

“However, a wider view must also consider other aspects of widespread use of shale gas, including the impact on climate change, as well as many other environmental considerations addressed in our study. Ultimately, the environmental impacts from shale gas will depend on which options it is displacing and how tight the regulation is.”

Study co-author Dr Laurence Stamford, from Manchester’s School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, said: “Appropriate regulation should introduce stringent controls on the emissions from shale gas extraction and disposal of drilling waste. It should also discourage extraction from sites where there is little shale gas in order to avoid the high emissions associated with a low-output well.

He continued:

“If shale gas is extracted under tight regulations and is reasonably cheap, there is no obvious reason, as yet, why it should not make some contribution to our energy mix. However, regulation should also ensure that investment in sustainable technologies is not reduced at the expense of shale gas.”

The paper, ‘Life cycle environmental impacts of UK shale gas’ by L. Stamford and A. Azapagic, published in Applied Energy (doi 10.1016/j.apenergy.2014.08.063), is available at:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261914008745

From Stanford University – Stanford-led study assesses the environmental costs and benefits of fracking – September 13, 2014

A strange thing happened on the way to dealing with climate change: Advances in hydraulic fracturing put trillions of dollars’ worth of previously unreachable oil and natural gas within humanity’s grasp.

The environmental costs – and benefits – from “fracking,” which requires blasting huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations, are the subject of new research that synthesizes 165 academic studies and government databases. The survey covers not only greenhouse gas impacts but also fracking’s influence on local air pollution, earthquakes and, especially, supplies of clean water.

The authors are seven environmental scientists who underscore the real consequences of policy decisions on people who live near the wells, as well as some important remaining questions.

“Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking,” said Stanford environmental scientist Robert Jackson, who led the new study. “The key is to reduce the environmental costs as much as possible, while making the most of the environmental benefits.”

Fracking’s consumption of water is rising quickly at a time when much of the United States is suffering from drought, but extracting natural gas with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling compares well with conventional energy sources, the study finds. Fracking requires more water than conventional gas drilling; but when natural gas is used in place of coal or nuclear fuel to generate electricity, it saves water. From mining to generation, coal power consumes more than twice the water per megawatt-hour generated than unconventional gas does.

Unconventional drilling’s water demand can be better or worse than alternative energy sources, the study finds. Photovoltaic solar and wind power use almost no water and emit no greenhouse gas, but cheap, abundant natural gas may limit their deployment as new sources of electricity. On the other hand, fracked gas requires less than a hundredth the water of corn ethanol per unit of energy.

Fracking’s impact on both climate change and local air pollution is similar to its impact on water, finds the study “The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking,” published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources.

Getting a fractured well going is more intense than for conventional oil and gas drilling, with potential health threats arising from increases in volatile organic compounds and air toxics.

But when natural gas replaces coal as a fuel for generating electricity, the benefits to air quality include lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal and almost none of the mercury, sulfur dioxide or ash.

The study highlights several policies and practices that could optimize fracking’s environmental cost-benefit balance, and it highlights the need for further research. For example, the direct impact on the health of nearby residents is virtually unknown. “Almost no comprehensive research has been done on health effects,” said Jackson, “but decisions about drilling – both approvals and bans on fracking –are made all the time based on assumptions about health risks.”


And finally, from a political perspective, just how much support does the anti-fracking movement in Butte County have?

The “Frack Free Butte County” group tried to get their fellow citizens to fund their efforts via a crowd sourcing campaign. They only raised 9% of their expected goal:

Figure 5: Screen capture of Frack Free Butte County funding page

Figure 5: Screen capture of Frack Free Butte County funding page

Source: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/frack-free-butte-county

That speaks loudly when the citizenry can’t get behind it. It also suggests that the people who did contribute money (just 72 people) are limited to their friends and peers.

UPDATE: Via Tom Anderson in comments.

One interesting sidelight is that the EPA itself grudgingly confirmed in 2015 that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, barring mishap or poor practice.


About a year later, in January 21, 2016, the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board endorsed the agency’s findings and recommended its conclusions be stated less ambiguously. I think the agency is still trying to get out of that.


The study had further corroborated a study by the U.S. Department of Energy in which the researchers injected tracers into the hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no observable groundwater contamination after twelve months’ monitoring. It also confirmed reports by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Govern­ment Accountability Office, Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, the University of Colorado, and the Groundwater Protection Council – to name just a few.


Summary and my best advice

· Fracking is not something that just started, it is a long and well proven process

· Fracking is safe, despite activist claims of flaming faucets and other nonsense

· Fracking is not a water hog in comparison to other industries

· Fracking has benefits, including reduced carbon dioxide and reduced PM2.5 particulates

· Fracking is an emotional issue that is soundly refuted by government and scientific studies

· Fracking is a tool being used improperly by activists to stifle energy production

If you pass a fracking ban, will it affect me? No. However it may affect landowners who may wish to develop or improve wells in the small pockets of natural gas near Willows. A ban may render their mineral rights moot.

But, as we already know, there is only a small amount of gas wells in Butte County, and some of those were enhanced with fracking (check well logs) though owners don’t want to admit it for fear of activists chaining themselves to well or other such things.

A ban probably won’t matter much in the scheme of production, but if passed it will be used as a political bandwagon tool.

A fracking ban will be just about as useless as the infamous “nuclear weapons ban” in Chico, but it will make some emotional folks feel good about themselves.

If I were to be in your position, I’d put it up to a vote of the people of Butte County, rather than approve a ban outright. I think you’ll find it has about as much support in the citizenry as the ill-fated attempt to ban Genetically Modified Food (GMO’s) a few years back.

Thank you for your consideration.


I have no interests, funds, ownership, business arrangements, or any connection of any kind to any activist or political group, nor any industry that relies on oil or gas exploration, drilling, or production.

I produced this report of my own volition, simply to help educate you on the issues as I have done for myself over the past few years. The outcome of your vote will not affect me in any way, personally or financially.

The opinions expressed are my own, the facts expressed stand on their own merit and are referenced by source.


152 thoughts on “A report on the hyperbole behind the politicized issue of ‘fracking’

  1. Close to where i live in eastern Canada, there was a swarm of very minor earth tremors not so very long ago. This province has not yet allowed fracking, but if it had, I could have seen the headlines plastered across every newspaper. STOP THE FRACKING NOW. The environmentalists were all geared up to go ape over it, but couldn’t.

    On our unstable planet, earthquakes happen all of the time. Without any release, the instability builds up to where the eventual earthquake, releases large amounts of energy, sometimes in a catastrophic way, as many reported earthquakes each year demonstrate. I prefer to think that fracking helps put off that awkward moment in some small and indefinable way. But every little, helps.

    If fracking causes any premature release of that energy, then it might just help us avoid the really big one. That, is the way I look at fracking and the needless hysteria that goes along with it.

    Go, fracking! Go!

    • Unstable planet?! Unstable planet?! How dare you!! This planet is perfectly in balance. Everything on this planet was absolutely perfectly, precisionly, wonderfully, sweetly, and oh so delicately in perfect, delicate balance … until … US. Until we came along.

      And caused it to wobble, blow up mountains, wipe out shorelines with tsunamis or hurricanes or just plain erosion, to have earthquakes, asteroid hits, droughts, floods …

      Oh wait, it has those anyway.

      Never mind.

      • C’mon Tom, did you flunk Sunday school? GAWD sent those plagues to SMITE us puny humans for our SINS! Never had none o’ those nasty “natural disastas” until that bad lady Eve et that APPLE . . .

    • The tie between fracking liquid blowback disposal into injection wells and small earth quakes up to 4 is well established, although still suppressed in some states like it was for a time in Oklahoma. Small earth quakes generally aren’t a problem unless you have a brick facade house near one, then it can get expensive. Oklahoma has finally decided to start addressing the problem:

      Of course if one has a nochalant attitude toward your neighbors problems, then maybe this is how to feel:

      • Your comment is misleading. There is no correlation between “fracking liquid blowback” and “small earth quakes” because injection wells receive multiple types of fluids, most often the salt water that is pumped out with the oil & gas. You would have to have injection wells dedicated only to fracking fluid and then compare those injection wells with others to make such a conclusion. I would be interested in such a study as we are looking to acquiring producing oil & gas wells in Oklahoma, Louisiana and of course Texas.

      • BFL. There is a minor quake problem in Oklahoma, but not otherwise. For example, your Arkansas map includes the Reelfoot Reef, which had periodic minor earthquake swarms ever since the 1816 big one, and well before any fracking or reinjection began. An example in the correlation is not causation chapter of The Arts of Truth. Which included 3D seismic maps.
        Oklahoma is a ‘new’ special case, with previously unknown geological tectonic tensions and roughly NE/SW faults. Solutions include lower volumes per injectiion well, and new injection wells away from the newly evidenced fault syatem. Hardly a geological catastrophe.

      • The Oklahoma earthquakes have indeed been caused by disposal of waste fluids from oil and gas production. They just have nothing to do with fracking. No one fracks a well producing 10,000 barrels of waste water a day. Permiability is not the issue, oil/water % is.
        here’s a note from an insider:

        We were under a tornado watch (had an F4 in SW Oklahoma), had severe thunder and lightning and an earthquake all at the same time (4.7, biggest last weekend was 5.6).
        I heard the rumble that actually did turn out to be the earthquake, but needed ten seconds to figure out which it was. Not a big deal. The news keeps trying to blame it on fracs.
        No, it isn’t a frac, but we did notice that they are pumping mind boggling amounts of water (over 10,000 barrels water per day per well) in hundreds of wells near epicenter/fault (huge water reinjection sweep of
        old watered-out field recovering about 2% oil cut). Somebody from the USGS did say that this type of water injection could cause up to a 5 magnitude quake, however, nobody seems to be listening to him
        as long as the misinformed public keeps blaming it on fracs, the industry can continue to categorically deny fracs are the cause.

      • The graph, and supposed tie between water injection and earthquakes, is very misleading. Better put; Wrong! Water injection into oil fields for use in secondary recovery has been ongoing for 80 years and is magnitudes greater than the volume of water produced and disposed from recently drilled shale oil wells. Whereas older oil wells benefit from massive volumes of water injected for secondary recovery, shale oil wells are too tight (extremely low permeability) to benefit from water injection.

        The amount of water injected/disposed in older, traditional oil fields is more correlated to oil price than to the number of earthquakes.

        It can only be surmised that the recent increase in earthquakes is the result of more comprehensive monitoring and not fracing or water injection. It would be more correct to plot the current rig count (decreasing) vs earthquakes to show how false the graph above really is.

        It is also important to note that water disposal wells are under the jurisdiction of the different states OGCC’s and BLM. Under rules enforced by both agencies, water disposal cannot take place in a well at a pressure greater than the formation frac pressure. No fracing takes place when water is disposed or injected. Water is disposed only to the available voidage.

      • First off, a mag 4 earthquake is nothing.
        Secondly, your claim that the link between fraking and earthquakes has been established is nothing more the pure BS.

        1) The areas that are having earthquakes have always had earthquakes.
        2) Most of the quakes that are happening are hundreds of miles away from the sites of fraking.
        3) The energy being used to frak rocks, couldn’t cause a mag 1 earthquake, much less the larger ones being claimed.

    • […] what is the penalty for setting off a nuclear device in Chico?”

      A stern reprimand and you are grounded after school for 2 whole weeks. Upon completion of your sentence, you are given a warm hug to help soften the blow to your self esteem.

    • Back in the 60’s or 70’s in the US nukes were used 3 times experimentally for fracing.
      As I recall from what I’ve read, the concern was the gas being radioactive, not the drinking water.
      It was done under Operation Plowshares, looking for peaceful uses for nukes. I think the plan to replace the Panama Canal with one excavated by nukes was part of it.

      PS There is a reservoir in Russia that was made by their version of Plowshares.
      (I’m not sure what the fishing is like.)

  2. Silly rabbit. You can’t reason with lip-trembling, finger-pointing, tongue-wagging, pants-wetting eviro-kooks and quacks. They hate the facts as much as, if not more than fracking itself.

  3. Good post, but ultimately irrelevant, as the green blob does not care. As long as they have “Gasland” and other tendentious screeds, they will contintue to spread panic. After all, cheap and abundant eneragy is like giving an idiot child a machine gun. I do wonder just how many of the CAGW trolls on this site are also into fractivism.

    • “Good post, but ultimately irrelevant, as the green blob does not care.”

      Sadly, I have to agree with you. It’s no coincidence that the anti fracking campaign began about the time that the CAGW meme started showing weaknesses to which we are all too familiar. Belief in CAGW and anti fracking go hand in hand, and facts such as presented in this excellent article matter not in the least.

    • It’s sad state of affairs. The eco-zealots are further emboldened by the political legitimacy given them by the Left, dancing the quid-pro-quo tango all the way to totalitarianism.

      In Canada, Justin Twerpdeau’s government changed the title of the minister of the environment to the “minster of environment and climate change“. He has further empowered ENGO’s by adding “climate change impact” to environmental assessments for any new projects. Development will all but cease under this government. Only unicorn breeding projects will be able to jump that arbitrary regulatory hurdle.

      Canada’s brand of socialism is becoming more and more unpalatable, except (sadly, ruinously) to a majority of voters who prefer selfies over substance.

      • @ Robmorrow, 1:50 pm, Justin Twerpdeau’s, You got a few $$ for a new screen ? Hard to read with coffee all over it, thanks for the laugh, can I use it?

    • I had one activist try to tell me that prior to fraking there had never been an earthquake in Oklahoma. This lady actually claimed to have studied geology in college.
      I dug up a chart from the OK govt that showed historical earthquakes going back 100 years. She shut up, but still opposed fraking.

  4. Thank you for debunking the anti-fracking hoax. It’s been a long time since I was taken in on one of these media operations, but I admit that I was on this one. I suppose it reflects the general wish of the powers that be to reduce the economy further– perhaps larded with Big Oil’s wish to get rid of smaller, newer oil.

  5. Nice article. Only thing I would have added is that all drinking water acquifers are above 1000 feet down. Minimally mineralized fresh groundwater. For that reason, O&G wells are typically double steel cased and cement grouted for the first 1000 feet. There are always exceptions, like Kern River in California where the average depth of the oil field is only 600 feet.
    A point many do not know. Part of the shale production engineering is to understand how far the frack fissues will extend. That determines the minimum well spacing. Ordinarilly the radius is less than 100 feet. Outside that radius, the rock remains unaffected. The Greenpeace illustration is very misleading for that reason.
    There is as much nonsense spead about fracking source rock shales as there is about anthropogenic global warming. Many times by the same perpetrators. Greenpeace, FoE, … Either they knowingly prevaricate, or have weirdly distorted reality and selective fact retention.

  6. Well done Anthony. Step by step explanation of false information and referenced evidence of why we shouldn’t be fearful. I buy this type of rational explanation every time.

    The power of the anti-GM food, global warming crowd, anti-fracking groups and climate change proponents, etc is that they relentlessly lie about how these “activities” will cause the end of life as we know it. They constantly go for the emotional fear mongering that so many “feel”, attracting “believers” and those for whom knowledge, education and true scientific understanding are neither capable of nor desirous of. The success of these groups is because they understand that the war is a fight for what people feel NOT what they know and therefore the ends justify the means. I heard this expressed as the necessity to move the fight just 18″ from the brain to the heart. (politicians obviously know this)

    Once that is done explanations like yours bounce off the armor of the believers.

    • I had one anti-GM nut case tell me that I would change my mind about GM foods when I had a kid with three arms.

      Yes, he actually believed that GM foods would cause genetic modifications in people who ate it.

  7. I think the first pictorial is probably the most helpful for the easily frightened. Of course even that can’t really show the true scale of how far underground the action happens.It really is down with the Balrogs.

  8. Meanwhile here in the northeast US, Kinder Morgan is in the process of building a $5 billion gas pipeline for Marcellus Shale gas. The problem is, there most likely isn’t a regional market for a good portion of the gas that would flow through it, but there is a healthy, and potentially very-lucrative market for it in Europe. The solution is to turn it into LNG, and ship it from Nova Scotia. Now that’s a bit of a sticky wicket, because how much of that pipeline are ratepayers here going to be shouldering? There’s always an environmental trade-off with projects like these, and we New Englanders tend to take a dim view on things which may benefit giant companies and foreign lands more than they do us. My view is that it is still worth it, but I can see how others might not see it that way.

    • I’m all for it if it will make natural gas and electricity cheaper here in Massachusetts. I do agree that exporters should pay their share of the pipeline costs, though.

      /Mr Lynn

  9. Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

    • The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

      That’s because their motivation is to capitalize on people’s irrational fears. If they can accomplish that, whether what they say is true is a very secondary consideration.

      However they will always claim that rebuttals from their opponents are not true. To protect against that, it’s necessary to do a lot of research to solidly document the actual facts. Also the response needs to be phrased very carefully to make it harder for them to create straw men to try to discredit it. All that takes a lot more effort than what they put into their original claims.

      The following is from Wikipedia’s article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit#Harry_Frankfurt.27s_concept

      In his essay On Bullshit … philosopher Harry Frankfurt of Princeton University characterizes bullshit as a form of falsehood distinct from lying. The liar, Frankfurt holds, knows and cares about the truth, but deliberately sets out to mislead instead of telling the truth. The “bullshitter”, on the other hand, does not care about the truth and is only seeking to impress:

      [T]he bullshitter … is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

      Also note the follow-up tweet at https://twitter.com/krelnik/status/472046082135162881
      And the energy grows exponentially b/c you put the effort into refuting and they just respond w/ more BS.

    • A lie can be halfway around the world before the truth can get it’s shoes on.

      I believe that was Mark Twain.

  10. Good information up until:

    “The great irony of fracking to produce more natural gas is that it has helped make a shift from coal to natural gas in energy production, actually reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the USA.”

    Correct me if I am wrong Anthony, but you do not subscribe to the junk science associated with CAGW. So why use it to dilute information about fracking?

    I am in favor of using coal and natural gas to make electricity. Same for renewable energy. I can articulate the reason but basically the benefits of producing electricity far outweigh risk.

    For example:

    “Deadly particulate pollution known as PM2.5 (highly regulated in California) is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world, demonstrates …”

    First of all that is not true. Sure some over educated idiot at UC Berkeley has a model but that is not how to solve a problem. First you measure to see if there is problems. Then you find the root causes. One cause is automobiles and truck. That has been solved in California. Another source is wild fires. In the third world, it might be using dried cow dung for cooking and heating.

    My point is that it is not an argument for fracking and against coal. It is junk science.

    So the gist of the argument about the junk science related to fracking is lost by ending with junk science.

  11. I wrote a report “Proppants: North American Industry Markets and Outlook” published by Roskill in the UK (www.roskil.com) for whom I write the occasional mineral commodity economic report that is sold in the industry and to financial, consulting, brokerage, etc. firms (It is quite high-priced so this is not a promotion for readers here).

    To add a few dimensions to your report Anthony, the industry is even experimenting with using liquid nitrogen as the fracking fluid. It adds a pressure increase punch to expand the fractures and needs no chemicals and it can be produced from the atmosphere at the well head.

    EOG Resources (largest on shore producer of oil in the US) is one of the few petroleum companies to open their own frac sand mines and they have experimented with closer spaced fracking of their reservoirs, essentially more than doubling up sand usage to ~4000t/well and they have extended horizontal wells to 10,000ft in length. This has resulted in almost doubling percent recovery from shale resources in the last three years and damping the historical rapid decline in production in the first several years. It also means that 50,000 wells that have been fracked and are in production can be re-fracked at a fraction of a greenfield well costs and will approximately duplicate its ‘first’ production.

    A new practice in the US and Canada after the swoon in oil and gas prices, is the drilling and capping of an inventory of new high potential wells that can be quickly re-entered and fracked in quick response to a rise in prices. Essentially, it has become almost like a manufacturing process.

    Also changes in drilling technology with multiple wells from one pad, “walking rigs” that don’t require dismantling and resetup and improvements to drill bit motors, etc. have reduced the time for drilling a battery of wells to less than half that of 2012!

    Two years ago an EOG spokesman said that with the rapidly improving technologies, they were more profitable at $65/bbl than they were at $95/bbl in 2012. Consolidation and rationalization of the frac sand industry, which had been selling sand at boom prices until the oil price drop along with lowered drilling costs, will also reduce O&G production costs. The best projects can still make a few dollars at today’s prices.

    One other thing, I raised six kids some 40 years ago (plus two nieces for a couple of years) on a farm in eastern Ontario, Canada where the regions wells are all in black shales leaking natural gas. Some farmers have utilized the gas, all have vents in the well covers. I had an elbow welded onto the vent in the concrete cover and I suggested to the welder that we take the cover off before torching it. He said no, it will flame out and, indeed, we did ignite a flame that flickered for a while. There was sulphur in the water, too, so we had to develop the locals’ taste for this. It actually made good tasting coffee and some attributed the large size of our lambs to the sulphur in the water and fertilizing pasture! None of us ever got sick and I’m hale and hearty at an advancing age.

  12. The enviro commie scum never, ever cared about fracking because it was an “old” technology and the amount of oil/gas recovered using that technology was no big deal.
    What REALLY changed everything was horizontal directional drilling (HDD) ; it was this NEW technology that was the game changer.
    When combined with the “old” technology of fracking, massive quantities of oil and gas could now be extracted from very tight rock formations and, as they say, the rest is history.

    Of course, now that these combined technologies greatly increased the production of domestic oil and gas, the enviro commie scum had to act. After all, they couldn’t allow the imperialistic, racist, homophobic, greedy, militaristic, capitalistic USA to even begin to approach energy independence or even provide less expensive oil and gas to US consumers. Yep, better to have folks in the colder regions of the USA go into bankruptcy trying to heat their homes in the winter.

    You will note that the enviro wackos have never, ever demonstrated or agitated in those nations that have (had) the absolute worse environmental records; the USSR, East Germany, the former East Bloc nations, etc. This should tell you what are the real motivations of the “environmentalists.”

    • The ecofasc15ts actually are concerned by the threat that US produced oil and gas poses to the imperialistic, racist, homophobic, greedy, militaristic OPEC nations. The ecofasc15st will never forgive the USA – or Russia (although they gratefully trouser funding from the latter) – for kicking over the sandcastles of the founder of the current greenpeace-ecofasc15t movement, Na3i Germany in the 1930-40s.

    • It was here earlier and some commented upon it. I am using the same server I always use and no idea why I saw it then and can’t see it now.

  13. Agree with Myron Mesecke, although WUWT HomePage has the article headline & graphic, clicking through lands on a page with _ONLY_ comments. Note: Browser in use is Firefox 45.0.1 running on Win10.

  14. Why don’t these frackers simply document the lies, and then turn over a sample of their fluid to an independent lab for verification. If the claims turn out to be false, sue the living daylights out of the environmental organization making the claims? The judge can make sure that the finding are kept confidential, and if there is a secret recipe it can be kept safe from competitors.

    • You can’t sue people that have no money, because even if you win you lose – the Streisand effect.

  15. Fracking is an engineering problem. Like deep water drilling or nuclear power it can be done safely
    or it can be done cheaply. The problems arise when you try to have both.

      • Sure. The key phrase being “well-managed”. You have a nuclear plant design that is safe when being managed by Harvard Business School graduates?

    • Geronimo
      + Shedloads – your perceptive comment is absolutely true for for every human activity.

      Thank you.


  16. Article appears properly in Vivaldi 1.0.435.42 on Windows 10 Pro x86_64 and it’s Chrome based, so who knows?

  17. Hypothesis:
    1. The next act of this farce will be characterized by global cooling starting by about 2020 or sooner, cooling that may be mild or severe. Global cooling will demonstrate that climate sensitivity to increasing atmospheric CO2 is so small as to be insignificant. The scientific credibility of the warmist gang will be shattered and some may face lawsuits and/or go to jail.
    2. The scientific community will gradually accept the fact that CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales, and that temperature (among other factors) drives atmospheric CO2 much more than CO2 drives temperature.
    3. The foolish green energy schemes to “stop global warming” will be shelved and dismantled, but not before they contribute to a significant increase in Excess Winter Mortality, especially in Europe and to a lesser extent in North America, where energy costs are much lower (thanks to shale fracking).
    4. The warmist thugs will still be bleating about a warmer world, wilder weather, etc., all caused by the sins of mankind, but nobody will listen.
    Regards to all, Allan

    • I disagree. They will spin up another change of course and narrative that ‘previously not fully understood effects of fossil fuel use’ caused the cooling. The Ratbastards are very predictable by anyone that hasn’t had their brain thoroughly gelatinized by Pop Culture, IOW, very few.

  18. And finally, from a political perspective, just how much support does the anti-fracking movement in Butte County have?

    The “Frack Free Butte County” group tried to get their fellow citizens to fund their efforts via a crowd sourcing campaign. They only raised 9% of their expected goal

    There. Fixed.

  19. I concur. This is one of the most comprehensive and clear statements on hydraulic fracturing I have ever seen. One interesting sidelight is that the EPA itself grudgingly confirmed in 2015 that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, barring mishap or poor practice.


    About a year later, in January 21, 2016, the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board endorsed the agency’s findings and recommended its conclusions be stated less ambiguously. I think the agency is still trying to get out of that.


    The study had further corroborated a study by the U.S. Department of Energy in which the researchers injected tracers into the hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no observable groundwater contamination after twelve months’ monitoring. It also confirmed reports by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Govern­ment Accountability Office, Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, the University of Colorado, and the Groundwater Protection Council – to name just a few.

    Still, there will be not a Green voice raised to admit the report’s existence, let alone rearrange the furniture in what they call their minds to let in evidence from this growing body of government and academic study, thereby admitting they may be mistaken. My own Greenie acquaintances’ only response is a raspberry. What else is new?

  20. Great article and one I shared on my Facebook site. I have read a few comments made regarding earthquakes & fracking but nothing clearly definitive, moreso in relation to the article. I will admit that I was surprised this was not covered by the author and yes, if I/we did receive input from the author, or others I would be greatly apprecitive; I found it a bit odd that at least two comments here referred to the benefit that earthquakes may relive built up stress of potential earthquakes but I do believe it may also set-off/trigger a big one as well.

    • The problem with earthquakes, is that no matter what you do, they will always occur.
      The difference is that the stress builds up over time, so the sooner you trigger the quake, the smaller it will be.
      If there is going to be a big one, it will happen regardless of whether or not you allow fraking.

  21. Excellent article Anthony. I have saved a copy to present to any bed-wetters at work if that is OK.

  22. My only gripe about fracking here in the UK is the small matter why Cameron has removed all responsibilities to the environment by these Canadian gas fracking companies.
    This is an outright admission of possible dangers to the ground surface the company cares not to pay for if sued.

  23. I remember in either the late 70s or 80s a bank in Colorado blew up from gas when and employee turn a light on in the morning. The bank did not have a gas line to it. The gas that caused the explosion was natural and seeped into the building, it happens that morning the gas to air ratio was right. I also remember a farm shown in the National Geographic burn off the gas in his kitchen sink, the farm was near Foston Minnesota and more that likely the gas came from peat there is very little shale in Minnesota the bedrocks are granite and not that far down. Close working wells gas or oil are about two hundred to three hundred miles away in North Dakota west of Bottineau. Of course, that information is lost on the anti-fracking fools.

  24. Thank you for a very good post. The Greenies and Warmistas, however, will ignore it all as they prefer to watch reruns of “Gasland” and spread panic. They much prefer to build bird chomping Wind Turbines and bird frying solar furnaces, even if they go bankrupt when the subsidies are withdrawn.

  25. Fracking is a non-issue. Improperly sealed casing, on the other hand, can be a problem.

    A few years back a geothermal company was drilling a shallow well and hit a pocket of natural gas, almost blowing up the subdivision in Oakville, Ontario. This led to a call for regulation of geothermal drilling which in turn led to an outcry from the geothermal industry that it would make their industry unprofitable. No mention of the fact that the oil & gas industry in Southern Ontario was already subject to such regulations.

    • Yup. The relevant drilling engineering (like casing depths, double casing depths), have been in place most places ‘forever’.

  26. A few days ago, while I was studying my Quantum Mechanics book while enjoying a Grande Dark in one of my local Starbucks, I overheard two women discussing a paper one of them was writing about the health effects of tracking fluid apparently spreading out across the surface of water and such stuff.
    I am going to start a campaign soon called “Free the Carbon”, and post various facts at dozens of Starbucks I will be visiting this summer throughout the lower mainland. Transportation via bicycle.

  27. Nice report. Here in Australia the number one complaint with fracking that I hear about in the media is that it causes ground instability. Collapses, tremors and earthquakes, etc. I don’t see that addressed in your report, although I’m reasonably confident there is little to no evidence to support the claim.

    Additionally much of the evidence is from oil and gas funded sources and so will be dismissed out of hand by greenies regardless of accuracy.

    • As noted above, fracking does none of that. Period. Salt water is coproduced. In ordinary reservoirs it is reinjected to help displace oil. Has no geological consequences.
      Shales are too tight, so the saltwater from them has to be disposed of by a reinjection well, usually into an adjacent porous formation. Some reinjection wells in Oklahoma were very high capacity, and located along a previously not understood fault system that is geologically stressed. The solution is to close the worse situated, reduce the reinjection rates at other poorly situtated wells, and locate new reinjection wells away from the fault system.
      The original MSM alarm came from earthquake swarms near injection wells for the Fayetteville gas shale in NE Arkansas. Injection is into Arbuckle formation. The region sits over the Reelfoot Rift, and has been prone to earthquake swarms ever since the BIG ONE of 1816. The origins of the swarm that started the hype was about 2km deeper than the Arbuckle. Pure antifracking alarmism.

  28. The fracking methane leak story may actually not be so straight forward.

    Satellite based leak estimates are about 10x higher than ground sensor based estimates. 10% vs roughly 1%.

    Natural gas has about the same GHG forcing as coal if 5.8% of methane leaks. If the satellite estimates are correct, coal is a lower GHG fuel. This is especially true of lower grade coals which have lower methane content.

    • Please present any fact based support for your silly assertions. I think you have none.
      Do you really think O&G companies are stupid enough to lose 10% of their valuable production?
      Flaring nat gas when the necessary pipelines are not economic makes sense–ND Bakken. But flaring leaves no methane, only its EVIL combustion products 2x water and 1x CO2. You can work out the underlying stoichiometry. Or read Hydrogen Hype, which does it for you.

    • Satellites measure over large areas. Any fraking leaks will be in small areas near the well head.
      Secondly, comparing one estimate against another estimate.

      Now that’s an exercise in futility if I ever heard one.

      PS, Any leak is methane not available for sale. Thus the companies already have a huge incentive to prevent leaks.

  29. Anthony, Nice report.
    So what did the Butte Co Board of Supervisors do with your report? Stiffen their spines, cave-in to the anti-frackers, drive the ball into the long grass, or …?

  30. “Then, the fluids are stored in pits or tanks to be treated – if the water is to be discharged into surface water – or is injected deep underground.”

    ….or reused, as is common up in this neck of the woods. Again and again.

  31. Fracking needs to be bad in order to ban it so that Peak Oil will come true.
    The defective mind of the left wing radical.

  32. Anthony, one thing that should be pointed out about hydraulic fracturing( I refuse to use “frack”, a term invented by activist because it starts with “F” and ends with “K” implying another word) is that when I perform a job I have completely identical goals with the so-called activists about preventing introduction of fracturing fluid to aquifers. Not only do I case off the fresh water with at least 2 strings of high strength steel cemented in place, I also leave the valve at the surface open in the annulus between the concentric casing I’m pumping into and the casing that covers the water zone. If there is a catastrophic failure then the fracturing fluid starts flowing out of the annulus and therefore cannot create enough pressure to burst the water protecting casing steel. In addition, I have no desire to spend $1 million dollars and not assure the fracture is going where it will do the most benefit to produce oil and gas. During the job the pressures are monitored constantly and if a change occurs during the job or the pressures are less than predicted for the job then the injection takes about 10 seconds to stop and is immediately flowed back to remove sand from the wellbore to avoid a costly clean out procedure. Therefore. even if by some bizzare circumstance,multiple casings miraculously ruptured the amount of fractuing fluid going into an acquifer is miniscule and even that small amount is immediately recovered. Although my purpose is to produce more oil my desire to avoid injection into an aquifer is identical to the activists even though my ultimate desire to to assure injection into the formation to produce more oil.

    [The mods do wish to point out that you (as an honest frac’er trying to earn a profit by producing a product that will actually benefit people) are a greedy capitalist pig who is denying those loving ecologists trying their best to preserve their imaginary pristine world of ???? BC by ensuring all the world’s peoples can die an early death in the cold and dark at age 25. Just like they used to before fossil fuels and electricity. .mod]

  33. Thank you Anthony for the well informed article. It hits the nail on the head.

    So now that most of the commenting is over, I think its a good time to get pedantic.

    Up until my retirement, I was employed in the oil industry, or as near as I could get to it during bad times, for nearly 40 years as a petroleum engineer. During that time we referred to fracturing a well as “fracing”; no extra “k”. When Josh Fox brought out his drive by shooting film; those of us familiar with how fracing is performed knew that he had not done his homework. He did not even know how to spell the word fracing correctly. This was our indication that he had not even made contact with any of the stimulation companies like Halliburton, Schlumberger or Baker; nor any of the oil companies using these contractors where he could find out how fracing is done and how safe it is. He apparently wasn’t interested in the truth.

    Josh Fox had an agenda to demonize fracing and make a little money for himself. He used the Michael Moore film production method where you make up everything as you go along. He should be sued for libeling an industry with blatant lies.

    Fracing is just one way of stimulating a well. Stimulating a well to get rid of near wellbore damage could mean acidizing near the wellbore, reperforating, or as was done in the early days of oil development; set off a torpedo. Based on my time in the industry, these are not considered fracing. Fracing specifically refers to hydraulic fracing and starts with creating hydraulic pressure great enough to part the rock near the wellbore. This induces a fracture extending hundreds of feet beyond the wellbore. This allows sand laden water to enter the fracture and prop it open once the pressure is released and maintains an easy path for the oil and gas to flow back to the wellbore.

    In the early days of fracing oil was the carrying agent and walnut hulls were used as the proppant. Walnut hulls crushed easily and the wells were eventually refraced using sand. Water soon replaced oil as the more effective carrying agent as it could be gelled using guar or cellulose to carry a higher concentration of proppant sand. As the wells got deeper the proppant changed from sand to sintered bauxite to minimize crushing. But with very low permeable formations, even crushed sand has magnitudes more permeability than the very tight formations that companies are completing today, and due to it’s lower cost is used most often.

    Companies frac sand and shale formations primarily. Limestone and dolomite formations are primarily acidized with large volumes of acid to create the oil path to the wellbore. It is surprising that the enviro nuts have not tried to stop acidizing as it stimulates limestone and dolomite wells to produce similar results as fracing in sand and shale formations. This intentional separation of stimulation methods by the environmentalists to only focus on sand proppant fracing and ignoring deep acid stimulation glaringly points on how much lack of knowledge exists in the anti-fracing movement and how much the movement is based on fanaticism rather than knowledge and common sense. Our president and democratic front runners are included in this group of ill-informed fanatics.

    There are lots of variations on the way wells can be stimulated, I’ve tried to keep it simple. It is safe to say that without fracing we would not have a viable oil and gas industry in the US, or even the world. That is how important this method of stimulation is in creating a cheap, safe and reliable source of oil and gas that we all benefit from.

  34. Excellent article that has taken a refreshingly scientific facts driven approach with a very neutral tone to the political and activist rumblings. This seems very convincing to a mind that that values of reasoning more than propaganda. However I am curious as to what this author thinks about global warming being of man made causes or not.

  35. I can’t figure out for the life of me, why you devoted all the time and energy to your article. The fracking industry is almost dead. Nobody can afford to frack number 1, and number 2 most of the wells don’t last long enough to risk drilling. Number 3 is that the concrete that is poured around the casing shrinks as it hardens, allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere. See Southern California Edison’s problem with escaping gas. Methane gas is 10 to 50 times as lethal to the problem of global warming as CO2. Of coarse you don’t believe in global warming, so I won’t waste your valuable time by giving more examples of your bias. Toodle-loo.

      • Nonsense? Not to the owners of property in Aliso Canyon, Orange County, CA who had to move out of their homes en-mass in order to get away from the methane. SCE had to close up the well permanently. That’s not nonsense!

    • bobthebear, You seem to have a problem with shooting from the lip. It is always best to ask questions first before making ill informed statements based on ignorance. I’m not sure but I’d bet you co-produced Josh Fox’s hit piece movie.

      Though the current price for oil makes drilling in shale an economic hardship, there are other wells that will respond to produce a cost effective project. There has been a significant drop in the drill rig count. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=79687&p=irol-rigcountsoverview This is why I questioned a chart on Oklahoma earthquakes earlier in this comment section. If rig count is going down why are earthquakes continuing to go up? No correlation means no causation.

      And as you, me and others have experienced, the price of oil fluctuates. It fluctuates not based on the volume of over-supply but on the current production vs usage. A drop in production will produce an increase in price, not withstanding, the over supply. When the price of oil is down; drilling is scaled back to the most economic projects and production declines to match usage. The price goes up. Basic economics.

      As for your cement shrinking problem; once a well is cemented there is a cement bond log run to confirm the integrity of the cement job. This inspection tool shows the cement bond to both the casing and formation. If that bond does not exist, remedial work has to be performed to insure that the casing to formation bond exists. This survey, along with all the other information surveys (logs) are shared with the OGCC’s and BLM.

      And for those of us who know something about the spectral radiation of methane vs water vapor; your claim of lethality is false. Methane has no green house effect in the presence of water vapor.

      • I didn’t compare it to water vapor, did I? All those logs apparently are done wrong or not being followed up by the OGCC or BLM, because those casings leak. The government is too short handed to follow up on all the wells that have been drilled. You should know that, since you probably voted for a small government.

      • Water vapor exists everywhere in our atmosphere where you would find methane. Methane is also a short lived GHG in our atmosphere. So for you to suggest that methane is lethal is false in every way.

        I doubt you even knew about bond logs before I brought them up. You make some assumptions that are based on your ignorance of the issues, like suggesting the cement in the wellbore shrinks and cannot form a seal. Where did you get that idea?

        There are hundreds, if not thousands of injection wells supplying gas to gas storage fields in this country. These storage fields act as buffers during high gas usage periods by supplying gas to meet an increased demand.

  36. Canada’s federal NDP socialist party held its national convention this weekend. They threw out their leader, and introduced their extremist Leap Manifesto, a document of breathtaking incompetence that, if implemented, will lead to a much poorer Canada and an increase in Excess Winter Deaths, especially among the elderly and the poor.

    These leftist extremists are delusional and dangerous – they have no comprehension of the vital importance of cheap, reliable abundant energy to a cold northern sparsely-populated country like Canada. They are part of an international movement of global warming extremists who say that we must get rid of fossil fuels, which currently provide 86% of global primary energy, and replace them with intermittent and expensive renewables, that currently provide only about 2% – despite decades and trillions of dollars in subsidies for renewables.

    I went through Checkpoint Charlie into East Germany in July 1989, just four months before the Berlin Wall fell, and saw firsthand the socialist East German regime, which was extolled by a former NDP leader as the “economic model for Canada”. I recall that 44-year experiment with socialism, or its much longer experiment in Russia, did not work and ended badly.

    Simply, the prosperity of the western-Canadian (mostly Albertan) energy industry has carried the Canadian economy for the past ~60 years. Transfer payments from Alberta to the other provinces total about one million dollars per Alberta family-of-four, with nominal interest.

    The NDP is advocating that Canada shoots itself in both feet. This is what happens when extremists and imbeciles take over political parties.

    The following is excerpted from two front-page articles in today’s National Post:

    The Leap Manifesto says, boiled down, that there should be no more oil pipelines built in Canada. Its thrust is that the 173- odd billion barrels of oil locked in the oilsands should remain there, and that ending pipeline development will bring this about.

    “Premier Notley sold her carbon tax, coal industry shutdown and a cap on oilsands development to Albertans with the promise that it would provide the credibility we need to get opponents of pipelines on board — that these policies would get ‘social licence,’” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “Today Premier Notley’s social licence experiment was put to the test and it failed.”

    As for the party, it has now cast its lot with the Lewises and their Manifesto. This amounts to a plan for Canada to cast aside the free market in favour of a deeply protectionist, managed economy, in which the happy citizenry drive state-funded electric go-cycles fuelled by state-funded wind turbines and live in straw bale houses that don’t require heat in winter. It is an addled, cockamamie vision like something out of Orwell, or the fevered imagination of British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

  37. The author is a shill for the oil & gas industry. Total crap
    It all starts with claims that since 90% of fracking fluid is water and leaving out the part of the 10% containing chemicals so harmful that it is illegal to disclose them and then goes downhill from there.
    Yes, like drinking a glass of 90% water and 10% benzene, toluene, and hydraulic fluids will do no harm !
    Pony up Anthony and tell us who pays you

    • JimGord,

      Thanx for your opinion, but it is ignorance doubled and squared.

      …chemicals so harmful that it is illegal to disclose them…

      Who feeds you that misinformation pablum? Go away, this is a science site. You belong on a UFO blog.

    • Illegal to disclose them?

      Are you a total idiot, or do you just enjoy making yourself look dumb?

      PS, if it’s illegal to disclose them, how is it that you know what they are?

    • JimGord,

      Prove this: the 10% containing chemicals so harmful that it is illegal to disclose them and then goes downhill from there. With official government documents. And please reveal where it is “illegal” for the federal government to disclose these harmful chemicals.

      In the meantime, here is the EPA list: Page 29 (table) https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/hf_study_plan_110211_final_508.pdf

      And here is a complete list of all possible chemicals used in various industry fracing mixes depending on the geology.

      • And here is the EPA’s report on FracFocus (my last link above).

        FracFocus is a publicly accessible website (www.fracfocus.org) managed by the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). Oil and gas production well operators can disclose information at this website about ingredients and water used in hydraulic fracturing fluids at individual wells. The GWPC and IOGCC provided the EPA with over 39,000 PDF disclosures submitted by well operators to FracFocus 1.0 before March 1, 2013. The disclosures identified 20 states with reported well locations that were hydraulically fractured during the study period. Data in the disclosures were extracted from individual PDF files and compiled in a project database, which was used to conduct analyses on chemical and water use for hydraulic fracturing. Analyses were conducted on over 38,000 unique disclosures for wells hydraulically fractured between January 1, 2011, and February 28, 2013.

      • The EPA’s results? Note: JimGord. The EPA.


        Hydraulic fracturing fluids were generally found to contain 88% (by mass) water, 10% quartz used as proppant, and <1% additive ingredients. 698 unique ingredients (i.e., chemicals) were reported by 428 operators in 20 states. The median number of additive ingredients per disclosure was 14. Hydrochloric acid, methanol, and hydrotreated light petroleum distillates were reported in more than 65% of all disclosures analyzed. Seventy percent of the disclosures analyzed included at least one ingredient that was claimed to be confidential business information (CBI), and 11% of the ingredient records were identified as CBI.

  38. Much mention is made of fracking in connection with the Oklahoma-Kansas Earthquakes of late. Nary a word is spent on the fact that the earthquakes are all clustered around the southern end of a buried fault line, the Humboldt Fault, which parallels a buried escarpment called the Nemana Ridge. This is roughly parallel to the New Madrid Fault Zone in Missouri.
    Kansas – April 24, 1867 – an unexpected earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale struck. The epicenter was located in Manhattan, Kansas – at the northern end of the same fault/ridge system.
    Fracking did not become common practice until the 1950’s.

    • Citing HuffPo or green blogs is only slightly better than POOMA. The EPA (under Obama!) tried to find examples of aquifer pollution, and failed.

    • Pat – you may have a valid comment but I would not take for fact a single thing written by any of the references you gave. It would be like believing the CBC in Canada provides un-biased reporting. Or that the Canadian NDP party hasn’t fractured over the weekend (pun intended for Canadian readers).

      Now, around Fox Creek, Alberta there may have been some seismic activity related to fracturing recently, but it is monitored and not a big issue.

      For JimGord – the content of fracturing fluids is proprietary so you are never going to have a company tell you exactly what is in it, the proportions and the exact process.

      As for gas in well water, that has been known for hundreds of years. Medicine Hat Alberta developed their own gas plants as gas was so close to the surface – discovered in 1883 while drilling for water. Farmers in the area had gas in their wells for ages and if one were to do an online search – you might find pictures of how gas was captured and used in the “old” days though that is now illegal. Natural gas was tapped in many places that might surprise readers and in fact might show up in the debated on Global Warming since a northerner figured out he could grow a vegetable garden by putting pipes into the ground and burning natural gas to keep the area “warm”. Old wives tale – don’t know but there is documentation and photographs:

      There may be (or may not be) fracturing failures, but anyone on this site is a petrochemical user. Just look at what you are using to type on and tell me it wasn’t produced using electricity/coal/gas/oil and plastics. There may be minor problems with the industry, but I don’t think wind turbines made from bamboo with coconut oil lubricants and transmitting electricity to our houses by magic is going to happen any time soon.

      Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry will continue to work using the best available technology. Just like the biofuels companies – ethanol, wood waste, wood pelletizing. I wonder which industry produces the most CO2? Oh wait. It might be us as individuals – driving our cars, trucks and tractors to go to work, get groceries and develop our resources and provide food from transportation from afar and local farming and ranching. [We must put a stop to that ;-) /sarc off]

      Well, now that the frost is gone, time to go rake my pastures (-3C this AM at 7:30, small fire still burning to take the sting off the house.)

      Great article Antny. One to archive.

    • Got a government source, and study? Because you know if that’s true, the govvie would have been all over it like white on rice.

    • How could there be any documented report about fracking polluting an aquifer? Fracking is not covered by The Clean Water Act. It’s exempt.

  39. According to Wikipedia, Fox’s Gasland received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, Emmy nominations for Best Documentary, Writing, and Cinematography, an Emmy for Best Directing, and the Sundance Film Festival’s 2010 Special Jury Prize for Documentary. It also received a Writer’s Guild nomination for Best Documentary Screenplay and the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary. For Gasland Part II, Fox received an Emmy nomination for news and documentary Best Research.

    Fox has received a Lennon Ono Grant for Peace, five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and five grants from the Multi-Arts Program (MAP) Fund. He is also a paid public speaker.

    When it comes to receiving fame and money, inconvenient facts about his videos are, as Fox says, “not relevant.”

    • None of those awards grade the content of his work. As someone who has been involved in fracing for a significant number of years I can say that his film “Gasland” was an utter and total lie from beginning to end.

    • “Chemicals!!!” some like CHLORINE which you find being injected into your drinking water. And what is your exposure to those spent fracing chemicals over your lifetime? You have a greater chance of getting sick from city treated water than you will ever get from flowback water following a frac.

      All industries use chemicals similar to those listed. Why don’t you go shut down the solar PV industry? The chemicals they use are significantly more toxic than what is shown on your list. Your sanctimonious side is showing.

      A woman has more exposure to carcinogens putting her makeup “one time” than she will expose herself to in a lifetime of exposure to frac chemicals.

      nutso fasst you need to start doing some serious thinking with your head rather than using it as a rectal inspection tool. Always question everything. Be skeptical. Explore options. Common sense will tell you that many of your beliefs are just rubbish.

      • Not much substance to that response. Can you tell me how many of those chemicals listed are used in frac fluid specifically and not for other purposes? Can you give me a list of the chemicals used in the PV industry? If not, you are basing your ideas about fracing on biases developed through your far left readings.

        Yes, I may have been a little harsh in my response but I do get so tired of people like yourself blathering on without an idea of what they are talking about. Why don’t you go down to the nearest Halliburton or Schlumberger office and ask some questions. Ask some hard questions.

      • “People like yourself blathering on?” What a laugh. Look in a mirror, bud.

        My point with Fox is that he’s like a lesser Gore, a darling of an awards cabal who spews what they want to believe and gets paid for it. My point with my other post is that–contrary to the silly claim by JimGord (whom I quoted)–there is good fracing information online. Anything beyond that has been invented by your vicious little mind that apparently self-congratulates for not-so-clever ad hominem attacks on imaginary foes whose motives you surmise.

        I claim no fracing expertise. Since you do, how about telling me where the FracFocus.org website fails to provide accurate information. Download the database and add substantive information regarding the toxicity and environmental lifetime of each chemical.

        Or would you prefer that the listed substances be, as JimGord claimed, “illegal to disclose?”

        BTW, the word “chemical” seems to annoy you. Are you not aware that H2O, the primary fracing substance, fits the definition of “chemical?”

        Blather on, tedious gadfly.

      • nutso fasst/verdeviewer, Please tell me where any of those chemicals are found in a toxic or lethal dose due to fracing. Please tell me how geomechanically they can migrate from a formation 12,000′ or so below the fresh water aquifers. What economic reason would oil and gas companies have for fracing into a fresh water aquifer when there is no profit to gain and only ruin that can follow.

        Josh Fox lied repeatedly in his silly movie. Similar to Al Gore in his silly movie. And there will always be Henny Penny’s who will not question but believe all with a faith born out of ignorance.

    • Thanx. At least there is one sane person here.

      [Funny. The mods thought you claimed that no one here disagreed with reality. .mod]

  40. Scientifically illiterate “Earth Mamas” fret about what is happening below the surface but the biggest potential issues with fracking are what happens on or above the surface. Spills up top are the real risk. Everything else is noise.

  41. Consider forthrightly acknowledging the Pavilion fiasco. You can’t quite truthfully say, “…more than two million fracking treatments have been drilled and pumped with not a single documented case of any fracking treatment polluting an aquifer,” without acknowledging Pavilion. It did pollute the groundwater. Very shallow wells like Pavilion are extremely rare, and ought not be fracked because of their proximity to groundwater. We can add regulation prohibiting that practice. It remains safe to frack all the usual deep resource plays. Not acknowledging Pavilion offers an unnecessary attack surface.

    • I believe you need to go back and review this study again. The EPA did two studies. In the first the EPA was contaminating their own samples and were shown to be doing so. The subsequent study at Pavillion showed no contamination to local aquifers. In the end, the Federal EPA threw up it’s hands when they couldn’t find any contamination and turned the investigation to the Wyoming EPA.

      So I do not acknowledge Pavillion, and neither should you.

  42. How come this site is so one sided in its opinion? I hardly ever see a dissenting thought. Has it occurred to anybody here that you all might be wrong and the 97% might be right?

    • bobthebear

      How come this site is so one sided in its opinion? I hardly ever see a dissenting thought. Has it occurred to anybody here that you all might be wrong and the 97% might be right?

      Let us assume 5% of the comments here are CAGW alarmist/97% agree-with-government-paid-authority. It is probably 10%, but let us be skeptical.
      1,755,200 comments. 5% agree with the government-paid, self-called, “climate scientists” getting paid 97% of the grant receipts.
      90,000 pro-AGW alarmist comments or criticisms.
      And not one of them has proved true. Been true when analyzed.
      Yet your CAGW demands ARE killing millions now, causing proven harm to billions. To “prevent” a potential benefit in a future in 85 years by causing 85 years of proven, known absolute futures of catastrophe and damage and harm. That has less than a 5% chance of occurring at all.

      • RACook: You are pulling numbers out of thin air and making assumptions that have no validity in real life. 5%, 10%, killing millions, causing proven harm to billions; what kind of nonsense are you promoting?

  43. Andy: I previously did some research of my own and agree with most of what you wrote. Two exceptions:

    Hard rock mining has caused extensive environmental damage in some locations because water leaches toxic materials (that were formerly buried safely underground) from mine tailings. In fracking, the mine tailings remain safely underground, but we needed to be concerned with the fracking fluid that has been leaching the fragmented shale deep underground. That water contains hydrocarbons and possibly toxic metals from the shale. So the fracking fluid that returns to the surface CAN be more dangerous than the fluid that went into the well.

    The chance that fracking deep underground will allow fracking fluids to reach shallow drinking water aquifers seems remote, but the casings where a well passes though an aquifer are a point of vulnerability. Unfortunately, wells dug decades ago didn’t protect this point of aquifer vulnerability. The ground around the infamous Pavilion fracking site, for example, is honeycombed with numerous old oil wells (and surface pits where waste was improperly disposed in the past).

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