Well construction found to responsible for water contaminants

September 18, 2014

This blog has previously addressed the concerns many Americans hold about the long-term safety of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." While this technique has helped to diminish American dependence on foreign oil and created tens of thousands of new positions in the energy industry, a recent study explored the potential consequences of the surge in drilling and natural gas production. 

Shale extraction requires producers to blast millions of gallons of water, mud and chemicals thousands of feet into the ground, to fracture rock and release condensate deposits. In some areas, homes with well water have reported growing levels of methane in their water, sparking concern that fracking chemicals could be seeping into aquifiers.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that neither drilling itself nor the hydraulic fracturing that follows it is directly to blame, but current well construction could be exposing drinking water to harmful chemicals. 

"Our data do not suggest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett formations directly to surface aquifers," the report read.

Lead author Thomas Darrah of Ohio State University explained that gas previously found in drinking water is most likely the result of defective casing and cementing in wells. "This is relatively good news because it means that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity," Darrah told The Dallas Morning News. 

Texas has issued over 20,490 drilling permits in the Barnett Shale region alone, many located within residential areas. Environmental consultants can help ensure that proper protections are in place, and that workers are knowledgeable of potential risks.