The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Separating Fracking Fact From Fiction

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted December 1, 2011

Two good links for facts on hydraulic fracturing, the process for producing natural gas and oil from shale that is turning the energy conversation in this country on its head: Here, Syracuse University earth sciences Prof. Donald Siegel discusses concerns about fracking and water supply safety on Canada's CBC News/New Brunswick website. Over here, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has posted an issues brief that addresses misnomers specific to that state's Marcellus Shale play.

Siegel writes that while water supplies need to be protected from flawed drilling operations and accidents, alarm from some opponents of natural gas and/or hydraulic fracturing is overdone:

"The public in New Brunswick should not fear that their water supplies and their air quality will be compromised because of hydro-fracking. ... I consider it disingenuous and wrong to use any means to achieve a political ends on these kinds of issues. Canada's waters will not be systemically compromised by shale gas development although, as with any long and well-established industry, there may be rare cases of local human error leading to local problems."

Siegel's key points:

  • Water usage amounts - Although several million gallons of water are used to frack the typical shale gas well, the amount is "insignificant" compared to the tens of thousands of gallons that flow each minute in small and mid-sized streams.
  • Contamination of ground water - If the cement used to seal the vertical drill shaft is done properly this isn't a problem. "Could there be some minor leakage of gas upward through failed cement after the fact? Yes. Could it plausibly be a major problem? No."
  • Contamination from flowback - Siegel writes that past drilling practices that would let flowback from drilled wells cause surface contamination are just that - practices of the past. Most flowback water now can be reused or safely treated.

Some highlights from the Pennsylvania Chamber's issues brief:

  • Taxes - Marcellus Shale drillers have paid $1.1 billion in state taxes since 2006. The state's revenue department says permit fees that totaled $12.5 million in fiscal year 2010-11 help cover the cost of well inspections.
  • New hires - Contrary to myth, most of the people hired to work the Marcellus play are from Pennsylvania - 71 percent in 2010.
  • Pay - Industry jobs are well-paying jobs, averaging nearly $70,000, which is almost $25,000 more than the statewide average.
  • Roads - Industry has voluntarily invested more than $400 million in state road improvements since 2008.

For more information on fracking, visit the EnergyFromShale website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.