Articles from 2013
How “controversial” is shale gas exactly?
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 24 July 2013
How “controversial” is shale gas exactly? Even last week at Shale Gas 2013 Making it Happen, many speakers spoke about alleged “mistakes” of shale gas in the US. But none provided much proof more than there may be a few extra trucks on the road.
Over the Channel on the other hand, President Hollande will tell you about damage to water caused by shale gas as he did on Bastille Day.
François Hollande a réaffirmé sa position sur le gaz de schiste. Il a rappelé les risques sur les nappes phréatiques.
Francois Hollande has reiterated his position on shale gas. He recalled the risks over groundwater.
But, as I’ve noted before, the actual incidence of damages caused in the US by shale gas is almost urban myth than reality.
Time to have a reality check on the biggest objection of all to natural gas, the alleged contamination of water.This is a description of the issue in Susquehanna County Pennsylvania from back when:
Two facts about Dimock, Susquehanna County are indisputable:
- Heavy concentrations of methane contaminated the drinking water of several dozen families.
- The town has become “ground zero” in the battle over whether or not hydraulic fracturing is safe.
After that, things get a bit murky.
But things should become crystal clear thanks to a peer-reviewed report in the scientific journal Groundwater: Evaluation of Methane Sources in Groundwater in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Testing of 1701 water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania shows that methane is ubiquitous in groundwater, with higher concentrations observed in valleys vs. upland areas and in association with calcium-sodium-bicarbonate, sodium-bicarbonate, and sodium-chloride rich waters—indicating that, on a regional scale, methane concentrations are best correlated to topographic and hydrogeologic features, rather than shale-gas extraction. In addition, our assessment of isotopic and molecular analyses of hydrocarbon gases in the Dimock Township suggest that gases present in local water wells are most consistent with Middle and Upper Devonian gases sampled in the annular spaces of local gas wells, as opposed to Marcellus Production gas. Combined, these findings suggest that the methane concentrations in Susquehanna County water wells can be explained without the migration of Marcellus shale gas through fractures, an observation that has important implications for understanding the nature of risks associated with shale-gas extraction.
What “science” remains then for shale to be considered “controversial”. Judging by the updated version of the rather foreboding sounding “List of the Harmed” which is the largest listing of proof I’m referred to by US shale antis, very little science at all. Back in April I wrote a story on the list, back when it had 1123 alleged cases, many of which were duplicates. It’s also worth pointing out that 6% of all cases came from Dimock and Montrose alone, and the list wasn't updated to reflect either the above news or the settlement of the lawsuit that included the re-starting of gas drilling.
Today, the list contains 1523 , but again, the 400 extra includes class actions that contain everyone in a family for example.
The list also contains incidents that have that appear to have rather tenuous links to shale gas - if not to reality itself:
1430–1508. Zachary Green, Scott Thrower (deceased 2013), 77 others injured Location: Geismar, LA Gas Facility: Williams Partners LP’s natural gas liquids plant (cracker plant) Exposure: Massive fire, explosion Symptoms: Death from injuries for Thrower and Green, 77 additional workers sustained injuries
Unfortunate? Yes. Bad luck? Certainly. Connection to shale gas: None whatsoever. But still, one incident makes adds another 5% to the list of the damaged.
1521: Cheryl Horner and daughter (deceased 2013) Location: Ritchie County, WV Gas Facility: JB Oil and Gas water truck Exposure: Fatal accident, tanker ran stop sign Symptoms: Fatal injuries
How about this case Francois Hollande? Next time you give a press conference and lecture people about the dangers of shale gas, put things in context. What’s more important: 4 billion barrels plus of oil in the Paris Basin, or the risk that a truck will run a stop sign?
1522. Tobin Coover and family Location: Kendall County, Illinois Gas Facility: TransCanada Pipeline compressor station Exposure: Noise and vibration
Symptoms: Can’t enjoy the outdoors, sleep became disrupted, noise and vibration is excessive.
There’s two simple ways to stop this of course. One is to shut down the tens of thousands of kilometers in the European Pipeline System. Another would be to muffle the noise - but we do that already anyway. Either way, link to “controversial” shale gas: Less than zero.
1372 Anonymous Location: OH Gas Facility: Dominion compressor station Exposure: Air; noise Symptoms: Foul emissions, can’t breathe, excessive 24/7 noise, can’t sleep, vibrations
This “controversy” has nothing more to back it up than a You Tube video, one of several instances. But it's controversial! 1300 TCF of UK natural gas potential be damned. Let's call the whole thing off.
1355-1369. Fifteen workers Location: Somerset County, NJ Exposure: Flash fire Gas Facility: Williams/Transco compressor station Symptoms: 15 injured
A fire in a compressor station? What possible connection can that have to shale gas in state with zero production of any? Note the numbers don’t add up here by the way.
1241-1351. Walter and Karen Hucko and 110 others Location: OH Gas Facility: Columbia Gas/Nisource Exposure: N/A Symptoms: Columbia Gas/Nisource claims that a production clause in decades old leases gives them the right to claim deep drilling rights and to be able to claim the money from the gas and oil that is taken
Evidently the above is a legal issue, not one of public health. But to the UK journos desperate to create “controversy”, 100 people could enable an excitable headline like this: "Controversial shale gas complaints up 6.6%"
But for journalists and French Presidents alike there is something in the new list that is certainly “controversial”, even if it again has zero to do with shale gas as this is from an oil well:
1327: Karl and Christina Herz Location: Adams County, CO Gas Facility: Bayswater Exploration and Production well about 1,500 away Exposure: Water – yellow discoloration Symptoms: Can’t use water for cooking or drinking; water has stained their clothes and ruined their sinks and bathtubs
Discoloured bathtubs! Merde alors.
Thank God the land of Descartes has such a leader to protect them from quelle catastrophes!