I have been following the oil and gas industry for several months, and specifically how it is responding to the publics concerns over hydraulic fracturing, and now acid fracturing. I keep hearing the same line over and over and over and over. The industry, across the nation keeps saying, "I am not aware of any cases of ground water contamination from hydraulic fracturing." Or some variation on that, or with the phrase "in California" attached.
It is a fact that hydraulic fracturing has led to ground water contamination in other parts of the nation, and world. To my knowledge there have been no studies in California regarding ground water contamination and fracking. It is my understanding that until the last few months, the state regulatory agency (Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources) did not track in any way, or specifically monitor well completion techniques, including tracking - that begs the question as to how they can know that there is no contamination?
We know that groundwater moves. It may take decades to move a short distance, or it may move faster. Here is what we do know -
Here are some reports where contamination was linked to hydraulic fracturing:
In 1995 reports in Canada link manmade fractures in formation to the migration of methane into groundwater through annului in the wells (and that report was funded by petroleum producers http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CAPP-Gas-Migration-into-Groundwater-from-Leaking-Hydrocarbon-Wells-1995-1996-covers-select-pages.pdf ) from page 70 of the report:
soil gas data "indicate that gas-well annuli are more important than natural fractures for the upward migration of gas". Chafin concluded that "manmade migration pathways probably introduced most near-surface gas to the study area".
In 2012 the state of Pennsylvania determined fracking caused methane to migrate into drinking water wells - http://www.npr.org/2012/08/28/160128351/methane-making-an-appearance-in-pa-water-supplies . Yes methane is naturally occuring, but it is usually trapped deep underground, same as the oil and gas. But when they are extracted the methane is released as well.
This year, a study in Canada has linked groundwater contamination to migration of methane due to hydraulic fracturing. Here is that study:
"In 2010, the Canadian oil and gas industry advertised: “Fact: Fracturing has not been found to have caused damage to groundwater resources”19 and EnCana advertised a year later: “In use for more than 60 years throughout the oil and gas industry, there are no documented cases of groundwater contamination related to the hydraulic fracturing process.”20"
Sound familiar ? and yet:
"In the USA, by the early 1990’s numerous water contamination cases and lawsuits had sprung up in coalbed methane (CBM) development areas.21 “In a two-year study, United States Geological Survey (US Geological Survey) scientists found methane gas in one-third of water wells inspected and concluded that oil and gas drilling is the main source of contamination of the shallow aquifers in the Animas River Valley.... Based in part on the [US Geological Survey] report, lawyers representing hundreds of area residents filed a class-action lawsuit Feb. 11 charging four oil companies - Amoco Production Company, Meridian Oil Inc., Southland Royalty Company, and Phillips Petroleum - with recklessness and deliberate disregard for the safety of local residents. The suit says the four oil companies ignored their tests, which showed that methane from their deep wells was polluting shallow aquifers, and asks for both actual and punitive damages.”22
"Schlumberger Well Cementing Services reports gas migration problems at 25% in Alberta’s heavy oil fields.82 The ERCB reported in 1999 that there were “3810 wells with active surface casing vent flow and 814 with gas migration problems in Alberta,”83 but no longer makes this data public."
From a 2012 Energy Institute of Texas study included in the ERNST study linked above:
“Leaks in part of the well bore could mean gas getting into water wells nearby. But the same thing
happens in conventional gas production. ...We haven’t found any community where inspection practices, pre-development conditions, monitoring of development and post-development assessment has been done according to best practices.”
Pages and pages of documented incidents of contaminated groundwater from methane migration as a result of hydraulic fracturing are listed in the study.
Perhaps the industry and their spokespeople just haven't read it yet. I'll keep asking them about it.