"Fracking" Enviro Hazard
"The biggest environmental issue of 2011 — at least in the U.S. — wasn't global warming. It was hydraulic fracturing, or what is commonly known as "fracking" .
Date: 1/16/2012 9:07:43 PM ( 16 mon ) ... viewed 845 times
"Research shows that methane leaks over the full life cycle of shale gas production cause a larger greenhouse footprint than oil and potentially twice the worsening effect on greenhouse and climate change as coal, so shale gas is not by any stretch of the imagination 'clean' as touted by endless gas industry TV commercials we're seeing every day."
Read More: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2101745_2102309_2102323,00.html
What is Fracking?
"Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer caused by the presence of a pressurized fluid. Hydraulic fractures form naturally, as in the case of veins or dikes, and is one means by which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks.
However oil and gas companies may attempt to accelerate this process in order to release petroleum, natural gas, coal seam gas, or other substances for extraction, where the technique is often called fracking or hydrofracking.
This type of fracturing, known colloquially as a frack job, is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations. The energy from the injection of a highly-pressurized fracking fluid creates new channels in the rock which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of fossil fuels.
...high-volume hydraulic fracturing, used in the completion of tight gas and shale gas wells...may use millions of gallons of fluid. This practice has come under scrutiny internationally due to concerns about the environmental impact, health and safety, and has been suspended or banned in some countries.
Environmental concerns with hydraulic fracturing include the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the health effects of these.
A 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coalbed methane (CBM) wells posed minimal threat to underground drinking water sources. This study has been criticised for only focusing on the injection of fracking fluids, while ignoring other aspects of the process such as disposal of fluids, and environmental concerns such as water quality, fish kills and acid burns; the study was also concluded before public complaints of contamination started emerging. Largely on the basis of this study, in 2005 hydraulic fracturing was exempted by US Congress from any regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
With the explosive growth of natural gas wells in the US, researcher Valerie Brown predicted in 2007 that "public exposure to the many chemicals involved in energy development is expected to increase over the next few years, with uncertain consequences." As development of natural gas wells in the U.S. since the year 2000 has increased, so too have claims by private well owners of water contamination. This has prompted EPA and others to re-visit the topic.
While the EPA recognizes the potential for contamination of water by hydraulic fracturing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified in a Senate Hearing Committee "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water...". There are, however, documented incidents of contamination.
In 2006 drilling fluids and methane were detected leaking from the ground near a gas well in Clark, Wyoming; 8 million cubic feet of methane were eventually released, and shallow groundwater was found to be contaminated. In the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania, 13 water wells were contaminated with methane (one of them blew up), and the gas company, Cabot Oil & Gas, had to financially compensate residents and construct a pipeline to bring in clean water; the company continued to deny, however, that any 'of the issues in Dimock have anything to do with hydraulic fracturing'.
Air emissions and pollution:
One group of emissions associated with natural gas development and production, are the emissions associated with combustion. These emissions include particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Another group of emissions that are routinely vented into the atmosphere are those linked with natural gas itself, which is composed of methane, ethane, liquid condensate, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The VOCs that are especially impactful on health are benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (referred to as a group, called BTEX). Health effects of exposure to these chemicals include neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.
VOCs, including BTEX, mixed with nitrogen oxides from combustion and combined with sunlight can lead to ozone formation. Ozone has been shown to impact lung function, increase respiratory illness, and is particularly dangerous to lung development in children.
A Duke University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 examined methane in groundwater in Pennsylvania and New York states overlying the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale. It determined that groundwater tended to contain much higher concentrations of methane near fracking wells, with potential explosion hazard; the methane's isotopic signatures and other geochemical indicators were consistent with it originating in the fracked deep shale formations, rather than any other source.
Groundwater contamination doesn't come directly from injecting fracking chemicals deep into Shale rock formations well below water aquifers but from waste water evaporation ponds and poorly constructed pipelines taking the waste water and chemicals to processing facilities. The evaporation ponds allow the volatile chemicals in the waste water to evaporate into the atmosphere and when it rains these ponds tend to overflow and the runoff eventually makes its way into groundwater systems.
Another way groundwater gets contaminated relating to fracking is from the temporary, and poorly constructed pipelines to transport the waste water to water treatment plants. These pipelines can leak and in some cases break in a section all together allowing the waste water and fracking chemicals to flow into groundwater systems. The transportation by trucks and storage of fracking chemicals allows for groundwater to become contaminated when accidents happen during transportation to the fracking site or to its disposal destination.
In 2010 the film Gasland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The filmmaker claims that chemicals including toxins, known carcinogens, and heavy metals polluted the ground water near well sites in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Colorado.
A 2011 report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology addressed groundwater contamination, noting 'There has been concern that these fractures can also penetrate shallow freshwater zones and contaminate them with fracturing ﬂuid, but there is no evidence that this is occurring. There is, however, evidence of natural gas migration into freshwater zones in some areas, most likely as a result of substandard well completion practices by a few operators. There are additional environmental challenges in the area of water management, particularly the effective disposal of fracture fluids'. This study encourages the use of industry best practices to prevent such events from recurring.(1)
Directed by Congress, the U.S. EPA announced in March 2010 that it will examine claims of water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing.
The New York Times has reported radiation in hydraulic fracturing wastewater released into rivers in Pennsylvania. Sand containing naturally mild radioactive minerals are used on rare occasions to trace and measure fractures. According to a Times report in February 2011, wastewater at 116 of 179 deep gas wells in Pennsylvania 'contained high levels of radiation,' but its effect on public drinking water supplies is unknown because water suppliers are required to conduct tests of radiation 'only sporadically'.
Despite this, as of early 2011 federal and state regulators did not require sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste (which is mostly water) to test for radioactivity.
Chemicals used in fracturing:
Water is by far the largest component of fracking fluids. The initial drilling operation itself may consume from 65,000 gallons to 600,000 gallons of fracking fluids. Over its lifetime an average well will require up to an additional 5 million gallons of water for the initial fracking operation and possible restimulation frac jobs.
Chemical additives used in fracturing fluids typically make up less than 2% by weight of the total fluid. Over the life of a typical well, this may amount to 100,000 gallons of chemical additives. They are biocides, surfactants, adjusting viscosity, and emulsifiers. Many are used in household products such as cosmetics, lotions, soaps, detergents, furniture polishes, floor waxes, and paints.(2)
Some are also used in food products.
A list of the chemicals that have been used was published in a U.S. House of Representatives Report. Some of the chemicals pose no known health hazards, some others are known carcinogens, some are toxic, some are neurotoxins. For example: benzene (causes cancer, bone marrow failure), lead (damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders), ethylene glycol (antifreeze, causes death), methanol (highly toxic), boric acid (kidney damage, death), 2-butoxyethanol (causes hemolysis).
The 2011 US House of Representatives investigative report on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing shows that of the 750 compounds in hydraulic fracturing products '[m]ore than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants.'
When asked to reveal the proprietary ('trade secret' chemical) components (of the fracking fluid), most companies participating in the investigation were unable to do so, leading the committee to surmise these 'companies are injecting fluids containing unknown chemicals about which they may have limited understanding of the potential risks posed to human health and the environment'.
Third-party laboratories are performing analysis on soil, air, and water near the fracturing sites to measure the level of contamination by each of the chemicals. Each state has a contact person in charge of such regulation. A map of these contact people can be found at FracFocus.org as well.
Another study in 2011, titled “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective” and published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal identified 632 chemicals used in natural gas operations. Only 353 of these are well-described in the scientific literature; and of these... 25% were carcinogens and mutagens.
The study indicated possible long-term health effects that might not appear immediately. The study recommended full disclosure of all products used, along with extensive air and water monitoring near natural gas operations; it also recommended that fracking's exemption from regulation under the US Safe Drinking Water Act be rescinded.
A report in the UK concluded that fracking was the likely cause of some small earth tremors that happened during shale gas drilling. In addition the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that 'Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations' in the United States, Japan, and Canada; 'the cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies.'
Greenhouse gas emissions:
The use of natural gas rather than oil or coal is sometimes touted as a way of alleviating global warming: natural gas burns more cleanly, and gas power stations can produce up to 50% less greenhouse gases than coal stations.
However, an analysis of the well-to-consumer lifecycle of fracked natural gas concluded that 3.6–7.9% of the methane produced by a well will be leaked into the atmosphere during the well's lifetime. Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, this means that over short timescales, shale gas is actually worse than coal or oil. Methane gradually breaks down in the atmosphere, forming carbon dioxide, so that over very long periods it is no more problematic than carbon dioxide; in the meantime, even if shale gas is burnt in efficient gas power stations, its greenhouse-gas footprint is still worse than coal or oil for timescales of less than fifty years.
Hydraulic fracturing in the United States:
Hydraulic fracturing is most commonly used in the United States to extract natural gas from shale formations. Because of the impermeability of shale, the gas industry of the 1970s could not economically extract shale gas... Mitchell Energy applied an innovative technique called slick-water fracturing to achieve the first economical well for the extraction of shale gas in 1998.
Hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of oil, natural gas, and geothermal production was exempted under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was a result of the signage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, also known as the Halliburton Loophole because of former Halliburton CEO Vice President Dick Cheney’s involvement in the passing of this exemption.
The result of a 2004 EPA study on coalbed hydraulic fracturing was used to justify the passing of the exemption; however EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson and the Oil and Gas Accountability Project found that critical information was removed from the final report.
Opposers of hydraulic fracturing in the US have focused on this 2005 exemption; however the more primary risk to drinking water is the handling and treatment of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing. The EPA and the state authorities do have power 'to regulate discharge of produced waters from hydraulic operations' (EPA, 2011) under the Clean Water Act.
Although this waste is regulated, oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) wastes are exempt from Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) despite the fact that wastewater from hydraulic fracturing contains toxins such as total dissolved solids (TDS), metals, and radionuclides. About 750 chemicals have been listed as additives for hydraulic fracturing in a report to the US Congress in 2011."
Excerpt from "Hydraulic fracturing" To Read the entire article and see references go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fracking
(1)Liora's Note: All I could do reading this phrase, "Industry Best Practices", is scoff. Industry Best Practices, like the "fail safe" safety procedures that were supposed to keep oil rigs from leaking in the Gulf Coast??
Since when can we rely on the energy industry to put safety first over profits?
(2)Liora's Note: See a listing of my other blogs about alternatives to toxic household chemicals (scroll to the bottom) http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=976170
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