02 May 2013

Pennsylvania regulators say hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas did not cause high methane levels in drinking water in the northern Pennsylvania town of Franklin Forks.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said on Monday that there is no evidence to connect fraccing with high levels of methane in private water wells in the small town, which is in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale region.

After a 16-month investigation, the agency found that the methane is coming from elsewhere.

“The water samples taken from the private water wells was not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas wells,” the DEP said.

“The testing determined that the water samples taken from the private water wells contained gas of similar isotopic makeup to the gas in water samples taken from Salt Springs State Park,” which has high levels of naturally occurring methane.”

Contrary to activist propaganda, there have been no confirmed cases of fraccing contaminating water supplies anywhere. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, has confirmed this on at least two occasions in public forums, including a Congressional Hearing.

Fraccing reducing greenhouse emissions

In a second recent boost for the natural gas industry’s environmental credentials, the US EPA has also ruled that fraccing produces much lower levels of methane emissions than previously thought.

Even though US natural gas production has surged in recent years, the US EPA now says that private industry’s emissions control efforts have cut methane emissions by an annual average of 41.6 million tonnes from 1990 to 2010, a 20 per cent reduction from previous estimates.

Industry analysts also predict that methane emissions from fraccing sites will decrease over the years as oil and gas companies develop and roll out better technologies. Because methane is a valuable commodity, energy companies have every economic incentive to minimise gas leakage.

Fraccing’s contribution to cleaner air and lower emissions is well documented.

The US EPA has found that overall US emissions declined by about 3 per cent from 2010 to 2011 and that this was largely driven by power plants shifting from coal to natural gas.

For more information, see this Washington Times news report and this AAP story.