Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I am not aware of credible evidence of pollution of groundwater by hydraulic fracking in South Texas. The images I see of people lighting the methane flowing with water from the faucet, while amusing, are not a new phenomenon. In fact it was these sorts of observations, surface oil seeps and methane in water wells that were early forms of oil exploration in many parts of the country.
I remember stories of this sort from my childhood when I would listen to my father, grandfather and uncles discuss their work in the oil fields. In fact, Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil! includes a scene in which it is oil seeps that tip off the oil baron about the presence of a reservoir under land where he is hunting with his son in Chapter 4.
Oil and gas producing formations being explored in Texas today normally lie several thousand feet below water bearing formations. These formations were not producible until the advent of fracking. The reasons these formations were not producible were largely because they were deep (8k to 15k feet), "tight" non-porous formations through which fluids could not migrate and which would self seal if an attempt was made to extract gas or oil. This lack of porosity and inability for fluids to migrate within the formations (for example the Eagle Ford in South Texas) caused these formations to be excluded and considered enconomically non-productive. That is, until the maturation of hydraulic fracturing to artificially create flow channels between the rock and a drilled channel. Adventurous companies recently tested the new methods in previously excluded formations such as the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale formations and created a new domestic oil boom in various deep shale formations across the country.