On 1 June 2007, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published a study that reverberates the core results of an exhaustive list of reputed, peer-reviewed papers deducing that hydraulic fracturing or commonly fracking is not a significant menace to drinking water.
For the study, the agency collected samples from 116 wells from across the Fayetteville, Haynesville and Eagle Ford shale fields in the energy rich regions of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, and assessed the samples using chemical, isotopic, gas and groundwater-age tracers. Nine types of water contaminations were traced in the samples, but all the cases were natural ones and not connected to fracking.
Low concentrations of methane and benzene were found in the samples but the study explained that methane isotopes and hydrocarbon gas compositions mean that a large part of the methane in the wells was biogenic and generated by the CO2 reduction reactions, not from the thermogenic shale gas. It also affirmed that the fracking operations were not instrumental in amounts of these compounds found in the samples.
The study was preceded by Duke University's study last month, funded by the Natural Resources Defence Council which concluded that hydraulic fracturing had not contaminated the groundwater in north-western Virgina. It also resonates with 5 year study of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which in finalization could not find any significant contamination of ground water in shale play regions.
Conducted in the period between 2015 to 2016, the USGS study on the basis of isotopic analysis discovered that the groundwater sample possessed less than <1% , water from the sampled wells of shale plays.
The researchers observed that the data indicated that the UOG plays were not significant sources of methane in the sampled ground water.
While the researchers comparatively found the presence of benzene in higher frequencies, it needs to be observed that they mostly arise out of natural sources and that the concentration levels detected were very low.
The most significant benzene concentration found in the water samples was 0.127 g/L (HV29, 2015 sample; SI Table S5 ), which is around 40 times lesser than the drinking-water standard of the federal law.
Aside from the findings of Duke research and EPA studies, this USGS report has been preceded by numerous peer reviewed studies to unanimously conclude that fracking is not a plausible hazard to drinking water. A few of them are - Townsend et al., 2016 ; Ladage et al., 2016, ; Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, 2016, ; Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, 2016 ; Siegel et al., 2016 ; Drollette et al., 2015 ; Birkholzer et al. 2015 ; Hammack et al., 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative, 2010.
Fracking and Natural Gas are aiding in reducing CO2 emissions
With the Marcellus Shale play, the natural gas production of Pennsylvania has soared 30 times from the year 2005 and pumps more gas than the entire Canada.
The increased production levels have also led to a revolution in the power generation from natural gas. While Pennsylvania was once majorly dominated by coal, a major shift has been seen in the recent years as the gas capacity of the state has gone over to 12,200 megawatts (MW) from 9,400 MW in the year 2010.
The Keystone state's natural gas boom has immensely aided in reducing the total CO2 emissions in its power segment by around 30% - a key headway in environment preservation and mitigating climate change. Currently, in the production of electricity, the state has advanced to emitting 910 pounds of CO2 per MWh down from 1,300 pounds in 2005. This 30% reduction in 10 years is more progressive as compared to the CO2 emissions in the California's power market - EPA's stellar idol for other states. Even after the first installation of its Renewable Portfolio Standard in the year 2003, the CO2 emissions per MWh of electricity produced has stayed around the same levels and even increased in some of the years.
So even if some regions may not have sparkling sunshine and brisk winds, they can lower the CO2 emissions more speedily with the shale gas.