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expert reaction to new study of groundwater contamination above shale gas fields

Researchers have reported in the journal PNAS on the causes of contamination of groundwater around shale gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas. They state that contamination was due to poor build quality of wells, rather than being a direct result of the fracking process.


Prof Quentin Fisher, Professor of Petroleum Geoengineering at the University of Leeds, said:

“The PNAS study provides even more evidence that the hydraulic fracture process itself is not responsible for contamination of groundwater. The contamination reported could just as easily have occurred in wells drilled to extract gas from conventional reservoirs. This research gives a clear message that concentrating on optimizing well integrity is an effective and cheap way to ensure that groundwater contamination doesn’t occur as a result of gas production from conventional or unconventional reservoirs.  Even though the study implies that gas from the reservoir is present in the groundwater, there is no indication that this would cause a significant risk to human health.

“It’s also important to put this work into a UK/EU perspective. The licensing system in the USA means that companies have to drill a massive number of wells very quickly. This is not the case in the UK/EU so far more care can be taken to ensure that leakage into groundwater does not occur.

“The anti-fracking lobby should take these on-board and stop spreading untruths about the hydraulic fracturing process being a cause of groundwater contamination.”


“Noble gases identify the mechanisms of fugitive gas contamination in drinking water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales,” by Thomas Darrah et al published PNAS on September 15, 2014.


Declared interests

None declared

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