Monday, July 27, 2015

Stanford University Study Analyzes Association between Shallow Wells and Hydraulic Fracturing

On July 21, 2015, the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology published a study entitled “The Depths of Hydraulic Fracturing and Accompanying Water Use across the United States.” The study analyzes the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water sources in the case of shallow wells or wells with minimum separation between groundwater aquifers and natural gas sources.

Based on their database, the researchers concluded that 16% of wells utilized high volume hydraulic fracturing within a mile of the surface. Consequently, they raised the concern that the proximity between those wells and the surface may compromise underground drinking water sources without adequate protection.

The researchers examined and compared regulations of states having the greatest number of wells drilled to depths shallower than one mile - which are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. After reviewing those regulations, the authors noted that all states have a “general performance standard requiring oil and gas operations to protect groundwater.” For better predictability of potential impacts on water, however, they recommended additional safeguards, such as further geologic and hydrologic data, mandatory registry for all hydraulic fracturing occurring shallower than 3.000 feet, and predrilling and post-stimulation water testing. 

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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