Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

Fracking wastewater dumped in manchester canal

MP Kate Green has demanded to know why fracking waste water was dumped in Manchester Canal.
Her press release states:

“Kate has demanded answers on how waste water from fracking was dumped into the Manchester Ship Canal.
A BBC Inside Out programme, shown on Monday 27th January, reported that that radioactive water from Cuadrilla’s fracking operations was handled at United Utilities treatment works in Davyhulme and, after treatment, released into the Manchester Ship Canal.
A Freedom of Information request has found that, before October 2011, waste water from fracking was treated at Davyhulme.
This was before the Environment Agency told Cuadrilla that, because of changes to rules on the levels of radioactivity in the waste water that would be permitted, they required a permit to continue to take the excess water produced from fracking to a waste water treatment works.
Last autumn United Utilities told Kate that none of their treatment sites were named in any permit applications to the Environment Agency to transport and treat fracking flowback waste water.

Kate has now written to the Chief Executive at United Utilities to ask how much radioactive waste water from fracking was treated at Davyhulme before the regulations changed, and how much waste was released into the Manchester Ship Canal or elsewhere.
Kate said, “I am extremely concerned that radioactive waste water has been released into our local waterways.Local residents are rightly worried, which is why I have written to the Chief Executive of United Utilities to ask for a full explanation of their involvement with waste water from fracking. Full and open disclosure from Cuadrilla and United Utilities is essential so that we can get to the bottom of why this has happened.
The technology around fracking remains unproved, and it shouldn’t be going ahead when serious question marks exist around its safety and environmental impact.”

Westminster told that fracking does not contaminate ground water

Just over a week ago, Michael Fallon MP, the Minister of State for Business and the Minister of State for Energy, previously the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, stated within the house of commons that in the USA, there have been no examples of hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water.

The statement has been contested my many environmental groups as false, including the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network.

Conservative MP Michael Fallon arrives at Downing Street

There are many examples of water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing, in particular Carrizo, a company who last week were fined near 200,000 US Dollars for a well control incident that occurred during the hydraulic fracturing of a well, an event that released 200,000 gallons of toxic fluid into local environment.

Further to that, there was also a hydraulic fracturing well blow out that release toxic drilling fluids into local waterways, and the now famous 3 million dollar lawsuit that was awarded to the Parr family, who had suffered as a result of their air and water being contaminated by the over all process of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Not to mention peer reviewed science provided by a 2011 study in northeastern Pennsylvania by Osborne et al that found that concentrations of methane gas increased with proximity to gas wells undergoing high volume hydraulic fracturing.

The questions and answers from the House of Commons is laid out below:

Debate on shale gas in the House of Commons
19/6/14
Priti Patel (Witham, Conservative)
What recent estimate has he [the Energy Minister] made of the value to the UK economy of the shale gas sector.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
The Government are promoting responsible shale development for greater energy security, to deliver jobs and growth and to support investment. The recent EY report estimates that there could be £33 billion-worth of spend on shale gas exploration creating about 64,000 jobs, including over £20 billion on hydraulic fracturing and £8 billion on drilling and completion of the wells. That is why we are supporting exploration to understand just how much of this potential can be realised.

Priti Patel
I thank the Minister for his response. Given the enormous projected value of the shale gas sector and the opportunity shale provides for energy independence, do the Government have plans to support more investment in shale gas infrastructure?

Michael Fallon
Yes, we have set out the new fiscal regime that will apply to shale exploration. We have a system of robust regulation in place. There are some dozen companies now exploring, and I shall shortly be inviting applications for new onshore licences under the 14th licensing round, which will afford more opportunities for new companies to enter this market, and I know colleagues across the House will want to champion applications for licences in their area.

Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister; Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Labour)
The Minister in his reply referred to robust regulation, and he is right that robust regulation is important, as is comprehensive monitoring of those regulations to meet the higher public acceptability test for this technology. Given that groundwater can contain methane naturally, will the Minister explain why it is that, more than two and half years after the issue being raised with his predecessors, it is still the case that the regulations do not include the baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater, especially as there are concerns about such contamination in the US and elsewhere? Surely it is important that we have that as part of the regulation to ensure confidence in the regulatory regime for shale gas.

Michael Fallon
There are no examples from the United States of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater because, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the fracturing takes place verymuch deeper than any groundwater levels. I am happy to look at the specific point that he mentions about baseline monitoring.

For a copy of the House of Commons exchange, please click here.

DEP fines Carrizo $192,044 for fracking offences

On the 18th June, 2014, the Department of Environmental Protection fined Carrizo subsidiary for two 2013 offences related to unconventional shale gas extraction practices.

The first was a well control incident in March 2013, which led to 200,000 gallons of fracking waste water into local environment, an incident which led to the evacuation of three families from their homes.

The second incident which took place from a separate pad, occurred month later in April 2013 when 9240 gallons of produced water was released into local environment.

The $192,044 fine covers both 2013 offences.

CARRIZO

“These were serious incidents that resulted in environmental degradation and the evacuation of citizens from their homes,” DEP Director of District Oil and Gas Operations John Ryder said. “The department has been working closely with Carrizo during the past year to ensure the company implements changes that will greatly minimize a recurrence of these incidents.”

The first accident, the well control incident, came during the fracking of a well in Washington Township, when production fluid began escaping from the gas well because of a technical defect.

In response to the leak, which bled around 800 gallons of fluid per hour, Carrizo implemented a temporary containment system for the escaping fluid. They removed escaped fluid with vacuum trucks and commissioned a control specialist to respond to the site. The company recovered 5,400 gallons of production fluid from the well. With Carrizo having release 200,000 gallons in total, a recovery of 5,400 gallons equates to a recovery yield of only 2.7%.

However, due to the toxicity of the chemical that were released from the damaged well, Carrizo was forced to issue evacuation notices to four local households, which lead to three families in the area being evacuated in anticipation of natural gas being released from the well as the accident was brought under control. In response to the accident, the company implemented several staffing and technical improvements, including the hiring of a worker to monitor for leaks during the actual fracking process.

The second accident, occurred when a hose transferring fracking fluid into a tank became unsecure and released about 9,200 gallons of the material off the well pad, as a result of Carrizo employees who had not followed proper procedure in transferring the fluid.

The fluid migrated through the stone foundation of a nearby residence and leaked into a basement garage, and also traveled across the road into a field housing livestock.

The DEP stated in a press release that:

“DEP’s Oil and Gas Program staff requested Carrizo to sample potentially impacted residential and agricultural water supplies, and provide potable drinking water to them, which Carrizo did. The company also implemented a number of remediation measures in a timely manner.

The department issued a notice of violation letter to Carrizo on May 7, 2013 for violations of the Clean Streams Law, Solid Waste Management Act, and Chapter 78 oil and gas regulations. The letter also required that a sampling plan, engineering study and fluid handling analysis be submitted.

Carrizo’s response indicated that personnel conducting the fluid transfer operation failed to follow proper procedure.

DEP’s Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields program is overseeing the remediation at both well pads. Contaminated soil has been excavated and properly disposed, while periodic groundwater sampling by Carrizo continues.”

Fracking rig blowout in morgan county, ohio

NBC4 have reported a blowout of a shale well that not only forced residents to move from their homes, but the 184 barrels of drilling mud that was lost, made its way into local waterways.

NBC4 reported: The drilling operation has been stopped dead in its tracks, as dozens of people from several federal, state and private organizations clean and remove the drilling fluids.

MORGAN

The US Environmental Protection Agency said in a pollution report, “a pocket of unexpected natural gas was encountered during the drilling leading to over-pressurization of the casing leading to the failure of the well head and release. Natural gas was also released causing an explosive atmosphere leading to dangerous working conditions and the evacuation of 7 residents from 3 homes adjacent to the site.”

NBC4 checked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who approve, permit and inspect all gas and oil drilling throughout the state. A little digging shows ODNR rules require a blowout preventer on oil and gas wells, which might have prevented the blowout and a containment pad big enough to hold a large spill.

To read the NBC4 article in full, click here.

‘Lancet’ medical journal raises detrimental health implications of fracking

One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.

lancet

The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”

The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”

Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.

The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.

Source: aljazeera.com
The practice of unconventional shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking, has drawn criticism as a result of the negative impacts on human health and the environment. (Image source: aljazeera.com)

Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”

In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.

If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.

Landmark $3million fracking law suit, Texas

A family from Wise county, Texas, were awarded $3 million in their legal battle against Aruba Energy for environmental pollution of the air, water and soils from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction activities (UGEE) that proved to have detrimental impacts on the quality of the family’s health.

Mason and cattle rancher by trade, Bob Parr built his home on his 40-acre estate in 2001. In 2007 his then wife to be Lisa Parr moved in with her daughter and the couple married in 2008. Until this point, the family of three experienced no unusual health effects from their local environment.

After 2008 however, significant gas drilling operations took place around Parr’s 40 acre estate. Soon after, the family began experiencing health effects such as rashes, nausea, vomiting, bleeding noses, as well as environmental damage to their estate and livestock.

It was around 2010 when the Parr family seen an environmental health specialist, who found unusually high traces of specific natural gas related chemicals in their systems, including ethylbenzene and m,p-Xylene.

“We can’t drink our well water,” said Parr in 2011. “We can’t breathe the air without getting sick.”
Parr

The Parr’s filed their lawsuit on 17th september 2013. Item 16 states that as a result of UGEE operations the family suffered environmental contamination of air, water and soils as a result of sudden and continual chemical releases, spills, emissions and discharges of hazardous chemicals which lead to ailments including but not limited to unreasonable fear, impairment and exacerbation of physical health, nausea, loss of peace of mind, damage to livestock, and inability to enjoy their own environment.

Item 18 states that the environmental pollution facilitated by Aruba was as a result of operations related to UGEE including, but not limited to: Vehicles and engines, construction and trucking activity, pits, condensate tanks, dehydrators, flaring, venting, fugitive emissions and the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking.

In the law suit, Item 21 states that the Parr family were under constant environmental abuse by Aruba and its discharge of chemicals, before Item 21 lists experienced health effects in more detail, including but not limited to: open sores around he eyes, nose and rest of body, permanent scarring, chronic nose bleeds, migranes, drowsiness, irregular heart beat, depression, ataxia, abdominal pains, arrhythmia, and anisocoria

Items 29-34 state clearly that Aruba Energy had performed their duties with negligence, which lead to the fact that the Parr family were able to come into contact with the hazardous chemicals.

Item 41 holds Aruba negligent towards the Parr family, before accusing Aruba in Item 44 of recklessness, oppression, fraud, malice and wilfulness to pollute the land with hazardous chemicals. Item 29 to 75 state that the Parr family had suffered gross negligence, negligence, private nuisance and trespass to property. You can read the full legal document here.

After winning their case in court after a three year legal battle, the Parr family attributed some of their success to the fact that they documented their ordeal on a daily basis, documentation that supported their case in front of a jury. The Parr family expect Aruba to appeal the decision.

Exxon Mobil subsidiary charged for fracking waste water spill

On 2nd January 2014, a Pennsylvania state Magistrate charged XTO Energy with expelling tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste water at a Marcellus shale drilling site in 2010.

EXXON

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, will face charges including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act. All eight charges will be “held for court,” implying that there is enough evidence to take the Oil, Coal and Gas corporation to trial.

The charges were only brought forward in September 2013, where XTO Energy contested the charges stating that there had been “no lasting environmental impact,” and that pursuing the charges could “discourage good environmental practices.”

Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing

Of strong concern on the environmental safety of unconventional shale gas extraction, is the possible contamination of sub-surface ground waters by extensive USGE operations. A 2011 study in northeastern Pennsylvania by Osborne et al has found that as concentrations of methane gas increased with proximity to gas wells undergoing high volume hydraulic fracturing. Water wells showed elevated levels of methane in wells located near (1 km) from the drilled areas had much lower methane concentrations. Osborne’s findings also show that in some instances, methane concentration was at a state that rendered the water explosive. Furthermore, the methane gas was found to be thermogenic in nature released form shale rock by unconventional shale gas extraction.

Fig1.

The report investigated the Catskill and Lockhaven formations that overlie the marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania State, and the Genesee group that overlies the Utica Shale in the State of New York as depicted below.

Fig2

The study sampled groundwaters from 68 private water wells that ranged from 36-190 meters deep. Measurements were taken of dissolved salts, water isotopes as well as other dissolved constituents. However, 60 of the 68 wells were tested for dissolved gas concentrations of methane and other organic hydrocarbons.

Methane concentrations were found in 85% (51 out of 60) of the drinking water wells. For wells located in close proximity to active unconventional gas extraction wells, methane concentrations found to be around 17 times higher than drinking wells located further away from gas extraction operations. Whilst the average methane concentrations across all samples were found to be under the defined action level for hazard mitigation (10-28 mg per litre), the highest observed value of 64 mg per litre is well above the hazard line as shown below.

fig3

The U.S. Department of the Interior, advises owners of wells with dissolved methane concentrations greater than 28 mg/L to “immediately contact their local county health department to obtain assistance and guidance in venting the wellhead and for other possible remediation alternatives.”, due to the explosivity of the water. As can be seen above, samples from nine active gas extraction areas meet that criteria.

Furthermore, owners of wells with methane concentrations greater than 10 mg/L but less than 28 mg/L are recommended to “contact their local county health department for further assistance and might consider removing ignition sources from the immediate area.”

However methane concentrations less than 10 mg/L require no action, other than periodic monitoring to assess changes in concentration over time.

Methane gas can exist naturally as ‘biogenic‘ gas, and it has been argued that relatively high methane in this part of the Appalachian Basin is due to natural flux of methane and is not linked to the shale gas drilling. However whilst biogenic gas can exist in waters naturally, the methane gas associated with unconventional shale gas extraction is ‘thermogenic‘ in nature. Understanding the origin of the methane is of importance as it helps determine the source of contamination.

As a result, Osborne et al had to determine wether or not the methane concentrations found in the private drinking water wells were as a natural result of biogenic sythnesis, or anthropogenic release due to unconventional shale gas extraction.

fig3.1

fig3.2

They found that the water wells that lay in close proximity to active gas extraction areas were contaminated with thermogenic methane, peaking at 64mg per litre as shown in graph (A) above. Conversely, private drinking water wells in non active extraction areas were found to have much lower concentrations of dissolved biogenic methane gas.

The task to separate methane sources and thus the distinction between natural flux and anthropogenic contamination is based on the different isotopic and geochemical compositions of thermogenic relative to biogenic methane sources. It was shown that the elevated methane in drinking water wells near the shale gas wells had a thermogenic composition (e.g., heavier) than wells located 1 km away from shale gas sites with an apparent mixed thermogenic-biogenic composition.

In regards to ethane and other higher-chain hydrocarbons contamination of those analytes were found in only 3 of 34 drinking-water wells from nonactive drilling sites. In stark contrast however, ethane was detected in 21 of 26 drinking-water wells in active drilling sites. Further to this, trace contamination of other gas extraction related analytes, such as propane and butane were also detected from active drilling areas, but not in wells from nonactive areas.

The investigation did not find any evidence of brine or fracking fluid contamination. Furthermore, they found no evidence for contamination of the shallow wells near active drilling sites from deep brines and/or fracturing fluids and salt concentrations in wells from active drilling areas were consistent with the baseline historical data and levels of radon were indistinguishable between active and inactive gas extraction areas.

In short, the geochemical and isotopic fingerprint for water measured in the shallow wells from both active and nonactive areas are consistent with historical data and inconsistent with contamination from mixing Marcellus Shale formation water or saline fracturing fluids as shown below.

table2

Leaky gas-well casings were considered as a transport mechanisms that promote contamination. Another transport mechanism considered was the formation of new fractures improving connectivity rapid migration as a result of reduced pressure.

In conclusion, the main findings of the peer reviewed report found that methane concentrations not only increased in proximity to active gas wells, but results reflect that contamination of methane gas in the water was thermogenic in nature, and therefore released by unconventional shale gas extraction.

You may read the peer reviewed paper here.

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References

1) Osborne.S, Vengosh.A, Warner.N, Jackson.R. (2011). Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. PNAS. 108 (20), 8172-8176.

2) USGE. (2006). Methane IN West Virginia Water. Available: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2006/3011/. Last accessed 25/03/2014.

3) Molofsky LJ, Connor JA, Farhat SK, Wylie AS, Jr, Wagner T. Methane in Pennsylvania water wells unrelated to Marcellus shale fracturing. Oil Gas J 2011; 109: 54–67

4) Van Stempvoort D, Maathuis H, Jaworski E, Mayer B, Rich K (2005) Oxidation of fugitive methane in groundwater linked to bacterial sulfate reduction. Ground Water 43:187–199.

5) Cramer B, Schlomer S, Poelchau HS (2002) Uplift-related hydrocarbon accumulations: the release of natural gas from groundwater. 196 (Geological Society Special Publica- tions, London), 447–455.

Los Angeles – Largest U.S. city to approve fracking ban

On 28th of February, the city of Los Angeles placed a moratorium on unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE), making it the largest city in the United States to do so.

The city of L.A. City council voted unanimously to ban the practice within city limits, 10-0. The L.A. ordinance prevents operation of USGE until effective government oversight and regulation is in place at local, state, and federal levels. The motion, brought forward by councilmen Koretz and Bonin will hold in place until verification that USGE does not pollute the ground waters of the city. The council curbed “all activity associated with well stimulation, including, but not limited to, hydraulic fracturing, gravel packing, and acidizing, or any combination thereof, and the use of waste disposal injection wells.”

“Until these radical methods of oil and gas extraction are at the very least covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, until chemicals are disclosed and problems are honestly reported, until we’re safe from earthquakes, until our atmosphere is safe from methane leaks, we need a fracking moratorium,” said Councilman Koretz.

fracking-calif-map

The moratorium was met with applause. Liz Crosson, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper said, “While state oil and gas regulators drag their feet on enforcing existing rules and taking adequate precaution for the health of our communities, rivers and ocean, L.A. residents suffer from what is already occurring at the nation’s largest urban oil field and in communities throughout the city,”. She further stated, “We don’t know all of the chemicals oil companies are exposing us to when they frack in our neighborhoods, but we know enough to know we don’t want them in our air or in our water.”

There will now be an attempt to introduce a ban on USGE and related activities across the state of California.

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References

1) Reyes, E. (2014). L.A. City Council takes step toward fracking ban. Available: http://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-0301-fracking-ban-20140301,0,6285538.story#axzz2xCYvuYPq. Last accessed 27/03/2014.

2) Russia Today. (2014). Los Angeles becomes largest US city to prohibit fracking. Available: http://rt.com/usa/los-angeles-fracking-ban-290/. Last accessed 27/03/2014.

3) Sustainable Business. (2014). Los Angeles Bans Fracking. Available: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/25555. Last accessed 27/03/2014.

4) Baker, B. (2014). Los Angeles Passes Fracking Moratorium. Available: http://ecowatch.com/2014/02/28/breaking-los-angeles-passes-fracking-moratorium/. Last accessed 27/04/2014.