Another long-term study finds fracking isn’t contaminating groundwater

Yet another long-term university study of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has found no evidence that the process contaminates drinking water. This one is a four-year study from Texas, “the fifth and final in a series conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan that looks at groundwater wells in the Barnett Shale area.”

What did researchers find after four years of study? That methane in the well water around the Barnett Shale area was naturally occurring, not linked to the fracking process and natural gas production activities.

The press release from the University of Texas announces:

After four years of studies, scientists have found no link between methane present in water wells outside of Fort Worth and nearby gas production activities in the Barnett Shale. The methane appears to have migrated naturally to the wells from the shallower Strawn formations and not from the Barnett Shale, where natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing are occurring. By conducting the studies, researchers believe they have developed important methods that could be applied in similar situations to determine where methane originates in an environment.

Also worth nothing, all five studies made the same findings: “The researchers’ findings and conclusions have remained consistent through the studies.”

They also made similar findings to other recent, long-term academic or government studies on fracking that have been discussed here. Here’s a list:

  • Pennsylvania: Methane in water wells from natural variability, not drilling and fracturing. Based on a two-year study by researchers from Yale University.
  • Pennsylvania: Water quality was “either unchanged or even slightly improved for substances like barium, arsenic and iron.” Based on over 11,000 groundwater samples since 2010 by researchers at Pennsylvania State University.
  • Nation: No evidence in the data that fracking contaminates groundwater. Based on a five-year study by researchers for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Wyoming: Bacteria, not fracking, was the cause of foul-smelling well water in the Pavillon community. Based on a two-year investigation by researchers at the EPA and Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Nation: Almost all of the flowback and wastewater recovered in the fracking process is natural brines, not fluid used in the fracking process, which tends to stay in the well. Findings by researchers at Duke University.
  • Texas and Pennsylvania: Instances of methane in water wells thought to be from the fracking process were from failures in well construction. Findings by researchers at Duke University and several other universities.
  • Colorado: No evidence that the fracking process led to biogenic gas in water wells, but that the aquifer had historically exhibited significant methane levels. Based on investigations by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
  • Pennsylvania: No evidence that chemicals or brine water from fracking flowed upward and contaminated drinking water. Based on a two-year study by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Again and again, researchers ratify that hydraulic fracturing is an intrinsically safe process.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...