Fracking wells prone to leak, study finds

Leaks from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells are more common than the public is being led to believe.

According to recent report from TheTyee.ca, believing industry claims that fracking for natural gas and oil is safe and not plagued by leaking wells or other faults is naive. There is ample evidence – even industry insider information on truths that have long been held – to show that fracking not only is hindered by the frequency of fracking well leaks but it may be the crutch that prevents it from ever being accepted as a legitimate means of reducing our dependence on foreign fuel sources.

Critics of fracking expansion believe the boom in drilling across the U.S., though mainly in the eastern U.S. and Mid Atlantic regions, is having a severe adverse impact on the environment, public health, and natural resources like fresh water. They say there is more than enough evidence to refute industry claims that the process is safe and poses no threats to the environmental or public health.

In places like Pennsylvania, where fracking companies have converged to explore a significant portion of the vast Marcellus shale formation, thousands of wells have been tapped in recent years. A now-famous documentary based in northeast Pennsylvania, Gasland, opened a national debate on the subject. In the movie, residents who say they’ve been directly impacted by nearby fracking wells and their leaking harmful toxins that have permeated into their drinking wells.

Opponents claim that fracking wells are poorly constructed and that well workers are improperly trained, adding risk that a well will leak fluids either at the surface or underground or will result in a dangerous well blowout that spews drilling fluid over a large swath of land and water. Further, they believe fracking releases dangerous toxins into the air and puts public health in danger. There has been ample evidence of each but federal and state governments have been hesitant to state publicly that fracking is dangerous.

In the report at TheTyee.ca, the fracking industry leads the public to believe that those effects are impossible or extremely rare because, as it believes, fracking wells don’t leak. Not true, according to the group’s findings, which were gleaned from industry data and statistics. In fact, they call leaks of fracking fluid from wells “a rare phenomenon.”

This is clearly just another misdirection offered by the industries as they continue to fight environmental groups and an increasingly skeptical public on fracking’s safety record. The report cites “industry studies” that show new fracking wells leak at a rate of five to seven percent. That rate increases dramatically over time, up to 50 percent over the life of a well, and that the wells most prone to leaking are fracking wells.

A study appearing in an industry trade publication, Oil Field News, even underscores the risk of leaking from fracking wells. In that study, it states, “Since the earliest gas wells, uncontrolled migration of hydrocarbons to the surface has challenged the oil and gas industry.”

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