No Link Between Gas Fracking & Methane Levels Found in Water Wells

Oct. 4, 2018

Water wells with high methane levels could be at risk of exploding

Researchers at the University of Texas say there is “no link” between natural gas fracking and elevated levels of methane found in North Texas water wells.

According to Houston Public Media, a study in the journal Water Resources Research looked at groundwater sources across Barnett Shale natural gas field in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Research says the “vast majority” contained little or no methane, of the more than 450 water wells sample in the area. A “cluster” of 11 wells near the line between the Parker and Hood counties had much higher levels; more than 10 mg of methane per liter of water.

At that level, the university says methane could have to be vented from the wells to “ensure the flammable gas does not accumulate to hazardous levels.” Water wells with high levels of methane can be at risk of exploding.

“There’s an explosive hazard, that’s the major concern,” said Toti Larson, lead author on the study.

The study concluded the methane had gotten into those 11 wells by naturally migrating up from deeper rock formation over millions of years.

“And, so, our findings suggest that the natural gas in those shallow wells is not the result of fracking,” Larson said.

The study in August was the last in a series of similar research efforts. The university said the findings and conclusions have “remained consistent” throughout.

Larson said the latest study does not rule out the possibility of isolated contamination from hydraulic fracturing, and research from Stanford University has found evidence of that happening in Pennsylvania and North Texas. In the instances, researchers pointed to faulty industry infrastructure and gas leaks as the culprits.

Stanford research did not sway Texas oil and gas regulators when it was released. The Texas Railroad Commission dismissed the 2014 study as not rigorous enough.

When describing their latest study, The University of Texas disclosed that the research is at times funded by oil and gas companies, and it also receives revenue from oil and gas royalties in the study area, Barnett area. The university said that no “sponsored research” funded by industry has covered the specific issue of methane in groundwater.

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