Drilling & Fracturing
Let science speak for hydraulic fracturing’s safety
The dramatically increased production of crude oil and natural gas in the United States is the direct result of improvements in the well completion technique commonly called fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – a well-stimulation technique in which shale is fractured by a hydraulically pressurized liquid.
The advancement of hydraulic fracturing has been beneficial not only to the industry but also to our economy; however, despite all its benefits, it can’t get out from underneath the dark cloud of accusations: everything from causing earthquakes to contaminating water to polluting the air. And despite study after study proving these accusations to be false, the constant drumbeat of claims, which can only be described as scare tactics, have left people fearing the process of fracking. The city of Denton, Texas, went so far as passing an ordinance banning the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits.
Wichita Falls’ Times Record News recently reported on this topic, saying of environmentalist groups, “The hysteria they have been able to create has people scared to death (no pun intended).” They turn to Dr. Dan Hill, head, professor and Noble Chair of the Harold Vance department of petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University, and his recent column in the Bryan-College Station newspaper The Eagle, titled: “Sound science should be at the core of College Station oil and gas discussions.”
Dr. Hill urges the public to be “savvy consumers of information and to keep an eye out for claims masquerading as ‘science,’ which have been widely discredited by scientists and experts.” With recent accusations that drilling causes cancer, Dr. Hill is all too aware that people would be alarmed to read this information, but that people need to make decisions based on sound science:
“In North Texas, some have linked breast cancer with increased drilling. But there is no credible evidence to support this. As reported by the Associated Press, experts from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the Texas Cancer Registry, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Dallas all said there is no evidence of an increase in cancers in the counties in question.
“In 2014, the Texas Department of State Health Services completed its third investigation of several types of cancer in Flower Mound, an area where natural gas production occurs. This investigation reached the same conclusion as the department's 2010 study, which found no evidence of a 'cancer cluster' in the area. The department attributed the breast cancer rates in the area not to natural gas development, but to an increase in population and increased use of mammography and early detection.”
Regarding claims of hydraulic fracturing causing air pollution, Dr. Hill said:
“In fact, when researchers use appropriate comparisons, studies show that natural gas activity doesn't result in air exposures that would pose health concerns. One recent study, published in a peer-reviewed journal, analyzed 4.6 million air tests from continuous air monitors across the Barnett Shale. Air tests occurred as natural gas wells were drilled, hydraulically fractured, produced and reworked. Emissions from every type of natural gas-related activity were captured and the study concluded that ‘gas production activities have not resulted in community-wide exposures to [compounds] at levels that would pose a health concern.’"
Dr. Hill’s concludes that all of us – no matter if we’re involved in the industry or not – want oil and natural gas to be produced safely. But he emphasizes that it is important to discuss the topic based on information provided by science, not scare tactics.