Water Journal : Water Journal August 2013
AUGUST 2013 WATER natural phenomenon. This has been documented in scienti c reports, data from the US Geologic Survey, court cases, and in investigatory articles in the New York Times. The rst home owner interviewed by Fox whose tap can be set on re is Renee McClure. In his interview, Fox holds up the results of an investigation of the McClure's water well chemistry conducted by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state regulatory agency. Referring to this report, Fox asks McClure if she realises her water well is badly contaminated with Trichloromethane. Curiously this report does not support any of the movie's points. The report states that the methane coming out of the McClure's tap has been isotopically ngerprinted as being of biogenic origin, and does not come from the gas being produced in the nearby gas well. The report also clearly states that no contamination associated with hydrocarbon production has been identi ed in the extensive chemical analyses completed of water samples from the McClures' well. So what is the signi cance of Fox's charge that well is contaminated by Trichloromethane? This is a chemical that, as a scientist, I would not expect to be associated with natural gas or hydraulic fracturing uids. In fact, the laboratory contracted by the COGCC uses this chemical as a "spike", a chemical added to the sample by the laboratory to make sure their analytical systems are functioning up to speci cations. Unfortunately this kind of misinformation is the rule rather than the exception in Fox's movie. Space prevents me from documenting a myriad of similar factual errors in the movie that undercut most all of it points. The New York Times, not known as a defender of the gas industry, in an article entitled: "Groundtruthing Academy Award Nominee 'Gasland'" provided analysis of 20 major issues raised in the movie where the point being made was not supported by documented facts. The COGCC has also written a report documenting numerous factual errors in the Colorado section of the movie and complained that although their Executive Director made himself available to be interviewed for the movie, they had no opportunity to correct the record. On the rare occasion that Josh Fox has been publicly confronted with any of the factual errors in the movie, he has passed his lack of veracity off as irrelevant. And perhaps it is irrelevant. Gasland the movie should be evaluated not as if it was a scienti c analysis or even as a work of journalism, but rather as a highly skilled piece of propaganda. Unfortunately most of the viewers of this movie will see it as a fact- based documentary, and of course that is the ingenuity of Fox's work. COMPARING COAL SEAM GAS TO SHALE GAS Clearly a key question for Australians reading about issues associated with shale gas in the US is: "how relevant are these issues to coal seam gas in Australia?". In general the differences between shale gas and CSG are probably more signi cant than their similarities. For much of the rest of this article I will focus on these differences and detail those things in the shale gas record that are inappropriate to link to CSG. High-volume high pressure hydraulic fracturing is essential for the production of gas from shale and tight gas sands. Some have assumed that "high-volume hydraulic fracturing" of shale gas reservoirs "in many aspects is similar to CSG". In fact shale reservoirs always require fracturing, whereas most CSG wells (and many elds) do not. Shale gas reservoirs are typically at greater depths and substantially higher pressures than for CSG elds. Some in Australia have assumed that methane emissions from CSG development will be similar to those for shale gas. In 2011 researchers at Cornell published a paper suggesting that methane fugitive emissions are up to 7.9% over the lifetime of a well, with much of the leakage well completion, during pipeline transmission, and distribution. In the scenario put forward by these researchers the largest methane loss is in the rst few days of the completion of the wells, during what is called owback. During owback the well produces part of the water injected into the well for fracturing. This water alternates with pulses of gas at increasingly high pressure, until the ow becomes purely natural gas and production begins. For shale gas the gas production rate builds rapidly to its maximum values over the rst few weeks of the well's production. CSG wells, by contrast, typically produce little if any natural gas immediately after completion. Rather, production gradually builds up over a period of months and years. 5 My Point of View A fraccing rig in a farmer's eld in Colorado, US.
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