Misinformation poisons the hydro-fracking well
Re: the Feb. 5 letters to the editor written in response to Chronicle Herald's Feb. 1 editorial, “Respecting the evidence.”
My concern is the steady refrain of misinformation on hydro-fracking.
It has been spread in amounts greater than the salt on our winter
roads. We are long overdue for a fact-based and properly balanced
discussion on this matter.
Having explored for oil and gas years ago, and working now for more
than 25 years as a geoscientist in surface water and groundwater
resource development and protection, I feel I can rightly say that
fracking can present risks, just as many other accepted industrial
activities can pose risks to the environment.
But hydraulic fracturing, which was invented in 1947, commercialized in
1949, and has been used over 2.5 million times worldwide for oil and
gas development, is not new. So the risks are well understood, and are
generally no greater than those posed by almost any other type of oil
and gas development activity.
During fracking, water is usually introduced into deep, non-potable
salt-water laden geologic horizons. There are typically large vertical
separations between frack zones and drinking water aquifers, and
fracking operations are monitored more closely than most outside the
industry might realize.
After all, besides the economic incentives for successful fracks, the
geologists and engineers who understand and apply the technology also
share the same environmental-quality concerns as everyone else, because
they live in and obtain their drinking water from the same environment
as everyone else.
Besides surface spills, which the use of best practices can reduce, the
greatest risks from fracking may arise where there is a legacy of oil
and gas development with many old, improperly built and abandoned oil
and gas wells. These can serve as vertical conduits along which fluids
under pressure could migrate into shallower freshwater aquifers.
But since we have no such development history, that scenario doesn’t
exist in Nova Scotia. And new oil and gas well construction procedures
are designed to avoid those types of scenarios.