Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the biggest fear people have about hydraulic fracturing is that it may contaminate the groundwater. Much of the fear can be credited to filmmaker Josh Fox. His 2010 movie, Gasland, told of how he was offered $100,000 to lease 19 acres of his family’s Pennsylvania farm for drilling. The highlight of the movie was exploding tap water that he blamed on fracking, and the film also alleged other water contamination.
Mr. Fox’s allegations have not held up well to scientific inquiry, and a study published by researchers at the University of Cincinnati last month just dealt him another blow. A team of geologists looked at drinking water in Carroll, Stark, and Harrison counties, which are all in rural northeast Ohio. The people living in this sparsely-populated area tend to rely on private water wells because they are so far from a town with central water processing.
The results of the study back up what the industry has been saying for years. It is true that many wells in the area contain elevated levels of methane, the primary component of natural gas and the likely source of the explosions highlighted by Mr. Fox. The researchers found wells with as much as 25.3 milligrams per liter of methane, which is enough to catch fire in an enclosed space.
The researchers found “no relationship,” however, between the methane concentrations and new oil and gas wells. Moreover, the researchers tested the methane and reviewed its “isotopic composition” to determine the source. The researchers found that the methane in the drinking water was mostly “biogenic,” meaning that it occurred naturally and independent of natural gas drilling. It can from organic decomposition or cow waste, for example. Some methane was also traced to underground coal beds. The researchers did call for additional monitoring to protect against future contamination, but no contamination in this study could be linked to drilling.
Here at Cimmaron Land, we know that conflicts between landowners and exploration and production companies are bad for everyone. Landowners can lose both trust and royalties, while producers can lose earning opportunities. We strive to make every lease a successful partnership. If you are considering such a partnership, just call our land experts at (412) 212-7517.