Dr. Stephen Holditch, Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University, spoke out this week in the Houston Chronicle's Fuelfix blog in defense of frac'ing. He spoke directly to the major concerns of those who oppose frac'ing (groundwater contamination and air quality) as well as encouraged a set of best practices for the industry.
Among the more interesting background facts were that as recently as 2001, the production of natural gas via frac'ing comprised less than two percent of total U.S. natural gas production. Today, it is approaching 30 percent.
Holditch debunked several myths about frac'ing with facts.
In regards to water quality he said that no matter what you may read, hydraulic fracturing does not involve pumping toxic chemicals under high pressure near public aquifers.
Some 99.5% of what is commonly used in frac'ing is a composition of pure water and quartz sand. Other agents are included, making up about 0.5% of the fluid. Three typical additives are guar gum (which is also used to thicken food products), detergents (just like the soaps you use at home to wash dishes and clothes), and bactericide (like the chlorine used to kill bacteria as it does effectively in most local drinkable water supplies).
Addressing air quality, he reminded readers that of any pollutants that are released, methane is the only one of concern and operators have a vested interest in ensuring that it does not escape, because it can be resold for a profit.
In addition to his responsibilities at Texas A&M, Holditch served on a Secretary of Energy Advisory Board subcommittee and recommended that the industry accelerate cooperative efforts to establish best practices – and even encouraged the formation of a shale gas industry production organization dedicated to continuous improvement of best practices.
You can read the full subcommittee report at www.shalegas.energy.gov
Dr. Holditch's closing remarks were perhaps the most profound, reminding us that as the nation adjusts to the implications of our unexpected bounty, the industry would do well to quickly establish the kind of practices that encourage public confidence and guarantee that this marvelous resource is not wasted thorough inefficient, dangerous and provocative procedures.