Just the Facts? Or Not.

Energy in Depth nails it again, this time responding to Yoko Ono's NYT op-ed that included "facts" on frac'ing. Read part of this excellent, informed response below and be sure and visit the website for the full text. 

Writing in The New York Times on Christmas Day 2012, none other than Yoko Ono declared that 60 percent of wells producing natural gas from shale will fail – perhaps surprising those who weren’t previously familiar with Ms. Ono’s background and experience as a petroleum engineer. Expertise (or lack thereof) aside, could it really be the case that more than half of all wells will be “poisoning drinking water” sometime in the not too distant future?

First of all, this isn’t a new claim. Opponents of responsible shale development have been using that “60 percent fail” statistic ever since Cornell professor (and anti-natural gas activist) Anthony Ingraffea invented it and passed it along to Josh Fox, Yoko Ono, and numerous other anti-shale audiences, including some among our friends to the north. Ingraffea even claims to have “industry documents” as his source, but as with so much bandied about by folks dedicated to shutting down hydraulic fracturing, the claim is pure fabrication.

Let’s start by taking a look at these “industry documents” that opponents would have us believe are the Holy Grail of anti-shale activism. The main source is a decade-old article in Oilfield Review examining what’s known as sustained casing pressure, or SCP. There is indeed a graph on the second page detailing that, over a 30 year time span, 60 percent of wells will be affected by SCP.

But what’s listed in the caption – and what no activist ever mentions – is just as if not more important: the graph refers to offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The data came directly from the now-defunct Minerals Management Service, which was the federal agency tasked with regulating offshore oil and gas development in federal waters.

The caption also states clearly: “These data do not include wells in state waters or land locations.”

So, right off the bat, we can see that opponents are trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by pretending that casing pressure in offshore wells is actually referring to wells developed onshore in deep shale formations. Even worse, the documentation explicitly states it does not refer to onshore production, which is where shale development is actually occurring!

Do they not understand the difference? Or do they refuse to disclose this information because they fear the public actually would? Either way, the statistic is misleading, if not completely meaningless.