Encana has lashed out at what it termed an “irresponsible” official draft report linking water contamination in the US to its hydraulic fracturing activities.
Eoin O’Cinneide 12 December 2011 11:56 GMT
The Canadian gas behemoth lambasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s report on water quality at Pavillion, Wyoming as containing “unacceptable inconsistency”, “conjecture” and “numerous flaws”.
On Thursday the EPA released the draft report which claimed that “ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing”. The EPA investigation also found synthetic chemicals such as glycols and alcohols, and benzene concentrations “well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards” as well as high levels of methane.
On Monday Encana hit back with a scathing attack on the EPA, pointing to perceived flaws with the body’s drilling methodology and a lack of a qualified opinion.
“Of most concern, many of the EPA’s findings from its recent deep monitoring wells, including those related to any potential connection between hydraulic fracturing and Pavillion groundwater quality, are conjecture, not factual and only serve to trigger undue alarm,” the statement read.
“Encana is especially disappointed that the EPA released its draft report, outlining preliminary findings, before subjecting it to qualified, third-party, scientific verification,” labeling this a “precipitous action”.
The Canadian giant pointed to “numerous discrepancies” in the report which it claimed “ignores well-known historical realities with respect to the Pavillion field’s unique geology and hydrology”.
The company claimed that, as far back at the 1880s, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported poor quality water at Pavillion.
“More recent USGS reports dating back to 1959 have documented Pavillion water as unsatisfactory for domestic use due to high concentrations of naturally occurring sulfate, total dissolved solids and pH levels which commonly exceed state and federal drinking water standards.”
Encana continued: “Natural gas developers didn’t put the natural gas at the bottom of the EPA’s deep monitoring wells, nature did.
“Conclusions drawn by the EPA are irresponsible given the limited number of sampling events on the EPA deep wells and the number of anomalies seen in the data.”
The EPA had said its draft findings “are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells”. Such production conditions “are different from those in many other areas of the country”, the body claimed.
Last week, Encana spokesperson Doug Hock criticised the report, saying the EPA took “disparate pieces of data” and did not come to a clear conclusion.
“It’s interesting they talk about a ‘likely association’ [to fracking],” he said. “That’s not a conclusion, it’s a probability. They’re hedging their bets.”
The draft report will be available for public comment for 45 days from publication. To see a copy of the report, click here.
- Encana falls on EPA water study (marketwatch.com)
- EPA Draft Study Sends Ripples Through Wyoming as Industry Questions Findings (ibtimes.com)
- Fracking Compounds Found in Drinking Water (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)
- EPA Releases Draft Findings of Pavillion, Wyoming Ground Water Investigation (bespacific.com)
- Fracking: Pollution finding could hurt gas drilling (csmonitor.com)
- Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time (propublica.org)
- Natural Gas Fracking Linked to Water Contamination by Federal Agency (scientificamerican.com)
- Fracking may be causing groundwater pollution, says EPA report (guardian.co.uk)
- Encana facing water pollution controversy (calgaryherald.com)
- Wyoming water pollution linked with fracking (summitcountyvoice.com)
Natural gas, once seen as a useful bridge between the eras of coal and renewables, poses one of the biggest threats to the wind-energy business, if not the whole future clean-tech revolution, according to experts.
“We’ve talked over the last decade of gas as a bridging technology, but we’re now seeing what I would call the threat of gas,” James Leape, director-general of WWF International, told the European Future Energy Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Frankly, if we build the future economy on shale gas, we will have lost the fight to control climate change.”
The US energy sector has been transformed by the ability to tap huge reserves of shale gas economically, employing a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in which subterranean layers of impermeable rock are cracked open using pressurised fluids.
Shale-gas fever has spread to Europe, with drilling companies claiming that Poland, Romania, the UK and other countries have large, accessible deposits.
While many observers — including the Obama administration and the International Energy Agency (IEA) — believe the shale-gas boom will have useful medium-term environmental consequences compared to the high carbon emissions of coal, others believe it is more harmful once its extraction methods are taken into account.
Fracking has been banned in France, Switzerland and several US states. The intense water demands imposed by the technique are also a concern.
Markus Wråke, head of the IEA’s Energy Technologies Perspective group, says the shale-gas boom — rather than the explosion of renewables — has proved the most disruptive change to the energy industry in recent years.
“In some settings, gas is an enormous improvement over coal,” he says. “The question is: when does gas go from being part of the solution to part of the problem?
“We could see significant synergies with other fuels we believe are important over the longer term, like biogas and hydrogen. But the fact remains that if we have really low gas prices, it could threaten the development of some of the clean technologies that we need.”
But far from being an enemy of renewables, natural gas is “not only a companion, but a very necessary one”, he tells Recharge.
“The beauty of gas as a complement to fluctuating renewables is it’s so fast: you press a button and the gas-fired power station starts up. It’s much more flexible in that respect than coal, and it’s not as polluting,” Eldrup adds.
“From our perspective, wind, biomass and gas form the basis of our future energy mix — you can’t do without any of them.”
- Industry aims to win support for Quebec shale gas (theglobeandmail.com)
- China Has More Shale Gas Than We Do. Will They Embrace Environmental Safeguards on Fracking? Will We? (3eintelligence.wordpress.com)
- Natural gas shale play development now going global (mb50.wordpress.com)