Spotlight Shines On Natural Gas As World’s Fastest-growing Fuel

October 2011, Vol. 238 No. 10

Myth: Hydraulic fracturing pollutes drinking water supplies.

Fact: Shale gas is typically produced thousands of feet below drinking water supplies. Between that water and the shale are multiple layers of impermeable rock. In addition, each well has steel pipe (known as surface casing) cemented into place for the explicit purpose of protecting groundwater. Government and independent studies have found no cases in which fracturing has contaminated underground drinking water supplies.

Myth: Companies refuse to disclose the materials they use in fracturing.

Fact: Water and sand comprise about 99.5% of the material used in hydraulic fracturing. ExxonMobil strongly supports the disclosure of the ingredients used in hydraulic-fracturing fluids on a well-by-well basis. In fact, ExxonMobil and other companies already list such ingredients on an Internet registry (www.fracfocus.org) dedicated to such disclosure. The website is a joint effort of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (a multistate government agency that advocates for environmentally safe energy development) and the Groundwater Protection Council (an association of state water-protection agencies).

Myth: Fracturing consumes excessive volumes of water.

Fact: The volume of water used in hydraulic fracturing operations is far less than what is required to produce an equivalent amount of energy from coal (2 to 10 times as much water) or ethanol (up to 1,000 times as much water).

Myth: Water used in fracturing is routinely disposed of improperly.

Fact: There is nothing unique to the development of unconventional gas that creates different water-management issues than those the industry has long dealt with successfully and in compliance with government regulations. States regulate water use and disposal under the Federal Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Where possible, the water used in fracturing and natural gas development can be treated and reused in future wells, or it can be disposed of in accordance with applicable regulations.