Last June, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a 178-page report called “The Future of Natural Gas” (a copy of the full report is embedded below). Somehow this report escaped MDN’s notice at the time. Seeing that it’s conclusions are that hydraulic fracturing is safe, MDN understands why mainstream media outlets don’t endlessly promote it and quote from it as they do from journal articles penned by anti-drilling professors like Robert Howarth and Tony Ingraffea making outrageous claims like natural gas is worse for the environment than coal (see this MDN story).
The report is the fourth in a series of MIT reports examining the role of various energy sources that may be important for meeting future demand under carbon dioxide emissions constraints. In each case, as with this report, MIT looks at what is needed for energy sources to remain competitive if and when CO2 emissions are taxed. That is, how will this energy source stack up if there’s a price on carbon dioxide emissions.
Among the many interesting findings in the report are these:
With over 20,000 shale wells drilled in the last 10 years, the environmental record of shale gas development has for the most part been a good one — but it is important to recognize the inherent risks and the damage that can be caused by just one poor operation. (page 39)
The fracturing process itself poses minimal risk to the shallow groundwater zones that may exist in the upper portion of the wellbore. (page 40)
The physical realities of the fracturing process, combined with the lack of reports from the many wells to date of fracture fluid contamination of groundwater, supports the assertion that fracturing itself does not create environmental concerns. (page 41)
The report also finds that it’s very likely we’ll see an increase in the number of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles due to the abundance of cheap natural gas.
It’s a fascinating report. Take time to at least scan it.