In all of the trumped-up hysteria in New York with local municipalities banning hydraulic fracturing (see these MDN stories)—some banning it permanently, others for a year or two so they can “study it some more”—MDN wonders, do they know fracking has been going on in New York for the past 40 plus years? That indisputable fact apparently escapes most anti-drillers.
The type of fracking that has been around for 40 plus years is vertical fracking—drilling straight down and blowing little holes in rock formations around the well bore. The difference between vertical fracking and horizontal fracking, which is used to extract natural gas from shale, is that with horizontal fracking the drilling first goes down vertically and then turns sideways and goes horizontal. And horizontal fracking takes a lot more water and sand and yes, more chemicals to keep the bacteria from building up during the high temperatures of drilling.
One of the most frequent objections from those who oppose drilling is that the drilling process will somehow contaminate water aquifers—but the very same drilling process is used regardless of whether it’s vertical or horizontal drilling—the same process that’s been used for more than 40 years. Both vertical and horizontal wells start out by drilling straight down through the aquifer and using the same well casing technology to protect groundwater. Some of the water and sand and chemicals that come from horizontal fracking stays in the ground, more than a mile down—it doesn’t “seep” back up to the surface through a mile of solid rock.
That’s the message Nancy Schmitt of Taum Sauk Capital Management and John Conrad of Conrad Geoscience had for the editorial board of the Hudson Valley Journal News in a recent meeting.
Fracking detractors, the panelists said, rely on fear rather than science. Conrad said the process of hydraulic fracturing for vertical wells has been used for a long time; the new process would include horizontal drilling and would be at a higher volume, with more liquid employed during the extraction process. “It’s the scale that has changed; the process has not,” Conrad told the Editorial Board. Schmitt added: “Whether it’s a vertical well or a horizontal well, there is no difference . . . in terms of the way it penetrates the aquifer.”*
You can watch a short video of Schmitt and Conrad (embedded below) addressing the issue of natural gas drilling in New York.
*Hudson Valley Journal News (Feb 29, 2012) – Video: Gas experts talk fracking science