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Cabot Groundwater Methane Hoax

Cabot Groundwater Methane Hoax

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Cabot ignores the most obvious source of gas contamination in groundwater - leaking gas wells
Cabot ignores the most obvious source of gas contamination in groundwater - leaking gas wells

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Published by: James "Chip" Northrup on Jun 09, 2012
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12/05/2012

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The Cabot Groundwater Methane Hoax
Cabot employees and their consultants go to great lengths to ignore theobvious
 – 
aging wellbores are a proven source of groundwatercontamination. This is their paper, as it appeared in the Oil and GasJournal, with commentary highlighted in yellow. Note the following:
1.
 
They use water tests that had been done
 before they drilled any shale gas
wells
 – 
almost no tests done after drilling.2.
 
They blame thermogenic methane in groundwater
entirely on naturally occurring faults
.3.
 
They fail to even mention the most common source of mobilized methanenear gas wells
 – 
 
 fugitive emissions from aging wellbores
.
Methane in Pennsylvania water wells unrelated to Marcellus shale fracturing
 
The assertion of the title is not proven by any information presented in the paper. Thereare no tests done by Cabot after Marcellus wells were drilled, so there is no evidence thatthey did not contaminate water wells. Not only have Marcellus wells contaminatedgroundwater, but sponsor of this paper, Cabot,
had been fined for polluting groundwater with methane from shale wells before this paper was published.
12/05/11
 
Lisa J. Molofsky, John A. Connor & Shahla K. Farhat, GSI Environmental Inc.,Houston
 
Consultants to CabotAlbert S. Wylie Jr. & Tom Wagner, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Pittsburgh Cabotemployees, who presumably would like to keep their jobs
 
Results from more than 1,700 water wells sampled and tested prior
 
 to proposed gas
 
 drilling
in Susquehanna County, Pa., show methane to be ubiquitous in shallowgroundwater, with a clear correlation of methane concentrations with surface topography.Testing water wells prior to drilling says nothing about the impact after wells weredrilled, which is the issue. There is no information g
iven on the “1,700 water wells”
.
 
Potential sources of this naturally occurring methane include thermogenic gas-chargedsandstones in the Catskill formation, which are tapped by most water wells in this region.These sandstones exhibit an extensive network of fractures, joints, and faults that serve asprinciple conduits of groundwater flow and potential pathways for the movement of shallow-sourced dissolved methane.While this is one plausible source of ambient thermogenic gas in groundwater, it does notaddress the issue at hand: the contamination of groundwater by drilling operations. If 
such an “extensive network of fractures, joints and faults” can serve as conduits for 
thermogenic methane, they can be conduits for drilling contaminants
 – 
drilling mud,frack fluid, and fugitive gas from aging well bores.
Methane in Susquehanna County groundwater
From May 2008 through 2009, in accordance with current Pennsylvania DEP guidelines,Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. collected water samples from all existing water wells within1,000 ft of 
 proposed gas well drilling sites.
From 2010 to the present, the sampling program was extended to include all water wellswithin 2,500 ft
 of proposed gas well drilling sites
in anticipation of revised PennsylvaniaDEP guidelines.
 
“Proposed gas wells” refers to new horizontal wells. No information is
given on existing gas wells.Collectively, these samples were submitted for "predrill" analysis of water qualityparameters including concentrations of dissolved gases (methane, ethane, propane) andgeneral chemistry analyses pertaining to primary and secondary drinking water standards.Cabot also collected an extensive background set of water samples in an 80 sq mile areain Brooklyn, Harford, and Gibson townships in 2011 for analyses of dissolved gases. Intotal, these 1,713 measurements (dating from 2008 through 2011) provide a baselinecharacterization of groundwater conditions
 prior to proximate oil and gas drilling,
 hydraulic fracturing, or production activities (Fig. 1).
 
 Although only 51% of the sample locations are in the valleys, valley wells representapproximately 88% of the wells containing dissolved methane concentrations in excess of 7,000 ppb (the current methane action level for water wells established by thePennsylvania DEP). In addition, a Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variances shows astatistically significant difference between methane levels in lowland (841 locations) vs.upland water wells (872 locations) (p-value <0.001).The results of these statistical analyses are supported by testimony from water welldrillers in Susquehanna County, who note that water wells with gas shows are mostcommonly observed in valleys.
2
Similar conditions were observed in a study by the US Geological Survey in WestVirginia in 1997-2005, where data sampled from 170 water wells found methaneconcentrations exceeding 10,000 ppb to occur only in wells located in valleys andhillsides, rather than hilltops.
3
 
No causation for this is offered by the authors
.However, an explanation is suggested based on a paper by Prof. A. N. Palmer, whichshows that subsurface movement of water would tend to transport thermogenic methanefrom leaking gas wells to the valley floor.
 Susquehanna County has been the focus of extensive natural gas development in recentyears, with 303 gas wells drilled from July 2006 to September 2011.
4
The water welldissolved methane concentration data presented in our current study were
 collected 

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