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Gastems Test Well as the Duke Methane Study Anomaly Researchers from Duke University tested water from 68 groundwater wells in Northeastern Pennsylvania and Central New York and found dangerously elevated levels of thermogenic methane in the majority of water wells that were near active gas drilling areas. 1 This study confirmed what the industry already knew gas wells leak quite often and in various ways including on the outside of the outermost casing.2 There were some anomalies water wells near active gas production areas that did not exhibit elevated levels of methane. At a shale gas conference at Utica College, Gastems geologist boasted that one such anomalous water well was near one of Gastems gas wells. Gastems Ross 1 test well in Otsego County, New York is apparently the source of the biggest anomaly in the Duke study. The water well tested near the Ross 1 was one of the few in the study that did not show elevated levels of methane near active gas wells. Theres a simple explanation for this: The Ross 1 is not an active producing gas well it was a vertical test well that had a small test frack put on it to determine if it would produce gas and it was not tied into a gathering system.3 So any water wells in its vicinity would not be in an active gas extraction area they would just be near a test well. The Gastem vertical test well had just been drilled when the Duke team tested a nearby water well. The Gastem test well was too new to be leaking at the time of the water tests. Gas wells develop leaks over an extended period of time measured in years, not months.4 This could be chalked up to a simple mischaracterization of the Ross 1 test well as a producing well. Gastem often referred to test wells that had gas shows as producing gas. And the Duke team characterized water wells tested as being near gas production if they were within a kilometer of an active well. So the water well tested near the Ross 1 was listed as being near a producing gas well. But it was not within a kilometer of a gas well. It was near a vertical test well. This was one data point out of 68 water well tests. Why is it important ?
1 2 3 4 See Exhibit A attached

The DEC cites the anomalous results from that one water well located near the Ross 1 well as its reason to discount the entire Duke methane study. The DEC's only comment on the Duke study is one data point out of almost 70 tests : September 11, dSGEIS page 4-38: "In April 2011 researchers from Duke University (Duke) released a report on the occurrence of methane contamination of drinking water associated with Marcellus and Utica Shale gas development. As part of their study, the authors analyzed groundwater from nine drinking water wells completed in the Genesee Group in Otsego County, New York for the presence of methane. Of the nine wells, Duke classified one well as being in an active gas extraction area (i.e., a gas well within 1 kilometer (km) of the water well), and the remaining eight in a non active gas extraction area. The analysis showed minimal amounts of methane in this sample group, with concentrations significantly below the minimum methane action level (10 mg/L) to maintain the safety of structures and the public, as recommended by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining. The water well located in the active gas extraction area had 5 to 10 times less methane than the wells located in the inactive areas." The DEC discounts the Duke results based entirely on one outlier in the study one water well near Gastems newly drilled vertical test well that was not producing any gas. This is not just bad science, its bad statistics. It calls the DECs credibility into question. And indeed casts doubt on the authorship of the dSGEIS itself. Since the dismissal of the Duke study mirrors the DECs dismissive attitude to the entire problem of groundwater pollution from shale gas wells. The protections suggested for New Yorkers are based not on science - on hydrology, topography and chemistry - but on political science, the number of persons impacted by the likely pollution of a drinking water source. 5 The DECs proposed gas well setbacks based on the kind of tendentious pseudo-science they have applied to the Duke study would result in the worst shale gas regulations in the United States.6

5 6

The water well near the Ross I is one of the dots in the graph shown below, Figure 1, indicating a low level of methane in proximity to what was erroneously categorized as a producing gas well (the Ross 1 test well). Figure 1 Duke Tests of Water Wells

Over time, gas wells particularly ones that are actually fracked and producing gas can develop leaks in a variety of ways. But that takes time, and the water well was tested by the Ross 1 shortly after the Ross 1 was drilled, and before it was fracked and producing because it never had a commercial frack, it was not drilled horizontally exposing a potentially large volume of gas bearing rock, and it never produced. It is currently listed by the DEC as shut in. Had it been drilled horizontally and commercially fracked, gas could have leaked though the casing and outside of the casing into groundwater as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Pathways of Methane Leaks From a Producing Gas Well

Had the water well been tested after the Ross 1 was commercially fracked and producing for some years, it would likely show an elevated level of methane in the water since gas wells are prone to leak on the outside of the outermost casing, due to the fack that the cement exterior does not adhere to shale and other rocks and the cement shrinks over time, allowing methane to channel up the outside of the casing, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 Gas Wells can Leak at the Outside of the Outermost Casing

Unless the well has a leak at the surface casing, it will take time for gas to channel up the outside of the outermost casing. The industry has been aware of this phenomena for years. It has not a considerable environmental hazard in areas where water wells are tapping deeper aquifers that do not communicate with groundwater. In areas such as Pennsylvania and New York where rural water wells are tapping groundwater, methane leakage posses a significant hazard, as illustrated in Figure 4, showing how shallow New York wells are vulnerable to groundwater pollution, whereas Western wells are less vulnerable, if they do not tap groundwater.

Figure 4 Shallow Water Wells Compared to Deep Western Wells

Methane migration might be expected to appear near some wells within a few years after the well has been drilled as illustrated in the graph in Figure 5. By the 4th year, over 20% of the wells tested were exhibiting signs of leakage, as measured at the bradenhead gauge. Unless the Ross 1 blew out while it was being fracked, you would not expect to see methane pollution for a year or so after it was drilled. But since the Ross 1 was not commercially fracked, not drilled horizontally, and was never hooked up, it is less likely to be a big leaker, the way Gastems other shale gas wells have been in Quebec. Gastem is no stranger to leaking shale gas wells. Some of the Canadian gas wells that it participated in were one of the primary reasons that Quebec put a moratorium on further shale gas exploration. Over 60% of them leaked.7 Of course, these infamous shale gas leakers were not included in the Duke study. . .

Figure 5 Gas Wells Leak Over Time

James Chip Northrup

Exhibit A Ross 1 Permit For Test Well Non Producing