Explosive well water

Natural gas fracking can make local well water explosive
[Via Ars Technica]

As most forms of energy in the US have been going up in price, natural gas has gone in the opposite direction. This is largely the result of a new extraction technique called “fracking,” in which fluids under high pressure are used to fracture rock formations deep underground, releasing large volumes of gas that would otherwise be trapped in small pockets. Because of relaxed regulations in some states, the process of fracking boomed before anyone had a clear perspective on its environmental consequences.

Most of the concerns about fracking have focused on the fluids involved in the process, which tend to exit the wells heavily contaminated with dissolved metals and radioactive material. But those may not be the only worries. A study, released yesterday by PNAS, now shows that fracking may be contaminating local groundwater with enough methane to pose a risk of explosion.


This will require further testing but the data so far indicate that the methane is coming from the gas wells. And the levels in some of the water samples was high enough to be potentially dangerous.

I wonder just how prevalent this will turn out to be? One suggestion is that the wells themselves are not contained enough to prevent leakage. Another is that the fracking process itself opens natural fractures that leak gas.

Inadvertent methane release will be a source of real concern – and potential lawsuits – for the energy companies.