While Frank Splendoria is still waiting for credible evidence, let me respond to his letter to the editor published on Jan. 17.
“Safe” is about as relative a term as “rare” or “sweet.” Fracking is a complex process. It involves many “moving” parts. Is the actual fracturing process, five- or six-thousand feet underground on a horizontal well, safe? We don’t know. Nobody can go down there and check. How about the well itself? Haliburton’s main competitor, Schlumberger, released a well integrity study — Brufatto et al., Oilfield Review, Schlumberger — in the fall of 2003, indicating that 5 percent of wells under sustained casing pressure fail within a year, 26 percent of wells with SCP fail at age 4 and 60 percent fail at maturity (the study considers 32 years of age “maturity”). Is that “safe” enough? Fluid migration upward from faulty wells is a well-known, chronic problem in the industry with an expected rate of occurrence.
T.L. Watson and S. Bachu, members of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, came to a similar conclusion in a 2009 study. If you are willing to spend some time on the “Google machine” and dig, there is plenty of evidence that fracking as it is applied today (high volume fracturing on long laterals, a roughly 6-year-old process) is in its infancy and not “safe.”
Frank is right, there is “something else” at play than “just fracking” and with that I want to touch on what he said in his last paragraph, the natural world that God has given us.
I do believe that we have a strong obligation to protect this natural world. Mixing (according to Chesapeake Energy) 5.5 million gallons of fresh water with sand and toxic chemicals per frack job and making this water, unfit for any further use, at a time when there is a global water crisis is inconceivable to me.
Frank has been on the local water board; I am wondering, does that sound like a good idea to him? And we haven’t even talked about the above-ground impact fracking is having. Or the effects of methane release into the atmosphere on our climate crisis. Or the economic impact if we choose to be stuck in the fossil-fuel age for another couple of decades while other industrialized nations move on.