Details Withheld on Fracking Methane Study, High levels of methane in Susquehanna County, Pa., cannot be to attributed to fracking, yet claims impossible to verify by Kristen Meriwether, May 2, 2013, Epoch Times
Susquehanna County, Pa.—made famous from Josh Fox’s documentary film “Gasland”—is back in the forefront of the hydraulic fracturing debate with pro-drilling activists claiming victory and at least one family still desperate for answers about their undrinkable water. … On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a statement regarding the conclusion of their 16-month investigation into high methane levels in three private water wells in Franklin Forks Township. Natural gas is largely comprised of processed methane. Methane is naturally occurring in some water, but high levels of methane can make water unsuitable for drinking. … “The DEP determined high levels of methane found in three private water wells in Franklin Township, Susquehanna County, cannot be attributed to natural gas drilling activity in that geographical area,” the DEP statement said. The DEP statement concluded the methane was of similar makeup to that found in Salt Springs State Park—where naturally occurring methane has been documented back to 1902—and not of the same make up as the hydraulic fracturing wells nearby. “Why is Salt Springs all of a sudden migrating all at once right after drilling starts?” Matthew Manning, whose home was a part of the study, said in a video shown on WBNG News in Binghampton, Pa. The Manning family, who has been without drinkable water inside their house since 2011, wonders if WPX, the gas company whose wells are nearby, will continue to pay for water delivery to their house. “We couldn’t sell the house with a water buffalo and no water supply, so we’re running out of options right now,” Matthew’s wife Tammy Manning said, according to WBNG News.
Report Not Public
The statement seemed like a straightforward victory for the pro-gas camps, however, for geologists familiar with the methane rich region, there was a simple piece missing—the report.
The DEP would not release the report citing homeowner privacy issues, instead issuing a four-paragraph statement of the conclusions. The Epoch Times asked for a copy with the names and addresses redacted to protect the homeowners, however, the request was denied.
A geologist in New York state refused to comment on the record about the benchmark study without seeing the methodology, saying it was not a straightforward issue, especially in methane-rich Pennsylvania. Methane generally comes in two forms: biogenic, produced by degrading organic matter, and thermogenic, which is the type desired for natural gas processing. A scientists can discern between the two based on their make-up, with biogenic typically coming from shallow depths, and thermogenic coming from deep pockets, like in the Marcellus Shale. It is not, however, absolute. Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University who spent time in Franklin Forks and collected samples for his research, said some methane in Salt Springs State Park is thermogenic, however, it is discernible from Marcellus Shale methane. “What you hear a lot is that methane is found naturally a lot in this area and that is absolutely true. I think the inference is because methane is found naturally in the area, all methane found in the area is natural,” Jackson said. I do not think it is true.”
Jackson was hesitant to draw a conclusion about the statement without seeing the study with the methodology. “I am not saying the DEP is wrong, but I do not feel DEP has given us enough information to say they are right,” Jackson said on Tuesday. Jackson said he would like to see if ethane and propane were also tested and/or detected. These are gases, which are not found to be naturally occurring and can be good indicators of fossil fuels from deep underground. This would help investigators to better determine the origination of the gases. … The statement issued by the DEP does not say if the methane found was biogenic or thermogenic, calling it “naturally occurring.” Without the study, it is not known exactly what kind of methane was in the well, other than it matched the type in Salt Springs. [Emphasis added]
Fracking Ruled Out by Pennsylvania in Town’s Water Case by Mark Drajem, April 29, 2013, Bloomberg
Methane in the water wells of a Pennsylvania town visited by Yoko Ono in her campaign against hydraulic fracturing wasn’t caused by drilling for natural gas nearby, the state environmental regulator said. In the northeastern town of Franklin Forks, samples from three private water wells are comparable in their chemical makeup to the natural spring at a nearby park where methane had been detected for decades, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said today. “Testing also determined that the gas in the water samples taken from the private water wells was not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas wells,” the department said in a statement. The methane in the wells “cannot be attributed to natural gas drilling activity in that geographical area.” Matthew and Tammy Manning, who live in Franklin Forks about a mile from nearby gas wells, have blamed the drilling for a dangerous level of explosive gas in their home’s well and inside their house. They sued the local gas driller, WPX Energy Inc. (WPX), saying their water woes began only after the fracking for natural gas nearby. … The state had ordered the company to test water sources in town and vent four wells that had high levels of methane, the key constituent of natural gas. The company had maintained that the isotopic signature of the gas, which scientists use as a kind of fingerprinting method, was similar to that found in nearby Salt Springs park. “We’re pleased that a science-based, fact-finding effort by the state definitively showed that our operations were not responsible for methane migration issues,” Susan Oliver, a WPX spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. [Emphasis added]