MIT Frackademics by James Northrup, December 3, 2012, Shale Shock Media
The MIT shale gas well leak study has one rather obvious and evidently intentional flaw in its methodology: They only tested new wells that were less than 10 days old: “According to E&E News, MIT researchers looked at data from each of the approximately 4,000 wells that were drilled in 2010. They studied methane emissions from the time a well is first fracked to the ninth day of its life.”
This is a standard gas industry PR ploy: Showcase newly completed wells. As soon as the paint drys. Only when the drilling crew are in clean uniforms. On a sunny day. In short, Make them look pretty. The MIT frackademics stuck to the party line: they only tested newly completed wells – before they age, before they start to leak. … The frackademics at MIT either did not know this (unlikely) or they side-stepped the matter by testing newly completed wells. Which only underscores what everyone in the industry knows : some new wells will indeed leak – but most gas wells leak as they age – not when they are just a week old. . . . which, of course, the MIT frackademics knew.
The ‘entire natural gas system’ is driving methane emissions — MIT study by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, November 28, 2012, E&E News
The researchers studied methane emissions from the time a well is first fracked to the ninth day of its life — a process industry refers to as “completion.” During this time, some injected water and brine returns to the surface, together with methane. Operators choose to either capture this gas and route it to a pipeline, burn it by flaring or vent it into the atmosphere where it can wreak climate havoc. The scientists used production data that companies file with the states to calculate methane leakage during fracking and completion. They looked at the Barnett, Fayetteville, Haynesville, Marcellus and Woodford shales, and assumed that the wells would progressively produce more gas until peak production on day nine. At this point, the data get a bit fuzzy. Depending on who is asked, companies either almost completely capture or flare their methane during completions, or almost completely vent the gas to the atmosphere. U.S. EPA assumes that half the gas is flared and half is vented. In the MIT study, the authors assume that 70 percent is captured, 15 percent is flared and 15 percent is vented. They term this “current field practice” and say it is based on “extensive discussions with industry, EPA and other relevant groups regarding actual field practice.” They are not more transparent on those discussions in their supplementary information.
Robert Howarth, professor at Cornell University and author of a controversial study last year on methane leakage from gas operations, challenged the “current field practice” breakdown. He said he would rather wait for results of a study on methane emissions from gas sites being conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund to make up his mind (EnergyWire, Oct. 15). Howarth had assumed in his study than most of the gas produced during fracking and completion is vented to the atmosphere. The new study is different in its broader goals than other research, including Howarth’s study, which looked at shale gas wells throughout their entire 30-year lifetime (Greenwire, April 11, 2011). It is also different from a study out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in which scientists measured the methane emitted by oil and gas fields overall, without looking at fracking or well completions specifically (Greenwire, Feb. 14). [Emphasis added]