University of Texas at Austin

December 30, 2013

EDITORIAL: Fracking's impact on water supplies looking better

Source:, December 26, 2013

Fracking has caused a bonanza of oil and gas production in the United States, but it has its detractors. And one of their chief complaints was that it used too much water, as much as five million gallons per well, even though it accounts for less than 1 percent of the water consumed in a big oil-producing state like Texas.

Yet a new study by the University of Texas at Austin indicates that fracking actually cuts overall water use for energy. As the price of natural gas has declined, some utilities have switched to using gas instead of coal to produce electricity. The amount of water saved by shifting a power plant to gas from coal is 25 to 50 times greater than the amount needed to get the natural gas via fracking.

Trade-offs like that must be kept in mind when looking at energy production and use in this country. No aspect of this complex equation is pure. For example, wind farms have been increasingly criticized for their large numbers of bird deaths caused by turbine blades.

Even if alternative forms of energy like wind and solar can increase in coming years, oil and natural gas will remain fundamental to our energy needs. And the bottom line on fracking is that it has produced so much oil and gas that this country is less dependent than ever on oil imports from the volatile Mideast.

Fracking should be monitored wherever it occurs to ensure it doesn’t drain area water supplies or contaminate ground water. But the pluses far outweigh the drawbacks, which is why few states or locales have banned it nationwide.


November 13, 2013

Below-ground gas injection linked to Texas quakes

Source: AFP World News, November 4, 2013
Posted on:

A method of storing harmful greenhouse gases by injecting them below ground has likely triggered a series of earthquakes in Texas, some larger than magnitude 3, a US study said Monday.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences mark the first time that carbon storage has been linked to temblors ranging from 3.0 to 4.4 in severity.

Researchers warned last year in the same journal that carbon capture and storage risked causing earthquakes, but there had been no direct evidence of such quakes until now.

The study focused on seismic activity in petroleum fields in Scurry and Kent Counties in northwest Texas, known as the Cogdell and Kelly-Snyder oil fields.

A process called water flooding was used in the Cogdell field to boost oil production from 1957 to 1982, and previous research has found that the practice caused small quakes in the area from 1975 to 1982.

More recently, methane and CO2 have been injected into the oil field at high volumes, said the research by Wei Gan and Cliff Frohlich at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics.

It was done in an area where the US Department of Energy has funded research on the potential impacts of carbon capture and storage (CCS), a proposed technique for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capturing CO2 and injecting it deep underground for long-term storage.…

September 17, 2013

Bombshell Study Confirms Low Methane Leakage from Shale Gas

Source:, September 16, 2013
By: Steve Everley

For years, critics of hydraulic fracturing have alleged that “methane leaks” from development are not only astronomically high, but also make natural gas from shale a climate “disaster” and “gang-plank.” But a new, highly anticipated report from the University of Texas and the Environmental Defense Fund might put that theory to rest – at last, and for good.

The UT-EDF study released today looked at 190 onshore natural gas production sites in the United States. During completion activities (including hydraulic fracturing), the authors found that emissions were “nearly 50 times lower than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency.” Based on its findings, the researchers estimate that total annual methane emissions are “comparable” to EPA’s estimates.

The UT-EDF study’s findings (along with data from the latest EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory) suggest a leakage rate of only about 1.5 percent, if not less than that. That rate is comfortably below the threshold required for shale to maintain its obvious and significant climate benefits.


In 2011, a few activist-researchers from Cornell University (Howarth, Ingraffea, et. al.) released a study purporting to show high levels of methane “leakage” from natural gas systems, including wells that had been hydraulically fractured. The Cornell study suggested as much as 7.9 percent of natural gas developed from shale was leaking into the atmosphere.…

April 13, 2012

Most US Consumers Unfamiliar With Hydraulic Fracturing-Poll

Source: Dow Jones News Service, April 10, 2012
Posted on:

Despite having unleashed a natural gas supply boom that is transforming the U.S. energy landscape and receiving extensive attention from the media, the practice of hydraulic fracturing is unfamiliar to most consumers, according to a poll conducted by the University of Texas at Austin.

The poll, released Tuesday, showed that 62% of the people surveyed said they weren’t familiar with hydraulic fracturing or “have never heard of it.” The practice, which consists of cracking natural gas-rich rock formations open with high-pressure jets of liquid, has helped create a glut of natural gas in the U.S. but has resulted in controversy, as some environmentalists say that the technique can contaminate acquifers. The oil industry denies that claim.

When asked to describe how they feel about the rules governing “fracking,” as the technique is known, about 38% of the respondents said they favor more regulation. About 14% said there is too much regulation.

The UT survey is a twice-annual survey of energy issues. About 2,371 people responded to the poll. The majority–65%–said that energy issues are important to them, and 61% said they would vote for a candidate who would back increased natural gas development.

A majority of respondents also backed further investment in renewable energy. About half of them said they were in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, a project that would bring additional Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast, but that is heavily opposed by environmentalists. The project is currently being reviewed by the U.S. State Department.…