In a public forum this past week, Professor Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University continued his campaign to expose a variety of myths of Marcellus shale drilling and fracking, as explained here. The excerpts below are intended to summarize his explanations:
Natural-gas drilling dates back to 1824, with a traditional fracking technique used for several decades. But hydraulic fracturing (or “hydrofracking”) in the Marcellus Shale began within the last 10 years. It was within the last decade that the industry figured out how to extract natural gas from shale, an extremely impermeable rock formation that is more watertight than concrete.
While the natural-gas industry is correct in the literal sense when it says “fracking is a 60-year old proven technology,” the claim is misleading because fracking in Marcellus Shale is a new technology, still being developed and requiring “unconventional” methods, said
Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University’s Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering. Those methods include horizontal directional drilling covering vast underground areas and the use of huge volumes of water.
From 1982 to 1991, he did research for the industry on hydraulic fracturing and gas pipeline design. While the industry is doing what it can to prevent problems with this newest technology, Ingraffea said, it is still experimental. As far as solid data, he said, “we know virtually nothing.”
When asked by someone in the audience if he would allow hydrofracking in New York now if he had the power to decide, Ingraffea said he would not. “The technology is immature. We haven’t had sufficient time to determine all the costs and impacts,” he said, referring to its effects on water and air quality, and human health. If hydrofracking is permitted in New York, the first 1,000 shale gas wells will consume more water than all 44,000 existing gas wells do now in the state, he said.
New Yorkers are in a good position to protect themselves, said Ingraffea, who has a Ph.D. in rock- fracture mechanics. As other places experience hydrofracking, whether it is Pennsylvania, Texas or British Columbia, we can learn from that, Ingraffea said. “Now we are in the driver’s seat. And we can look to the future.”
See the recent video of Professor Ingraffea discussing shale drilling and fracking here.