Flaming tap water made for compelling imagery and anti-fracking activists and news media used it to make drilling for natural gas look dangerous.
But a new study reported by the Denver Post further undermined such claims.
A recent study conducted by the University of Colorado (CU) found that methane leaks due to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are not nearly as common as anti-fracking proponents claim.
The Denver Post reported July 11, that CU researchers found methane in 64 percent of groundwater sites tested since 1988, but 95 percent of those methane leaks were caused by “naturally occurring microbial processes,” “not the oil and gas industry.”
Environment writer Bruce Finley’s article said the study reviewed Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s records, which showed 593 of the 924 water wells tested by the COGC contained traces of methane.
However, after studying the “ratios between carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes and gas molecules,” scientists concluded that the evidence revealed “most of the methane in groundwater came from microbes within shallow coal seams.”
Cases of contaminated groundwater due to methane leaks from drilling well bores were rare: “about two times a year on average,” according to the CU research. They concluded that “the industrial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not a primary cause of methane contamination of groundwater.”
Finley correctly noted that fracking opponents sometimes use videos of tap water being lit on fire. Filmmaker and anti-fracking activist, Josh Fox made the image of a faucet on fire famous with his anti-drilling film GasLand. But the incident Fox cited in his movie was not really caused by fracking.
Another filmmaker confronted Fox for refusing to admit in GasLand that there were historic cases of flammable water in New York and Pennsylvania.