Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Example of Divergent Perspectives on New Report From Duke University

We've pointed out before how the ideology of the one writing an article on the latest bit of shale research tends to greatly affect how the results of that research is framed.  The reaction to a new study from Duke and Kent State universities gives yet another example of this.

Here's the headline on the report by the staunchly anti-drilling organization EcoWatch:
Pennsylvania Fracking Wastewater Likely to Overwhelm Ohio Injection Wells
The headline from industry backed Energy in Depth:
New Duke Study Confirms Shale’s Water Efficiency
Isn't it funny how two different organizations can look at the same report and take away such differing headlines?

Here are some details from EcoWatch on the study (read the whole article here):
The total amount of fracking wastewater from natural gas production in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region has increased by about 570 percent since 2004, as a result of increased shale gas production, according to a study released yesterday by researchers at Duke and Kent State universities.
Though hydraulically fractured natural gas wells in the Marcellus shale region produce only about 35 percent as much wastewater, per unit of gas recovered, as conventional wells, according to the new analysis, the volume of toxic fracking wastewater from Pennsylvania is growing and threatening to overwhelm existing injection wells in Ohio and other states.
“It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, shale gas production generates less wastewater per unit. On the other hand, because of the massive size of the Marcellus resource, the overall volume of water that now has to be transported and treated is immense. It threatens to overwhelm the region’s wastewater-disposal infrastructure capacity,” said Brian D. Lutz, assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State who led the analysis when he was a postdoctoral research associate at Duke.
Meanwhile, Energy in Depth is focusing on the reduced wastewater per unit of gas recovered (read their whole article here):
A new study released by Duke University this month finds that on a per-unit basis, the development of natural gas from shale formations actually produces less wastewater than so-called “conventional” wells. That’s certainly good news, especially considering the fact that the U.S. EPA, numerous experts, and many public officials (including President Obama himself) have all stressed the need to increase production of natural gas in the United States. 
From the report (subs. req’d):
“For the Marcellus shale, by far the largest shale gas resource in the US, we quantify gas and wastewater production using data from 2,189 wells located throughout Pennsylvania. Contrary to current perceptions,Marcellus wells produce significantly less wastewater per unit gas recovered (~35%) compared to conventional natural gas wells.” (emphasis added, p. 2)

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