Update: Ernest Moniz, the head of MIT’s Shale Shamstitute has been named to be the new head of the DOE, as the Uber Frackademic. Which proves the monetary worth of frackademics – the more credible they appear to be, the more they are worth to the frackers and to politicians that support fracking. This is know as the Engelder Paradox. As soon as they are exploited by the oil and gas industry they effectively cash in on their credibility, because their academic credibility becomes secondary – when they become full time shale charlatans.
The MIT shale gas well leak study has one rather obvious and evidently intentional flaw in its methodology: They only tested brand 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. “
When I read that in the industry journal I thought it was a typo. That is in fact what it says in the report. They only tested new wells. Copy of full report here. Nine fracking days old. Even a Ford Pinto would work for 9 fracking days. Imagine the researcher’s field notes: “This bad boy is almost 8 days old and it still isn’t leaking.” Shazam. When the empirical evidence is that shale gas wells leak – increasingly – over time.
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. Tricky little frackademics. Any Texas Aggie would have known better. They were not even original in this, the Penn State Study pulled the same stunt: they limited their inspections to new wells – before most of them started to leak. Twice the amount of previous estimates:
Gas wells leak increasingly over time, most of them would not even begin to vent methane into groundwater until they are a year or two old – as the gas makes its way up the well bore. Gas wells leak as a function of time – as this slide from Schlumberger shows:
And, over time – not within 9 days of completion, the plurality of them will vent gas, horizontal wells more so than vertical wells – over half of all the horizontal wells tested exhibited signs of leaking:
They will vent up the well bore itself – which is not directly a function of fracking the well as it is fracked – but multiple horizontal fracks are more likely to stress the cement in the well bore causing it to crack and detach from the well wall:
As the well bore ages, more leaks will appear, even after the well is plugged, as this slide illustrates.
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. Which is why the head frackademic at the MIT Shale Shamstitute got tapped to be head fracking shill in Washington.