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Study says fracking can cause nearby abandoned wells to leak methane

26 October 2015

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can cause nearby abandoned oil wells to leak methane, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Water Resources Research journal, marking a potentially large source of unrecorded greenhouse gas emissions. 

Stock image
Stock image

Researchers at the University of Vermont examined a part of New York state overlying the Marcellus shale gas reservoir to determine the chances that a newly fracked well there would intersect one of the state's thousands of existing wellbores, and found a significant average probability. 

The report said oil and gas companies could reduce the probability of triggering methane leaks by seeking to identify the locations of abandoned wells before any new fracking, a potentially daunting task given the large number of unmarked abandoned wells across the country.

New York banned fracking earlier this year, citing concerns that the technology could cause water and air pollution. Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up rock formations.

The US Environmental Protection Agency in August proposed new standards to cut greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollutants from oil and gas facilities as part of President Barack Obama's broader strategy to slash methane emissions in the energy sector over 10 years.

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