Cornell prof discusses shale myths at YSU

By Burton Speakman


A Cornell University professor well known for his stance against shale gas development presented myths about the industry Wednesday night.

For any myth to exist, there has to be some kernel of truth, Anthony R. Ingraffea, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, told an audience at Youngstown State University.

One of those myths is that the process used in developing shale has been around for decades. Some parts of the process have been in existence for decades.

“The current technology used for developing shale has only been around for about five years,” he said. “The technology is still being developed.”

Another myth is that clustering wells together causes less impact on the surface, Ingraffea said.

Ideal development would consist of eight well clusters for every one square mile of land, he said.

“You can’t go to Pennsylvania to see what is going to happen. If you want to see what development is going to look like you have to go to Texas,” Ingraffea said.

The Barnett formation there is the only shale developed enough to view the long-term impact of drilling on the surface, he said.

Another myth perpetrated is that wells rarely fail. Research from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s division of oil and gas management show that more than 6 percent of wells leak soon after completion, Ingraffea said.

The last myth, he said, is that “natural gas is a clean fossil fuel.”

It is the cleanest fuel when it comes to carbon-dioxide emissions, he said. But when emissions of methane, another greenhouse gas, are included, he said, the impact on greenhouse gas is larger than when burning coal or oil.

Ingraffea and his colleagues’ work has been challenged by the oil and gas industry and other experts within his own university.

Lawrence Cathles, professor of earth and atmospheric studies at Cornell, called the study on greenhouse gases “seriously flawed.”

Cathles and other professors argue against the claims, stating that the leakage rate at which gas would be worse than coal is far from the current leakage rate.

“Mr. Ingraffea continues to recycle incorrect conclusions on greenhouse-gas emissions from research that has been disproven not only by his colleagues at Cornell, but also experts ranging from a former state regulator to the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Dan Alfaro, spokesman for Energy in Depth, an industry spokesgroup.

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