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Research Reveals the Scale of US Fracking Spills

US scientists have produced damning statistics revealing the scale of damage caused by the increased use of hydraulic fracturing.

A study by Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative has produced results exposing that up to 16% of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells spill liquids annually.

6,600 of leaks or spills are reported to have taken place over the past decade, the very reason environmentalists have campaigned so vigorously against the practice.

Widespread protests and campaigns against fracking repeatedly warn of the contaminative impact of such incidents.

The process of hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluids with chemical additives under high pressures to crack underground rock, resulting in the release of trapped resources.

Hydraulic fracturing process

 

Research has illustrated that the number of spills as a result of fracking in the US is far higher than the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) reports.

The EPA published findings that 427 spills occurred in eight states between 2006 and 2012 whereas this recent study reveals the numbers are closer to 7,000.

The reason for the dramatic disparity is attributed to the fact that while the EPA recorded spills from the hydraulic fracturing process itself, this study considers spills at unconventional or unused wells also.

Although researchers can be sure that around 50% of the spills occurred during the storage or moving period of fluids via pipelines, the precise cause of such incidents is less clear.

Lead author, Dr Lauren Patterson, states: ‘The causes are quite varied. Equipment failure was the greatest factor, the loading and unloading of trucks with material had a lot more human error than other places.’

The highest reporting state was oil rich North Dakota where 4,453 spillage incidents were noted.

Notably, spills appeared to reoccur at certain wells, suggesting that targeted inspections may effectively prevent repeated leaks.

Fracking protest, Philadelphia

 

Although this research provides insight into the scale of the problem faced by the US with regard to hydraulic fracturing; cynics are reluctant to believe Trump’s cabinet will take heed.