Why a car’s engine has more integrity than a shale well

One of the reasons water contamination caused by oil and gas drilling is poorly understood is that well design and construction is extremely complex. Oil and gas well engineering is intricate, and the function is different from the machinery most of us are familiar with. This is why the oil and gas industry gets away with the great lie, “There is no known case of fracking causing water contamination.”

There are several ways oil and gas drilling causes water contamination. The most common causes are spills and improper disposal at the surface, and leakage caused by faulty cement casings at the wellbore.

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, is one of the foremost experts on the fracking process. He has formed the Cornell Fracture Group, which creates, verifies and validates computational simulation systems for fracture control in engineered systems.

He is also a great teacher. He explains complex engineering processes like fracking in a way that is accessible to anyone. I’ll post videos of some of his lectures in the near future.

A clear comparison
He recently posted what I think is a very clear explanation of why oil and gas wells leak, and why this is inherent in their design. You don’t have to be an engineer to read the article. It is clear, concise and informative.

He accomplishes this by comparing the functioning of a wellbore (the hole drilled through the rock layers), casing (steel pipe), and cement (supposedly used as a gasket between all casing layers and the wellbore) to something that most of us are much more familiar with: the cylinder, piston, and piston rings of a car engine.

I recommend you read the article, but I’ve adapted the comparison to the chart below:

Adapted from Adapted from Anthony Ingraffea, Why a car’s engine has more integrity than a shale gas well

Ingraffea’s summary makes the differences clear:

Car engine manufacturers are able to create engines with an outstanding record of integrity, whereas the manufacturers of shale gas wells, due to their casement integrity design and execution failures, should be issuing recall notices.

About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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3 Responses to Why a car’s engine has more integrity than a shale well

  1. wilderld says:

    it is so helpful to have clear explanations in layman’s terms. Thank you for keeping us informed.

  2. Pingback: BLM introduces new fracking rules: a welcome step forward, but not enough to protect the Beartooth Front | Preserve the Beartooth Front

  3. Pingback: New study: drilling causes water contamination in Pennsylvania wells | Preserve the Beartooth Front

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