Science & Research

Fracking Linked to Workers' Lung Disease

A new study by the National Institute of Occupational and Health finds that workers at 11 hydraulic fracturing sites in five states have been exposed to high levels of dust, including sands that can causesilicosis, a grave disease that leads to scarring and inflammation of the lungs, the Center for Effective Government reported Friday.

'Fracking' Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale, UB Research Finds

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Scientific and political disputes over drilling Marcellus shale for natural gas have focused primarily on the environmental effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to blast through rocks to release the natural gas. But University at Buffalo researchers have now found that that process -- called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking"-- also causes uranium that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns.

A Call for Government Action on Fracking from the North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS)

The scientists of the NCAS have issued a position statement on fracking including a number of recommendations Kentucky's legislators should implement to fulfill their responsibility to their constituents: 

1) The issuance of permits [ for hydraulic and/or horizonal fracking] be truly prohibited until the state has the trained personnel and financial resources to monitor and regulate fracking activities effectively, and until such time that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure protection of the environment, society, human health, and the economy;

2) The state must investigate the economic and social impacts of fracking in consideration of the limited amount of natural gas in the state's shale formations and the economic benefits that would actually result from fracking;

3) The Mining and Energy agencies and other state regulatory agencies actively engage
members of the scientific community in deliberations on the development of a modern oil and gas regulatory program;

4) Regulations are made subject to ongoing review to accommodate the latest scientific knowledge and technological advances, and to accommodate any impacts on the environment, society, human health, and the economy;

5) The state provide financial support for scientific research on the effects of fracking. Sound science is critical for informed decision making, yet the paucity of existing scientific, peer-reviewed studies on fracking poses serious constraints.4 Particularly troubling is the absence of long-term studies on the effects of fracking on human health and drinking water4,5,6,7; and

6) The state invest sufficient financial resources to develop and use renewable energies, while reducing its dependency on fossil fuels, including natural gas.

Injection Induced Earthquakes

Human-induced earthquakes have become an important topic of political and scientific discussion, owing to the concern that these events may be responsible for widespread damage and an overall increase in seismicity. It has long been known that impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations are capable of inducing earthquakes. In particular, earthquakes caused by injection have become a focal point, as new drilling and well-completion technologies enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive formations. Learn more...

What Happens in an NGL Spill?

If a Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) line breaks, and the NGLs mix with air, they vaporize. The natural gas vapors are initially heavier than air and they form a cloud close to the ground, which is pushed downwind and eventually dissipates. If a viable ignition source (cars, cell phones, smoking, appliances with pilot lights, cooking activity) is present where a vapor cloud exists at a 5%–15% concentration in air, the vapor cloud can ignite, burn, or explode. 
Therefore, the permitting of NGL terminals requires thermal radiation and vapor dispersion hazard distances to be quantified and demonstrated to pose no threat to people or property near the leak source.But just how would this be quantified?  Under controlled testing situations, engineers have been unable to develop a prediction model.  Naturally, in the real-life scenario of a, high-pressure 400,000 barrel per day capacity NGL pipeline leak or rupture, there is no valid or reliable means of predicting how far or how fast the vaporized gases will spread according to research conducted by the Exponent Engineering Consulting firm.Exponent Engineering has considerable expertise in modeling NGL flammable vapor cloud dispersion, using both integral models (DEGADIS, SLAB) and CFD models (Fluent). Recent discussions on the fate of NGL spills into impoundments have led to the conclusion that the commonly used combination of SOURCE5 and DEGADIS to predict dispersion distances of flammable vapor is not physically accurate, because it does not account for air entrainment into the evaporating gas, and it does not allow for heating of the NGL vapor cloud within the impoundment. An alternative approach to predicting the flammable vapor dispersion distance is to use a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model. As an industry-sponsored project, Exponent is in the process of completing the validation of Fluent, a widely used commercial CFD code, to predict flammable vapor cloud dispersion from an NGL spill into an impoundment, using experimental data from the Falcon Test Series.Clearly this means that at least one well-qualified engineering firm does not currently have a valid and reliable means of predicting the speed or distance of a spreading NGL leak.  If the Williams Company has a working model, it is apparently not publicly available on the Internet.
Photos below  show a comparison between CFD model (top) and Falcon Test 5 video image (bottom) of visible vapor cloud when it begins to overflow the    impoundment after approximately 12.5 seconds (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)


US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts - V1

May 1, 2013 – The government is not making data on well water contamination available to the public, so citizens are organizing to do it themselves.  The US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts will track recent complaints of well water quality impacts believed to be attributed to unconventional gas and oil operations. Research has demonstrated potential risks to ground and drinking water posed by faulty well casings, surface spills, and hydraulic fracturing. The FracTracker Alliance and cooperating organizations are documenting incidents.  The first version of the dynamic map (shown below) is available at

Global Warming

The Earth is warming and human activity is the primary cause. Climate disruptions put our food and water supply at risk, endanger our health, jeopardize our national security, and threaten other basic human needs. Some impacts—such as record high temperatures, melting glaciers, and severe flooding and droughts—are already becoming increasingly common across the country and around the world. So far, our national leaders are failing to act quickly to reduce heat-trapping emissions.

Global Warming Science & Impacts

What does the science say about global warming - What are the connections between climate data and the changes we see around us—and those we expect to see in the future? Learn more.
The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that global warming is real, primarily caused by human activity, and a serious threat to our future. Yet media extremists, partisan think tanks, and special interest groups funded by fossil fuel and related industries continue to raise doubts in the minds of the public. Learn how they deceive the public.