Cabot Oil & Gas is out with another study designed to convince that its mistakes in gas drilling had nothing to do with high levels of methane in 18 water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania. Indeed, methane levels became so dangerous at some properties that one water well exploded. Here is a link to the Cabot study:
This particular Cabot study finds that large numbers of water wells in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania have methane gas in them, a finding that is not news and why the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spent large amounts of resources to determine whether gas in water wells was "natural" or a result of gas drilling. The study's implication is that Cabot's gas drilling did not cause methane to reach anyone's water well in Susquehanna County, though the study does not explicitly say that.
Look no further than Cabot's continuing Moby-Dick-like obsession to shift responsibility for mistakes it made in Dimock to understand why so many people lose confidence about the industry's commitment to operational excellence.
To recap, following an explosion of a water well in Dimock, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did an extensive investigation of 60 water wells in the Dimock area, starting in 2009. The investigation used repeated water testing and comprehensive isotopic testing of methane in water wells to determine what water wells, if any, had been contaminated by gas drilling and whether or not methane found was "natural." That testing found that 18 of 60 water wells had gas that was not "natural" or pre-existing, but was a result of gas drilling errors in the area.
The investigation also found that several Cabot gas wells showed clear signs of poor cementing, design, or other failures. Indeed, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection strengthened the statewide gas well design, casing, and cementing regulations, in part due to its findings in Dimock.
Pennsylvania law also required that water well impacts within 1,000 feet of gas drilling (now 2,500 feet) are to be presumed to be caused by gas drilling, if no testing of the water well was done by the gas company prior to gas drilling. Cabot did no testing of the 18 water wells DEP found Cabot had contaminated with methane, before it drilled near them.
DEP ordered Cabot to plug and repair gas wells in the area to stop the methane migration, and repeated testing of the 18 water wells showed methane had been reduced to safe levels in 14 of them by December 2010.
The DEP investigation and repeated testing and subsequently still more testing by the Environmental Protection Agency also found that hydraulic fracturing itself had not contaminated the water wells. No chemicals or drilling wastewater had returned from depth to contaminate the water wells. The methane contamination in the 18 water wells was a result of casing and cementing errors in the gas drilling phase of Cabot's operations in the area.
Those are the real facts in Dimock, and the continuing efforts to obfuscate them only adds to public suspicion.