Well Failure and Leakage Rates

6% of new fracking wells fail straight away, 60% of wells fail within 20 years and all wells fail eventually, so aren't we going to end up with lots of leaking wells over time?

A:

This is classic sleight-of-hand used by some opponents of fracking to create the impression that all shale gas wells will eventually leak and pollute the environment.

The statistics are taken from a document produced in 2003 by Schlumberger, one of the world's leading oilfield services companies ("the industry" said it, so it must be true). But the focus of that document wasn't fracking wells because they'd really only been drilling these in the US since 2005 - the focus of the document was on wells drilled offshore on the US Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. And while it discussed a persistent problem called Sustained Casing Pressure or SCP, if you read it properly, you'll quickly realise that the whole thrust of the paper is to explain how SCP can be fixed.

Fracking wells will be lined with three separate layers of steel casing, all with cement between. A well would only lose its integrity and affect the environment if all 6 of these barriers were to fail simultaneously - which doesn't seem likely to us at all. In industry terms, a well failure refers to a single barrier being compromised and these are soon fixed.

Another way to think about it is this: there are over 2,000 existing onshore oil and gas wells in the UK, some dating back to 1938, but they're not all leaking and spoiling the environment, are they?

Fracking wells won't all fail, lose integrity and leak their contents into the environment over any period of time as far as we can see.

 


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