New Waves May 2011

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

UT to conduct comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing of shale formations

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute will conduct a comprehensive review of the science, policy and environmental issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” of shale gas. The goal of the study is to promote a fact-based approach to regulatory policies for shale gas development, according to the institute.

North Texas' Barnett Shale will be included in the study. Hydraulic fracturing, which has been used for decades, has come under scrutiny recently because of fears that it poses health risks from groundwater contamination, said the institute’s announcement. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also initiating a fracking study and is expected to issue new regulations on the practice sometime next year.

"What we're trying to do is separate fact from fiction," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, director of the Energy Institute. "Unlocking huge reserves of natural gas could be vital to our nation's energy security. If proven to be safe and environmentally benign, fracking could unleash a bountiful supply of domestic energy for generations, if not centuries, to come."

The research team "will investigate specific claims of groundwater contamination, seismic events, fugitive air emissions and other concerns" associated with fracking in the Barnett, Marcellus and Haynesville shales,” the announcement said.

For more information, read the full UT Austin news release or visit

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