Colorado firewater: mostly natural, industry leaks seldom to blame, CU study finds

DJ Basin Oil Drilling Rig - Image Credit - Encana Inc.

DJ Basin Oil Drilling Rig – Image Credit – Encana Inc.

By Bruce Finley – Denver Post – July 11, 2016

95 percent of methane gas came from naturally occurring microbial processes, often underground coal seams, usually not oil and gas industry

Some Coloradans can light their water on fire: methane natural gas has penetrated groundwater at 64 percent of sites state regulators tested since 1988 in the northeastern part of the state, University of Colorado researchers have found.

But more than 95 percent of this gas came from naturally occurring microbial processes, often near shallow underground coal seams — not the oil and gas industry.

Methane-tainted groundwater can lead to flammable drinking water trickling from household taps.

The CU study — funded by the National Science Foundation and based on an analysis of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records — concluded that the industrial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not a primary cause of methane contamination of groundwater.

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