By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI | Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ oil and gas regulator has opened a new investigation into allegations that methane is contaminating North Texas water after residents complained that independent sampling by university researchers revealed high levels of the explosive gas in their residential wells, the state agency and scientists said.
Further analysis of testing done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and natural gas company Range Resources by another independent scientist, Geoffrey Thyne, indicates the contamination is spreading to more wells and the levels are increasing in some cases.
Thyne said his preliminary analysis strengthens his belief that the contamination originates at wells drilled by Fort Worth-based Range.
“The leak continues and it’s spreading,” Thyne told The Associated Press. “I can say, based on the current data, there are at least two other wells that show the same source ... which is the Range well.”
The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that oversees oil and gas drilling, opened its new investigation in August, spokeswoman Ramona Nye said in an email. Additional information will be released when the investigation is complete, possibly in February, she said.
Range Resources has no evidence the gas in the water and the gas it is producing is the same, company spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in an email. The gas in the water is naturally occurring, as sometimes happens. Range’s tests do not find dangerous levels of methane in the water, but the company encourages all homeowners to vent their wells.
However, Thyne and Duke University scientist Rob Jackson say they have seen dangerous levels of methane. The findings are likely different because the oil and gas industry typically uses a different sampling method, Thyne said.
Thyne’s study includes isotopic analysis. This fingerprint-type analysis allowed him to review the unique chemical makeup of the gas found in the water wells and compare it to the gas Range Resources is producing and methane in a rock formation called the Strawn, which is where Range says the gas contaminating the water originated.