Blog Archive

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anthony Ingraffea et al., PNAS: Loss of structural integrity in cement casing of fracked oil and gas wells; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323422111

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (30 June 2014); doi:

Assessment and risk analysis of casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, 2000–2012

Anthony R. Ingraffea, Martin T. Wells, Renee L. Santoro and Seth B. C. Shonkoff


Casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells can lead to methane migration into the atmosphere and/or into underground sources of drinking water. An analysis of 75,505 compliance reports for 41,381 conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania drilled from January 1, 2000–December 31, 2012, was performed with the objective of determining complete and accurate statistics of casing and cement impairment. Statewide data show a sixfold higher incidence of cement and/or casing issues for shale gas wells relative to conventional wells. The Cox proportional hazards model was used to estimate risk of impairment based on existing data. The model identified both temporal and geographic differences in risk. For post-2009 drilled wells, risk of a cement/casing impairment is 1.57-fold [95% confidence interval (CI) (1.45, 1.67); P < 0.0001] higher in an unconventional gas well relative to a conventional well drilled within the same time period. Temporal differences between well types were also observed and may reflect more thorough inspections and greater emphasis on finding well leaks, more detailed note taking in the available inspection reports, or real changes in rates of structural integrity loss due to rushed development or other unknown factors. Unconventional gas wells in northeastern (NE) Pennsylvania are at a 2.7-fold higher risk relative to the conventional wells in the same area. The predicted cumulative risk for all wells (unconventional and conventional) in the NE region is 8.5-fold [95% CI (7.16, 10.18); P < 0.0001] greater than that of wells drilled in the rest of the state. 


Previous research has demonstrated that proximity to unconventional gas development is associated with elevated concentrations of methane in groundwater aquifers in Pennsylvania. To date, the mechanism of this migration is poorly understood. Our study, which looks at more than 41,000 conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells, helps to explain one possible mechanism of methane migration: compromised structural integrity of casing and cement in oil and gas wells. Additionally, methane, being the primary constituent of natural gas, is a strong greenhouse gas. The identification of mechanisms through which methane may migrate to the atmosphere as fugitive emissions is important to understand the climate dimensions of oil and gas development.

The complete article is available for free from the National Academy of Sciences as a pdf file:

No comments: