Today, let’s think about the phrase “naturally occurring,” which is used all too often in our society today for the wrong reasons. Approaching the apex of word trickery in marketing and PR initiatives, the frequent use of “naturally occurring” also is used to describe methane migration events from unconventional shale gas development.
But it is always left out that all natural gas is naturally occurring, period. (That’s why we call it “natural gas.”)
So, why do industries invoke the “naturally occurring” terminology at certain times? It’s because they know that most humans hear “naturally occurring” and think, Oh, it must be fine, then. So, if any report of methane, calcium, or chloride in someone’s water was “just” naturally occurring– then it’s all good.
Humans, tell me, do you know that natural gas (the stuff in your stove, your water heater, your bbq grill) is all natural? There’s inherent silliness in even making a distinction between gas as “natural” or “unnatural” because all gas is natural gas. It doesn’t matter if it is natural, actually– this is what us dogs call a false dichotomy: making “two” parts out of something that cannot be partitioned like that.
Humans, please also tell me, do you know that natural gas is methane, ethane, and propane? These are the things for which you need to pre-test your water. These are all hydrocarbons– called that because they are made up of hydrogen and carbon (just different ratios).
So, 1. There’s no such thing as “un-natural” or “unnaturally occurring” gas (short of someone putting a canister of it down their well!) and 2. There’s no reason for a gas company to claim some gas is naturally occurring.
Note that this is especially true when pretests show no prior detection of methane. WHY? Because that means any gas pockets… natural or natural… disrupted by gas development are in fact disrupted due to disruption by gas development. It doesn’t really matter too much if we call it natural… the real question is whether or not humans were involved.