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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fracking: Are elevated levels of hydrocarbon gases in drinking-water aquifers near gas wells natural or anthropogenic?

Today's post is shared from pnas.org/
Hydrocarbon production from unconventional sources is growing rapidly, accompanied by concerns about drinking-water contamination and other environmental risks. Using noble gas and hydrocarbon tracers, we distinguish natural sources of methane from anthropogenic contamination and evaluate the mechanisms that cause elevated hydrocarbon concentrations in drinking water near natural-gas wells. We document fugitive gases in eight clusters of domestic water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, including declining water quality through time over the Barnett. Gas geochemistry data implicate leaks through annulus cement (four cases), production casings (three cases), and underground well failure (one case) rather than gas migration induced by hydraulic fracturing deep underground. Determining the mechanisms of contamination will improve the safety and economics of shale-gas extraction.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have enhanced energy production but raised concerns about drinking-water contamination and other environmental impacts. Identifying the sources and mechanisms of contamination can help improve the environmental and economic sustainability of shale-gas extraction. We analyzed 113 and 20 samples from drinking-water wells overlying the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, respectively, examining hydrocarbon abundance and isotopic compositions (e.g., C2H6/CH4, ╬┤13C-CH4) and providing, to our...
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