UTA study examines potential sources of groundwater contamination in private wells

February 06, 2020

A study led by environmental researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington suggests a disconnect between the perception of groundwater contamination and the extent to which that contamination is attributable to oil and natural gas extraction.

Members of the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR) at UTA found that samples from only five of 36 private water wells showed any potential indications of contamination from unconventional oil and gas development, a multifaceted process that includes hydraulic fracturing. The samples were collected from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus Shale regions in response to anecdotal claims of oil- and gas-related contamination.

The study, "Characterizing anecdotal claims of groundwater contamination in shale energy basins," appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and co-founder and director of CLEAR, led the study along with CLEAR co-founder Zacariah Hildenbrand. Other authors were Doug Carlton, CLEAR project manager; Paige Wicker, a graduate research assistant in the CLEAR lab; Sabrina Habib, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina; and Paula Stigler-Granados, an assistant professor at Texas State University.

"We found that the water quality data very rarely aligned with the perceptions that the well owners had of their individual situations," Schug said. "This disconnect between perception and reality is possibly attributed to prevailing negative sentiments toward hydraulic fracturing as well as myriad environmental factors that make point source attribution very challenging."

The team suggests that as hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and gas development continue to expand, collaborations with concerned citizens who are trained to collect reliable measurements may be beneficial.

"These measurements could help guide scientists through larger datasets in larger study areas than what is presented in this study," Schug said. "Conversely, scientists should provide unbiased knowledge to communities to help decision-making that is based on scientific evidence, offering benefits and possible risks of hydraulic fracturing in a clear and transparent manner."

Hildenbrand said the recent CLEAR study provides vital findings for better understanding the environmental implications of shale energy extraction.

"This is a seminal piece of research where anecdotal claims of contamination were examined exclusively," he said. "With these findings, we now have a hierarchical method for examining the presence of manmade contamination under the most variable of hydrogeological conditions."
-end-


University of Texas at Arlington

Related Natural Gas Articles from Brightsurf:

Study reveals how to improve natural gas production in shale
A new hydrocarbon study contradicts conventional wisdom about how methane is trapped in rock, revealing a new strategy to more easily access the valuable energy resource.

A new material for separating CO2 from industrial waste gases, natural gas, or biogas
With the new material, developed at the University of Bayreuth, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) can be specifically separated from industrial waste gases, natural gas, or biogas, and thereby made available for recycling.

Study of natural gas flaring finds high risks to babies
Researchers from USC and UCLA have found that exposure to flaring -- the burning off of excess natural gas -- at oil and gas production sites is associated with 50% higher odds of preterm birth, compared with no exposure.

Sweet or sour natural gas
Natural gas that contains larger amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) and carbon dioxide (CO(2)) is termed sour gas.

Visualizing chemical reactions, e.g. from H2 and CO2 to synthetic natural gas
Scientists at EPFL have designed a reactor that can use IR thermography to visualize dynamic surface reactions and correlate it with other rapid gas analysis methods to obtain a holistic understanding of the reaction in rapidly changing conditions.

Effects of natural gas assessed in study of shale gas boom in Appalachian basin
A new study estimated the cumulative effects of the shale gas boom in the Appalachian basin in the early 2000s on air quality, climate change, and employment.

The uncertain role of natural gas in the transition to clean energy
A new MIT study examines the opposing roles of natural gas in the battle against climate change -- as a bridge toward a lower-emissions future, but also a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Natural-gas leaks are important source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles
Liyin He, a Caltech graduate student, finds that methane in L.A.'s air correlates with the seasonal use of gas for heating homes and businesses

Enhanced natural gas storage to help reduce global warming
Researchers have designed plastic-based materials that can store natural gas more effectively.

Natural gas storage research could combat global warming
To help combat global warming, a team led by Dr.

Read More: Natural Gas News and Natural Gas Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.