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The effects of shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing on the quality of water resources in the United States

Vengosh A, N Warner, RB Jackson, T Darrah
Procedia Earth and Planetary Science
Journal Volume/Pages: 

Advances in drilling technologies and production strategies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have significantly improved the production of natural gas by stimulating fluid flow from wells. Since 2008, these technological developments have spurred exponential growth of gas well drilling across the U.S. While the new drilling for shale gas and hydraulic fracturing technologies have dramatically changed the energy landscape in the U.S., recent scientific findings show evidence for contamination of water resources. This paper provides key observations for the potential risks of shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing on the quality of water resources and include: (1) stray gas contamination of shallow groundwater overlying shale gas basins; (2) pathways and hydraulic connectivity between the deep shale gas formations and the overlying shallow drinking water aquifers; and (3) inadequate disposal of produced and flowback waters associated with shale gas exploration that causes contamination of surface waters and long-term ecological effects. By using geochemical (e.g., Br/Cl) integrated with oxygen, hydrogen, strontium, radium, and boron isotopic tracers, we have characterized the geochemical fingerprints of brines from several shale gas basins in the USA, including the Utica and Marcellus brines in the Appalachian Basin and the Fayetteville brines in Arkansas. We use these geochemical fingerprints to delineate the impact of shale gas associated fluids on the environment.

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