Substances commonly used for drilling or extracting Marcellus shale gas foamed from the drinking water taps of three Pennsylvania homes near a reported well-pad leak, according to new analysis from a team of scientists.
The researchers used a new analytical technique on samples from the homes and found a chemical compound, 2-BE, and an unidentified complex mixture of organic contaminants, both commonly seen in flowback water from Marcellus shale activity. The scientists published their findings this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"These findings are important because we show that chemicals traveled from shale gas wells more than two kilometers in the subsurface to drinking water wells," said co-author Susan Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Institute at Penn State. "The chemical that we identified either came from fracking fluids or from drilling additives and it moved with natural gas through natural fractures in the rock. In addition, for the first time, all of the data are released so that anyone can study the problem."
Such contamination from shale gas wells in shallow potable water sources has never been fully documented before, Brantley said. The new technique could be a valuable tool in evaluating alleged causes of unconventional gas drilling impacts to groundwater.
"More studies such as ours need to be disseminated to the general public to promote transparency and to help guide environmental policies for improving unconventional gas development," said Garth Llewellyn, principal hydrogeologist at Appalachia Hydrogeologic and Environmental Consulting and the paper's lead author.
The affected homes are located near a reported pit leak at a Marcellus shale gas well pad. Scientists believe stray natural gas and wastewater were driven one to three kilometers (0.6 to 1.8 miles) laterally along shallow to intermediate depth fractures to the source of the homes' well water.
State environmental regulators previously found high levels of natural gas in the water, but did not discover flowback water contamination above regulatory limits and could not determine what was making the water foam, according to the researchers.
The team used highly sophisticated equipment and tested for a range of possible contaminants at low concentration levels, rather than testing for specific substances.
"This work demonstrates that these events are possible, but that more sophisticated analytical work may be necessary to uncover the details of the impact," said co-author Frank Dorman, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Penn State. "In short, we were able to confirm water contamination because we are using non-conventional techniques. Specifically, GCxGC-TOFMS allowed for the characterization of this drinking water where routine testing was not able to determine what was causing the foaming." GC-GC-TOFMS is a form of gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry.
The homes were sold to the gas company as part of a legal settlement in 2012, but scientists received samples before the transfer.
Also working on this project were Jennifer Westland, former researcher assistant; David Yoxtheimer, research assistant, Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, Penn State; Paul Grieve, former graduate student; Todd Sowers, senior scientist in geosciences, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Penn State; Elizabeth Humston-Fulmer, applications chemist, Leco Coperation.
The National Science Foundation, Penn State Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Restek Corp., and Leco Corp. supported this work.
A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy