Researchers Find Substantial Water Pollution Risks From “Fracking” to Recover Natural Gas
Stony Brook University scientists have found that the disposal of contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “fracking” – wells producing natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region poses substantial potential risks of river and other water pollution that suggests additional regulation to reduce the potential of drinking water contamination.
In a paper titled “Water Pollution Risk Associated with Natural Gas Extraction from the Marcellus Shale,” which appears in the August 2012 issue of the journal Risk Analysis, published by the Society for Risk Analysis, Stony Brook doctoral student Daniel Rozell, P.E., and Sheldon Reaven, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Technology and Society and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, found that “Even in a best case scenario, an individual well would potentially release at least 200 m3 of contaminated fluids.”
Fracking involves pumping fluids underground into shale formations to release pockets of natural gas, which are then pumped to the surface. The Marcellus Shale region covers approximately 124,000 square kilometers from New York to West Virginia and is being intensely developed.
The researchers found that disposal of the large amounts of fracking well wastewater presents risks from salts and radioactive materials that are “several orders of magnitude larger” than for other potential water pollution pathways examined in the new study. Other water pollution pathways studied include a tanker truck spilling its contents while transporting fluids used in the drilling process going to or from a well site; a well casing failing and leaking fluids to groundwater; fracturing fluids traveling through underground fractures into drinking water; and drilling site spills at the surface caused by improper handling of fluids or leaks from storage tanks and retention ponds.
The disposal of used hydraulic fracturing fluids through industrial wastewater treatment facilities can lead to elevated pollution levels in rivers and streams because many treatment facilities “are not designed to handle hydraulic fracturing wastewater containing high concentrations of salts or radioactivity two or three orders of magnitude in excess of federal drinking water standards,” according to the researchers. The wastewater disposal risks dwarf the other water risks, although the authors say “a rare, but serious retention pond failure could generate a very large contaminated water discharge to local waters.”
In trying to understand the likelihood and consequences of water contamination in the Marcellus Shale region from fracking operations, Rozell and Reaven use an analytical approach called “probability bounds analysis” that is suitable “when data are sparse and parameters highly uncertain.” The analysis delineates best case/worse case scenarios that risk managers can use “to determine if a desirable or undesirable outcome resulting from a decision is even possible,” and to assess “whether the current state of knowledge is appropriate for making a decision,” according to the authors.
The authors found that “Any drilling or fracturing fluid is suspect for the purposes of this study” because “even a benign hydraulic fracturing fluid is contaminated once it comes into contact with the Marcellus Shale.” They suggest that “regulators should explore the option of mandating alternative fracturing methods to reduce the wastewater usage and contamination from shale gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale.” These would include various alternatives such as nitrogen-based or liquefied petroleum gas fracturing methods that would substantially reduce the amount of wastewater generated.
The authors concluded that “future research efforts should be focused primarily on wastewater disposal and specifically on the efficacy of contaminant removal by industrial and municipal wastewater treatment facilities.”
Office of Media Relations | Newswise Science News
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration
"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...
Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.
Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...