"Fracking" stories about shale gas extraction hit the news daily, fueling a growing conflagration between environmental protectionism and economic interests. Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking has become a profitable venture thanks to advances in horizontal drilling technology, opening up large US reservoirs and vastly changing the natural gas market.
Touted as a clean energy source and a bridge fuel to transition from fossil fuels, natural gas via fracking is also frought with public health and environmental concerns. A session at the upcoming annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America will look at the natural gas process chain, from extraction and processing to transport and distribution.
In the United States, most shale gas resources lie in the Northeast, South Central and Rocky Mountain regions of the country. Among the largest of these is the Marcellus shale, which underlies a broad swath of the Northeast. Robert Jackson and his colleagues at Duke University have been researching fracking impacts on drinking water, sampling the shallow groundwater systems of more than 200 homeowners, most of them in the Marcellus formation of Pennsylvania and New York. Jackson will be among the presenters discussing the ecological and environmental dimensions of shale gas extraction in the session "Natural Gas: Ecology, Environment and Economics."
"In our first study of 68 homes published in 2011," says Jackson, "we found no evidence of increased salt concentrations or fracturing fluids. But we did find that dissolved methane concentrations were on average 17 times higher for water wells located within 1 kilometer of gas wells."
Jackson's presentation will include additional sampling results taken since the group's May 2011 study.
Shanna Cleveland, with the Conservation Law Foundation, will talk about policy strategies that could encourage cleaner natural gas distribution. Focusing on leaks in the antiquated natural gas pipelines of Massachusetts, Cleveland will draw on data supplied by the state's departments of environmental protection and public utilities.
"In Massachusetts alone," says Cleveland, "leaking pipelines release an estimated 8 – 12 billion cubic feet of methane. Unfortunately, current state and federal policies actually provide disincentives for pipeline owners to find and fix leaks."
Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, can pose a public safety threat and contributes to climate change. Cleveland will talk about how a mechanism called Targeted Infrastructure Recovery Factor (TIRF) could foster repairs by allowing gas companies to recover their capital costs for replacing certain types of pipelines on a yearly basis.
Gas leaks also cause significant changes to the soil. Margaret Hendrick and colleagues at Boston University conducted a study in Boston that looked at the effects of pervasive natural gas leaks from aging pipelines on urban ecosystems. They found that gassed soils often had levels of methane exceeding 90 percent and oxygen levels below 10 percent.
"Soil at leak sites often looks black and viscous, with a crusty substance at its surface," says Hendrick. "Dried out and oxygen-deprived, these soils become inhospitable to many organisms that live in the soil."
The researchers also found that plants at leak sites suffered from higher mortality rates and that methane gas invades plant tissues growing both above and below-ground. Hendrick and her colleagues hope their findings will help city planners and advance understanding of methane's role in global warming.
Robert Howarth, of Cornell University, will summarize the magnitude of methane emissions from all parts of societal use of natural gas as a fuel and compare its greenhouse gas footprint with that of other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.
"Methane emissions dominate the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas," says Howarth, who will also discuss the extent to which methane pollution from natural gas can be reduced.
Other speakers in the session are:Robert Ackley, Gas Safety Inc.
The Ecological Society of America is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org or find experts in ecological science at .
Nadine Lymn | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy