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How close is too close? Hydrofracking to access natural gas reservoirs poses risks to surface water, researchers say

Date:
October 24, 2011
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
Natural gas mining has drawn fire recently after claims that hydraulic fracturing, an increasingly popular technique for tapping hard-to-reach reservoirs, contaminates groundwater. Surface lakes, rivers and streams may also be at risk. In a new paper, researchers estimate the average proximity of drill platforms to surface lakes and streams for two large shale basins underlying much of the eastern United States.

Natural gas mining has drawn fire recently after claims that hydraulic fracturing, an increasingly popular technique for tapping hard-to-reach reservoirs, contaminates groundwater. Surface lakes, rivers and streams may also be at risk.

In an eView paper of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers from the University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas and the Environmental Protection Agency estimate the average proximity of drill platforms to surface lakes and streams for two large shale basins underlying much of the eastern United States. They review available information on potential threats to surface waters, and conclude that policy makers have woefully little data to guide accelerating natural gas development.

Hydrofracking wells expose nearby streams to loose sediments and hazardous fracturing fluids, and draw away large amounts of water. The technique forces high pressure fluid into dense rock, creating cracks through which trapped natural gas escapes and can be collected from the drill shaft. Developed in the 1940s, the technique gained wide application in the 1990s as gas prices rose and technology to drill horizontally away from a vertical well shaft made "unconventional" drilling profitable. Demand is up for natural gas because it burns cleaner than coal or petroleum, producing less greenhouse gas and smog.

But concerns about toxic components of fracking fluids, such as diesel, lead, formaldehyde, and other organic solvents, are undermining the green reputation of natural gas. "What will happen as fracking doubles, triples, over the next 25 years? How should we set policy to protect resources and ecosystems?" the authors ask. "We don't have the data to decide. We need to generate it."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sally Entrekin, Michelle Evans-White, Brent Johnson, Elisabeth Hagenbuch. Rapid expansion of natural gas development poses a threat to surface waters. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2011; 111006052617003 DOI: 10.1890/110053

Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "How close is too close? Hydrofracking to access natural gas reservoirs poses risks to surface water, researchers say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018154525.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2011, October 24). How close is too close? Hydrofracking to access natural gas reservoirs poses risks to surface water, researchers say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018154525.htm
Ecological Society of America. "How close is too close? Hydrofracking to access natural gas reservoirs poses risks to surface water, researchers say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018154525.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

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