Temporal changes in domestic water well methane reflect shifting sources of groundwater: Implications for evaluating contamination attributed to shale gas development

Amanda E. Campbell, Laura K. Lautz, Gregory D. Hoke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Regulatory agencies routinely assess the presence of stray gas release from unconventional gas wells by sampling for methane in nearby groundwater after the well is drilled or if citizens complain about methane in their water. We studied whether methane concentrations in groundwater naturally vary through time in a shale gas basin where unconventional development and hydraulic fracturing has not yet occurred, to test the assumption that pre-drilling observations of well water quality can be reliable measures for assessing impacts of later gas drilling. We collected groundwater samples from 11 domestic wells in New York monthly for 13 months for methane and ion concentrations in a highly gas productive part of the Appalachian basin where fracking has been banned. Changing methane concentrations correlated with changes in chloride and bromide, indicating changing mixtures of shallow freshwater and deeper formation brine extracted by the wells through time. The hydrogeologic setting of a water well can cause variability in methane concentrations that may mimic stray gas but cannot be attributable to gas drilling. For this reason, before and after testing has limited utility to distinguish impacts of gas drilling from other causes of changing methane concentrations unless that testing includes sampling a comprehensive set of ions multiple times prior to drilling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105175
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Volume136
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Baseline monitoring
  • Groundwater
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Marcellus shale
  • Methane
  • Time-series

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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