Does Hydraulic Fracturing Affect Groundwater?

$1,805
Raised
10%
Ended on 9/20/13
Campaign Ended
  • $1,805
    pledged
  • 10%
    funded
  • Finished
    on 9/20/13

About This Project

Help support our continued research of groundwater quality as a function of increased natural gas extraction activity.

Ask the Scientists

Join The Discussion 〉

What is the context of this research?

The main question surrounding the issue of hydraulic fracturing and this revitalized method of natural gas extraction, is whether it is contributing to contamination of the surrounding groundwater. Previously, myself and a research team from the University of Texas at Arlington initiated a study of 100 private water wells in the Barnett shale region of the Dallas-Ft.Worth metropolitan area. By measuring a series of physical, biological and chemical parameters from each well and comparing these observations to their geospatial orientation to surrounding gas wells, we were able to establish a preliminary understanding of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and instances of groundwater contamination. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of natural gas extraction in the Barnett shale prior to our experiments, we were able to establish a baseline set of measurements and had to rely on an outside dataset to serve as our historical reference. As such, we have initiated a second study looking at groundwater quality in Cline Shale of the Permian Basin Region. In this study we are performing a time-lapse analysis of groundwater quality as a function of hydraulic fracturing activity. So far we have collected before drilling samples and we will soon be collecting during and after drilling samples. Measuring groundwater quality as a function of increased industrial activity will give us the most direct evidence as to whether hydraulic fracturing is affecting the surrounding groundwater.

What is the significance of this project?

The practice of hydraulic fracturing during natural gas extraction is a highly contentious and controversial issue that has plenty of public and celebrity opinion but is severely deprived of scientific data. Since 2011 we have dedicated ourselves to providing data on this issue and now, by performing a time-lapse analysis of groundwater quality as a function of increased natural gas extraction activities, we have the opportunity to provide the most direct evidence of the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing. We have developed a series of analytical panels to help quantify the influence of natural gas extraction on the surrounding environment by: A) quantifying the absolute levels of 26 different metals and minerals, B) detecting the presence of 33 different chemical compounds known to be used in the hydraulic fracturing process, C) quantifying the levels of Total Organic Carbon (TOC) and Total Nitrogen (TN) as part of the time-lapse look at whether exogenous compounds have be introduced over time, and D) measuring toxicological response in a eukaryotic system putting the cumulative effect of detected constituents, into a biological context.

What are the goals of the project?

The requested funding will facilitate 4 trips for sample collection over the course of 12 months, including the collection of our 59 "during" natural gas extraction samples and the collection of our 59 "after" natural gas extraction samples. Additionally these funds will allow us to purchase reagents for the toxicological assays, pay for analysis costs for using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), Headspace Gas Chromatography Flame Ionization Detection (HS-GC-FID), Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES) and TOC/TN equipment at our analytical core facility, and help fund a graduate student to perform the analyses for one semester.

Budget

  • $2,000Qwiklite biotoxicity assay reagents
  • $1,500Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) Detection of hydraulic fracturing compounds
  • $1,500Headspace Gas Chromatography Flame Ionization Detection (HS-GC-FID) quantification of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • $3,000Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES) quantification of metals and minerals
  • $750Total Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen quantification
  • $400Sampling equipment
  • $10,000Graduate Student stipend

Research consummables and graduate student stipend

Meet the Team

Zacariah Hildenbrand, Ph.D.
Zacariah Hildenbrand, Ph.D.
Visiting Scientist- University of Texas at Arlington

Affiliates

2012 Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Oncology), UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 2010 Ph.D.(Biochemistry), University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 2007 B.S. (Biology), University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX

Doug Carlton
Doug Carlton
Kevin Schug
Kevin Schug
Brian Fontenot
Brian Fontenot

Background

I began my research career investigating the development of hormone-dependent cancers and leukemia, but in 2011, saw an opportunity to study a topic with far more questions than answers. Hydraulic fracturing and its use in unconventional natural gas extraction is a highly contentious issue, unfortunately fueled mostly by opinion, relatively devoid of scientific data. I and a couple of my friends saw this as an opportunity and initiated a study of 100 private drinking water wells within the Barnett Shale, a geological formation teeming with natural gas extraction activity.

Through an active partnership with Dr. Brian Fontenot, Dr. Kevin Schug, the Shimadzu Center for Advanced Analytical Chemistry, Assure Controls and Geotech Environmental Equipment we completed the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Our collaborators graciously provided equipment and reagents, and we performed all the sample collection, analysis and interpretation for free as a pro bono effort to provide data on this important issue.

We are continuing to study this topic in the Cline Shale of the Permian Basin region, where we are performing a time-lapse analysis of groundwater quality as a function of increased natural gas extraction activities.

Doug Carlton

2009-Current Ph.D. candidate in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington...

Kevin Schug

An Associate Professor and Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry at University of Texas at Arlington...

Additional Information