How Fracking Affects the Chemistry of Waters
In a recent case study from the USGS, researchers discovered that both the microbiology and organic chemistry of waters produced from fracking vary significantly from well to well.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently conducted a fracking case study that examined the produced water of 13 hydraulically fractured gas wells in Pennsylvania. Produced water is “the water brought to the land surface during oil, gas, and coalbed methane production.” During the study, researchers discovered that the microbiology and organic chemistry of waters produced from fracking vary significantly from well to well.
“Some wells appeared to be hotspots for microbial activity,” observed Denise Akob, a USGS microbiologist and lead author of the study, “but this was not predicted by well location, depth, or salinity. The presence of microbes seemed to be associated with concentrations of specific organic compounds — for example, benzene or acetate — and the length of time that the well was in production.”
The study also shows that some organic compounds, such as benzene, found in these wells could pose a risk to human health, so the waters need to be properly managed and maintained. The researchers say that the huge variation and differences in the organic geochemistry (i.e. petroleum products) and microbiology (i.e. bacteria) were key findings of the study.
The microbial activity found in this study could prove to be an advantage by contributing to the organic compounds’ degradation in the produced waters. The microbes could also help manage the “effects of organic contaminants during the disposal or accidental release of produced waters.”