The court ruling is here.
“An attempt by the Obama administration to impose harsh regulations on fracking operations on public land has been thrown out by a Wyoming court, on the grounds that the Interior Department exceeded the bounds of its Congressional authority.” click here
Efforts continue to find a smoking gun in Pavillion, Wyoming as ammunition against hydraulic fracturing. Everyone is working from the same data and observations. The assumptions of the interpreter behind the analysis drive the conclusion.
DiGiulio DC, Jackson RB. Impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water and Domestic Wells from Production Well Stimulation and Completion Practices in the Pavillion, Wyoming, Field. Environmental Science and Technology. 2016 Mar 29.
A comprehensive analysis of all publicly available data and reports was conducted to evaluate impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDWs) as a result of acid stimulation and hydraulic fracturing in the Pavillion, WY, Field. Although injection of stimulation fluids into USDWs in the Pavillion Field was documented by EPA, potential impact to USDWs at the depths of stimulation as a result of this activity was not previously evaluated. Concentrations of major ions in produced water samples outside expected levels in the Wind River Formation, leak off of stimulation fluids into formation media, and likely loss of zonal isolation during stimulation at several production wells, indicates that impact to USDWs has occurred. Detection of organic compounds used for well stimulation in samples from two monitoring wells installed by EPA, plus anomalies in major ion concentrations in water from one of these monitoring wells, provide additional evidence of impact to USDWs and indicate upward solute migration to depths of current groundwater use. Detections of diesel range organics and other organic compounds in domestic wells.
Li H, Son JH, Carlson KH. Concurrence of aqueous and gas phase contamination of groundwater in the Wattenberg oil and gas field of northern Colorado. Water research 2015 Oct 21;88:458-466. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.031.
The potential impact of rapid development of unconventional oil and natural gas resources using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling on regional groundwater quality has received significant attention. Major concerns are methane or oil/gas related hydrocarbon (such as TPHs, BTEX including benzene, toluene, ethybenzene and xylene) leaks into the aquifer due to the failure of casing and/or stray gas migration. Previously, we investigated the relationship between oil and gas activity and dissolved methane concentration in a drinking water aquifer with the major finding being the presence of thermogenic methane contamination, but did not find detectable concentrations of TPHs or BTEX. To understand if aqueous and gas phases from the producing formation were transported concurrently to drinking water aquifers without the presence of oil/gas related hydrocarbons, the ionic composition of three water groups was studied: (1) uncontaminated deep confined aquifer, (2) suspected contaminated groundwater – deep confined aquifer containing thermogenic methane, and (3) produced water from nearby oil and gas wells that would represent aqueous phase contaminants. On the basis of quantitative and spatial analysis, we identified that the “thermogenic methane contaminated” groundwater did not have similarities to produced water in terms of ionic character (e.g. Cl/TDS ratio), but rather to the “uncontaminated” groundwater. The analysis indicates that aquifer wells with demonstrated gas phase contamination have not been contacted by an aqueous phase from oil and gas operations according to the methodology we use in this study and the current groundwater quality data from COGCC. However, the research does not prove conclusively that this the case. The results may provide insight on contamination mechanisms since improperly sealed well casing may result in stray gas but not aqueous phase transport.
Jackson RB, Lowry ER, Pickle A, Kang M, DiGiulio D, Zhao K. The Depths of Hydraulic Fracturing and Accompanying Water Use Across the United States. Environmental Science and Technology. 2015 Jul 21.
Reports highlight the safety of hydraulic fracturing for drinking water if it occurs “many hundreds of meters to kilometers underground”. To our knowledge, however, no comprehensive analysis of hydraulic fracturing depths exists. Based on fracturing depths and water use for ∼44 000 wells reported between 2010 and 2013, the average fracturing depth across the United States was 8300 ft (∼2500 m). Many wells (6900; 16%) were fractured less than a mile from the surface, and 2600 wells (6%) were fractured above 3000 ft (900 m), particularly in Texas (850 wells), California (720), Arkansas (310), and Wyoming (300). Average water use per well nationally was 2 400 000 gallons (9 200 000 L), led by Arkansas (5 200 000 gallons), Louisiana (5 100 000 gallons), West Virginia (5 000 000 gallons), and Pennsylvania (4 500 000 gallons). Two thousand wells (∼5%) shallower than one mile and 350 wells (∼1%) shallower than 3000 ft were hydraulically fractured with >1 million gallons of water, particularly in Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California. Because hydraulic fractures can propagate 2000 ft upward, shallow wells may warrant special safeguards, including a mandatory registry of locations, full chemical disclosure, and, where horizontal drilling is used, predrilling water testing to a radius 1000 ft beyond the greatest lateral extent.
Llewellyn GT, Dorman F, Westland JL, Yoxtheimer D, Grieve P, Sowers T, Humston-Fulmer E, Brantley SL. Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 May 4. pii: 201420279.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) has revolutionized the oil and gas industry worldwide but has been accompanied by highly controversial incidents of reported water contamination. For example, groundwater contamination by stray natural gas and spillage of brine and other gas drilling-related fluids is known to occur. However, contamination of shallow potable aquifers by HVHF at depth has never been fully documented. We investigated a case where Marcellus Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania caused inundation of natural gas and foam in initially potable groundwater used by several households. With comprehensive 2D gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS), an unresolved complex mixture of organic compounds was identified in the aquifer. Similar signatures were also observed in flowback from Marcellus Shale gas wells. A compound identified in flowback, 2-n-Butoxyethanol, was also positively identified in one of the foaming drinking water wells at nanogram-per-liter concentrations. The most likely explanation of the incident is that stray natural gas and drilling or HF compounds were driven ∼1-3 km along shallow to intermediate depth fractures to the aquifer used as a potable water source. Part of the problem may have been wastewaters from a pit leak reported at the nearest gas well pad-the only nearby pad where wells were hydraulically fractured before the contamination incident. If samples of drilling, pit, and HVHF fluids had been available, GCxGC-TOFMS might have fingerprinted the contamination source. Such evaluations would contribute significantly to better management practices as the shale gas industry expands worldwide.
Andrew W. Nelson, Andrew W. Knight, Eric S. Eitrheim, Michael K. Schultz. Monitoring radionuclides in subsurface drinking water sources near unconventional drilling operations: a pilot study. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. Volume 142, April 2015, Pages 24–28 doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.01.004
Unconventional drilling (the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) to extract oil and natural gas is expanding rapidly around the world. The rate of expansion challenges scientists and regulators to assess the risks of the new technologies on drinking water resources. One concern is the potential for subsurface drinking water resource contamination by naturally occurring radioactive materials co-extracted during unconventional drilling activities. Given the rate of expansion, opportunities to test drinking water resources in the pre- and post-fracturing setting are rare. This pilot study investigated the levels of natural uranium, lead-210, and polonium-210 in private drinking wells within 2000 m of a large-volume hydraulic fracturing operation – before and approximately one-year following the fracturing activities. Observed radionuclide concentrations in well waters tested did not exceed maximum contaminant levels recommended by state and federal agencies. No statistically-significant differences in radionuclide concentrations were observed in well-water samples collected before and after the hydraulic fracturing activities. Expanded monitoring of private drinking wells before and after hydraulic fracturing activities is needed to develop understanding of the potential for drinking water resource contamination from unconventional drilling and gas extraction activities.
Click here for paper (Open Access).
Harkness JS, Dwyer GS, Warner NR, Parker KM, Mitch WA, Vengosh A. Iodide, Bromide, and Ammonium in Hydraulic Fracturing and Oil and Gas Wastewaters: Environmental Implications. Environmental Science and Technology. 2015 Jan 14.
The expansion of unconventional shale gas and hydraulic fracturing has increased the volume of the oil and gas wastewater (OGW) generated in the U.S. Here we demonstrate that OGW from Marcellus and Fayetteville hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids and Appalachian conventional produced waters is characterized by high chloride, bromide, iodide (up to 56 mg/L), and ammonium (up to 420 mg/L). Br/Cl ratios were consistent for all Appalachian brines, which reflect an origin from a common parent brine, while the I/Cl and NH4/Cl ratios varied among brines from different geological formations, reflecting geogenic processes. There were no differences in halides and ammonium concentrations between OGW originating from hydraulic fracturing and conventional oil and gas operations. Analysis of discharged effluents from three brine treatment sites in Pennsylvania and a spill site in West Virginia show elevated levels of halides (iodide up to 28 mg/L) and ammonium (12 to 106 mg/L) that mimic the composition of OGW and mix conservatively in downstream surface waters. Bromide, iodide, and ammonium in surface waters can impact stream ecosystems and promote the formation of toxic brominated-, iodinated-, and nitrogen disinfection byproducts during chlorination at downstream drinking water treatment plants. Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of OGW to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.