Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New Duke Study Says Brine Migration Natural & Not Caused By Fracking

Researchers from Duke University have published a second study concerning water impacts of gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  Based on 426 samples of groundwater in 6 counties, Professor Jackson states: "These results reinforce our earlier work showing no evidence of brine contamination from shale gas exploration."  today.duke.edu/2012/07/marcellus.

The study found elevated salinity in some samples but concludes that natural causes and not gas drilling produced the raised level.  The research cautioned that natural pathways were a feature of the geology in some areas that could facilitate gas migration if mistakes are made in cementing or drilling. The Duke paper does not identify when, how, or from precisely what geology the salinity came.  The discussion about natural flows and pathways will be controversial.

One reviewer of the paper, Standford geophysicist Mark Zoback said: "Frankly, I think some degree of vertical hydraulic conductivity in the crust over geologic time is reasonable, but why dense brines would rise and mix with near surface aquifers is not clear. [Duke's] supposition 'therefore it implies a greater tendency for leakage from hydraulically fracturing in the shale' is illogical. Production from the Marcellus would lower the pressure and cause flow into the Marcellus, not out of it."

The implication of Professor Zoback's comment is that if natural flow were taking place over geologic time of brine production of that brine would reduce the natural flow.

The paper was authored by Duke professors Jackson and Vengosh and graduate student Warner, appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was funded by Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. 

Let's see what the media does with this paper.


  1. It's already clear what the media are doing with the study with headlines such as, "Pennsylvania Fracking Can Put Water at Risk, Study Finds" - Bloomberg; "Duke study casts doubt on fracking fluid safety" - Gas Daily; "Duke study finds possible pathways from Marcellus shale to drinking water aquifers in Pennsylvania" - Akron Beacon Journal. It's almost like media outlets either cannot read or are intentionally fanning the flames of opposition to natural gas development. It's stunning.

  2. It must be coincidence that water buffaloes dot the landscape and water trucks hired by the gas company drive the roads now delivering water(or that the cows won't drink the water shhhh). If there is no possible way of water contamination or impact then why did THE HOLY GRAIL PENN STATE publish informational pamphlets with lists of contaminents that could show up in your water if you were in a drilling area? Why worry about all this? Your area will not see drilling until the impact is studied!!! Some of you live in the protected area of the elite...so drill baby drill but not where Krancer and friends live!

  3. An original version of this posting mistakenly stated wrongly that Professor Jackson's first Duke study reporting on whether gas drilling impacted water wells was funded by the Park Foundation that has financed Gasland and other activity to shutdown shale gas. The first paper found that drilling increased the propability of gas contaminating water wells but concluded that frack fluids/chemicals had not contaminated the tested water wells. Professor Jackson tells me that the Park Foundation is funding some other work of his in New York. I regret the error in the original posting.