Stream measurements locate thermogenic methane fluxes in groundwater discharge in an area of shale-gas development

Victor M. Heilweil, Paul L. Grieve, Scott A. Hynek, Susan Louise Brantley, D. Kip Solomon, Dennis W. Risser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The environmental impacts of shale-gas development on water resources, including methane migration to shallow groundwater, have been difficult to assess. Monitoring around gas wells is generally limited to domestic water-supply wells, which often are not situated along predominant groundwater flow paths. A new concept is tested here: combining stream hydrocarbon and noble-gas measurements with reach mass-balance modeling to estimate thermogenic methane concentrations and fluxes in groundwater discharging to streams and to constrain methane sources. In the Marcellus Formation shale-gas play of northern Pennsylvania (U.S.A.), we sampled methane in 15 streams as a reconnaissance tool to locate methane-laden groundwater discharge: concentrations up to 69 μg L-1 were observed, with four streams ≥5 μg L-1. Geochemical analyses of water from one stream with high methane (Sugar Run, Lycoming County) were consistent with Middle Devonian gases. After sampling was completed, we learned of a state regulator investigation of stray-gas migration from a nearby Marcellus Formation gas well. Modeling indicates a groundwater thermogenic methane flux of about 0.5 kg d-1 discharging into Sugar Run, possibly from this fugitive gas source. Since flow paths often coalesce into gaining streams, stream methane monitoring provides the first watershed-scale method to assess groundwater contamination from shale-gas development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4057-4065
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume49
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 7 2015

Fingerprint

Methane
Groundwater
methane
Fluxes
groundwater
Gases
gas well
Sugars
sugar
gas
Noble Gases
Gas fuel measurement
Groundwater flow
Shale gas
stream measurement
shale gas
Monitoring
noble gas
monitoring
Hydrocarbons

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

Heilweil, Victor M. ; Grieve, Paul L. ; Hynek, Scott A. ; Brantley, Susan Louise ; Solomon, D. Kip ; Risser, Dennis W. / Stream measurements locate thermogenic methane fluxes in groundwater discharge in an area of shale-gas development. In: Environmental Science and Technology. 2015 ; Vol. 49, No. 7. pp. 4057-4065.
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abstract = "The environmental impacts of shale-gas development on water resources, including methane migration to shallow groundwater, have been difficult to assess. Monitoring around gas wells is generally limited to domestic water-supply wells, which often are not situated along predominant groundwater flow paths. A new concept is tested here: combining stream hydrocarbon and noble-gas measurements with reach mass-balance modeling to estimate thermogenic methane concentrations and fluxes in groundwater discharging to streams and to constrain methane sources. In the Marcellus Formation shale-gas play of northern Pennsylvania (U.S.A.), we sampled methane in 15 streams as a reconnaissance tool to locate methane-laden groundwater discharge: concentrations up to 69 μg L-1 were observed, with four streams ≥5 μg L-1. Geochemical analyses of water from one stream with high methane (Sugar Run, Lycoming County) were consistent with Middle Devonian gases. After sampling was completed, we learned of a state regulator investigation of stray-gas migration from a nearby Marcellus Formation gas well. Modeling indicates a groundwater thermogenic methane flux of about 0.5 kg d-1 discharging into Sugar Run, possibly from this fugitive gas source. Since flow paths often coalesce into gaining streams, stream methane monitoring provides the first watershed-scale method to assess groundwater contamination from shale-gas development.",
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Stream measurements locate thermogenic methane fluxes in groundwater discharge in an area of shale-gas development. / Heilweil, Victor M.; Grieve, Paul L.; Hynek, Scott A.; Brantley, Susan Louise; Solomon, D. Kip; Risser, Dennis W.

In: Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 49, No. 7, 07.04.2015, p. 4057-4065.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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