Overview of Shale Gas Impacts Research
Growing interest in tapping into the Marcellus shale formation for its potentially vast natural gas resources has made the
northeastern US a hotbed of conflict between pro- and anti-drilling advocates. Industry sources claim that the latest
drilling technologies are completely safe, producing
energy to reduce dependence on coal and imported oil. Opponents claim that extensive
drilling with high-volume hydrofracturing will have unacceptable adverse impacts such as long-term
contamination of ground water, industrialization of rural character, and
release of natural gas into rural homes. Regulators and elected officials try to balance
benefits and risks as they tackle the task of developing policy surrounding extraction of the Marcellus gas and use of new techniques like hydrofracturing.
We hope to contribute to the readiness of state and local governments for the
kinds of accidents that large scale hydrofracturing has produced in early adopter areas
like Pennsylvania. Fracturing fluids, fluids that return to the surface after
fracturing ("flowback water"), and gas production brine ("produced water") all can have adverse
effects when inadvertently released into the surface environment. We are beginning to study the environmental fate
of constituents of these fluids after they are spilled or otherwise released.
Depending on the location and rock type, the formations from which the natural gas
derives can contain high concentrations of salt and metals such as
barium and radium. Our earlier research into metals and soil, notably the fate of metals in
sewage biosolids, sensitized us to the fate of metals from spilled or applied
gas well liquids. Our beginning shale gas liquids research has been in
and field. Collaborators on these projects include Lynne Irwin, Larry Cathles, and Bob Kay, all from Cornell.
We are also working to establish basic baseline water quality levels in parts of New York, in the event that there is a question of impact
on local water resources due to natural gas drilling in the future. Water samples will be taken from a sampling of homeowner
drinking water wells and analyzed for dissolved methane gas, as well as trace metals and other solutes. This particular work
is possible through funding from the Cornell University Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and by assistance from the NY
Water Resources Institute and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. More information on this project can be found here
For more information on the Marcellus shale and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, check out this link for further references.
Please contact Steve Pacenka
about this material.
Last updated 2011 09 27