'Toward a Marcellus Flowback Water "Signature”, and Perspectives on Environmental Impacts'

The most likely sources of surface and groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction from the Marcellus and other shales are disturbance of coalbed methane, well casing failure, and surface leaks and spills. Currently there is no reliable chemical “signature” or “fingerprint” that can delineate Marcellus flowback waters from other sources with high conductivity such as mine drainage or road salt. A combination of selected geochemical parameters including Cl, Br, SO4, and stable isotopes appears that it will provide unique identifiers for Marcellus flowback waters.

Q: Is gas extraction and production in the Marcellus safe?

A: Is driving a car safe?

The above is the wrong question. What we need to know is the risks of environment impacts due to shale gas extraction. Much of the data we need to understand the risks is lacking. The risks need to be analyzed and then compared to past and especially environmental impacts of extractive industries and other development.


Dr. Kirby's talk will take place in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m. on November 14