Last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report released) included two stories about fracking from juridisctions with state and municipal elections this November. The first, from the University of Virginia, proposed a way we could have our cake and eat it, too.
U.Va. Researcher: Methane Out, Carbon Dioxide In?
September 26, 2013
A University of Virginia engineering professor has proposed a novel approach for keeping waste carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.That would be nice, if it could be done in a way that doesn't cost more energy than the original fracking produced. On the other hand, it would do nothing about the other environmental issues that come with fracking. The University of Cincinnati is investigating those in Tapping a Valuable Resource or Invading the Environment? Research Examines the Start of Fracking in Ohio.
Andres Clarens, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and graduate student Zhiyuan Tao have published a paper in which they estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that could be stored in hydraulically fractured shale deposits after the methane gas has been extracted. Their peer-reviewed finding was published in Environmental Science and Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
The team applied their model to the Marcellus Shale geological formation in Pennsylvania and found that the fractured rock has the potential to store roughly 50 percent of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions produced from stationary sources between 2018 and 2030. According to his estimate, about 10 to 18 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide could be stored in the Marcellus formation alone. The U.S. has several other large shale formations that could provide additional storage.
At an international forum, preliminary research out of the University of Cincinnati examines groundwater resources near hydraulic fracturing operations in the Buckeye State.The results should be interesting.
Amy Townsend-Small, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geology, will present on the study on Sept. 27, at the 10th Applied Isotope Geochemistry Conference in Budapest, Hungary.
The team of UC researchers spent a year doing periodic testing of groundwater wells in Carroll County, Ohio, a section of Ohio that sits along the shale-rich Pennsylvania-West Virginia borders. The study analyzed 25 groundwater wells at varying distances from proposed fracking sites in the rural, Appalachian, Utica Shale region of Carroll County. Because the region is so rural, the majority of the population relies on groundwater wells for their water supply.
“This is a major area for shale gas drilling in Ohio, and one reason is because shales in the area are thought to have a good amount of liquid fuel as well as natural gas,” says Townsend-Small.
The researchers are currently analyzing samples from groundwater wells over a one-year period, with water samples drawn every three-to-four months.
The samples are being analyzed for concentrations of methane as well as hydrocarbons – a carcinogenic compound – and salt, which is pulled up in the fracking water mixture from the shales, which are actually ancient ocean sediments.
“We’re examining changes over time resulting from fracking, and since this is just beginning in Ohio, we have the opportunity to make some baseline assessments,” says Townsend-Small.