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A Critical Review of State-of-the-Art and Emerging Approaches to Identify Fracking-Derived Gases and Associated Contaminants in Aquifers

McIntosh, J. C., Hendry, M. J., Ballentine, C., Haszeldine, R. S., Mayer, B., Etiope, G., Elsner, M., Darrah, T. H., Prinzhofer, A., Osborn, S., Stalker, L., Kuloyo, O., Lu, Z.-T., Martini, A., Lollar, B. Sherwood
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.53 no.3 pp. 1063-1077
aquifers, carbon sequestration, coal, gases, greenhouse gases, groundwater, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen, methane, natural gas, oils, pollution, radioactive waste, sandstone, Australia, Canada, United States
High-volume, hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is widely applied for natural gas and oil production from shales, coals, or tight sandstone formations in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and is being widely considered by other countries with similar unconventional energy resources. Secure retention of fluids (natural gas, saline formation waters, oil, HVHF fluids) during and after well stimulation is important to prevent unintended environmental contamination, and release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Here, we critically review state-of-the-art techniques and promising new approaches for identifying oil and gas production from unconventional reservoirs to resolve whether they are the source of fugitive methane and associated contaminants into shallow aquifers. We highlight future research needs and propose a phased program, from generic baseline to highly specific analyses, to inform HVHF and unconventional oil and gas production and impact assessment studies. These approaches may also be applied to broader subsurface exploration and development issues (e.g., groundwater resources), or new frontiers of low-carbon energy alternatives (e.g., subsurface H₂ storage, nuclear waste isolation, geologic CO₂ sequestration).