Posting in Energy
Usually under fire for its drilling fluids, hydrofracking for natural gas raises a new concern. Researchers speaking today at a Geological Society of America meeting say it might disturb uranium deposits within shale.
Speaking today at a Geological Society of America meeting, geologists are presenting research suggesting the natural gas extraction method may disturb uranium deposits, which occur naturally in Marcellus shale.
"Hydrofracking" or "fracking" is usually criticized for the often undisclosed chemicals it uses during the process of injecting water and sand into natural gas wells at high pressure. This is done to fracture tight shale formations and release the natural gas. That the chemicals may leach into groundwater is the main concern, and something the EPA relaunched an investigation into recently. Just last week, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell banned fracking on state land (though most occurs on private land in PA).
Groundwater is also on the minds of a team of geologists from the University of Buffalo, but in regard to uranium contamination. Scanning shale surfaces taken from Pennsylvania and western New York, they created a chemical map of the rock revealing that its uranium and hydrocarbons were located together.
Lead researcher Tracy Banks says in a statement:
We found that the uranium and the hydrocarbons are in the same physical space. We found that they are not just physically but also chemically bound. That led me to believe that uranium in solution could be more of an issue because the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could start mobilizing the metals as well, forcing them into the soluble phase and causing them to move around.
Experimenting with some drilling fluids used in the industry, they found that they did react with uranium, in their lab. How much, if any, uranium fracking releases into the environment isn't known. Bank calls for a greater understanding of the metal's presence in shale in order to accurately assess how mobile the metal might become. She said while the uranium wouldn't pose a radiation threat at these levels, it is still very much a toxin.
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Image: Flickr/Ari Moore
Nov 1, 2010
NORM, or "naturally occurring radioactive material," is old news to Louisiana and other Gulf oilmen. The truth is that many oil and gas-bearing strata are co-located with strata that have burdens of uranium and uranium decay chain nuclides. The level of contamination is low; comparable with ground water and soil levels of uranium in Colorado. It's not really a problem; uranium, like lead, can be filtered out of ground water.
there must be many toxic transition metals like cadmium, nickel etc in the fracked zone. All these non-radioactive heavy metals are probably much higher concentrations. From crustal abundance, one would expect Uranium probably is at much lower concentrations than these other trace metals. If chemical toxicity, not radiation is the concern, surely the other metals are of vastly greater concern. Unless, it may be this is attempt to scare the public in the effort to blacklist fracking with an uranium red herring, while other compounds are of much greater concern.
The point is, with the big airplay that depleted uranium is getting in the news due to its use in military operations, much needed research is finally being done on uranium and it's effects on the human organism. Apparently it's NOT as harmless as once thought. For years the greatest concern is that a person would have some reversible effects to the kidneys, new research however finds that uranium like other heavy metals, may also be an estrogen disruptor. (see the 2007 EPA report "Drinking Water with Uranium below the U.S. EPA Water Standard Causes Estrogen Receptor-Dependent Responses in Female Mice". More work has to be done, but whilst there is a chance that uranium may cause fertility problems including early ovarian failure and reproductive and gonadal cancers, surely the most conservative action would be to limit the amount of uranium released from underground geographic features? Jeanette McKenzie
"the migration potential to potable formations is very low and where there is inter connectivity the transmissivity is lower than 1x10-6" So, you're saying there is a potential risk/threat. It's just that it is statistically low, like the probability of the blowout on the BP rig? The basic problem here is the hydraulic fracturing exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, which basically make it possible for whomever is fracking to frack up everything and not have to pay a dime to clean it the frack up. " the Marcellus Shale is not potable" Ok, so nobody is drinking Marcellus Shale Spring Water. What happens if this water migrates into the well water in surrounding areas, making it impossible to drink or farm with? In Pennsylvania, in order to protect consumers of well water within the operational zones of the methane reclamation companies, we are now building pipelines at great cost to ensure that these people don't lose access to the most fundamental source of life on earth, water. Why do so many readers want to stomp the author? Are you feeling inadequate because her name is up in print and yours is not? In case you didn't notice, the authors were quoting other people. I don't see you questioning the veracity of the geologists at SUNY Buffalo, so why insult the person who quotes them and provides a link to their article?
As a scientist, I really give this article low marks on accuracy of the issues at hand. The author clearly has not studied the issue from the scientific standpoint nor has any understanding of the issues of groundwater migration or even the characteristics of formations. Fact - the Marcellus Shale like many other shales of its age period have isotopes and rare earths including uranium in ppb levels; typically low levels. These are pandemic in any volcanigenic setting. Fact - the Marcellus Shale has been folded in mainly a drag fold over the top of itself and groundwater flow is limited within the formation due to several sets of fractures which do not interconnect therefore the migration potential to potable formations is very low and where there is inter connectivity the transmissivity is lower than 1x10-6. Fact - The groundwater in the Marcellus Shale is not potable so why is this article even being presented? If you want to start trouble, I'm sure you're going to get it for reporting false facts. Many of the methane issues preexisted in the Marcellus prior to onset of gas shale development. It's really difficult to read such baseless articles which continue to rely on geo factoids and do not refer to the real scientific facts accumulated and published by the academic and professional communities. I suggest the author goes back to Boston College and take some more courses on environmental and earth sciences because the author is an amateur mischief maker. This article doesn't make you a respected figurehead.
Methane naturally migrates into much of Pennsylvania surface waters and groundwater. Many people can "light" their tap water long before any drilling for oil or gas. However, factless movies like Gasland make people think that it's all because of natural gas hydrofracturing. Too many people carrying torches who do not know facts. I'm a professional environmental engineering in PA and there is too much incorrect information out there that environmentals are going crazy with. Josh Fox is an idiot who produced a sensationalized movie not based on facts.
Sounds like a win win. Pennsylvania drillers can mine uranium and pump natural gas from the same site. Or maybe this is a conspiracy and the fraking is only a cover story for the military obtaining covert uranium supplies.
> You want to power your economy safely then go nuclear How about reducing energy consumption? Europeans use half the energy we use.
> I'm all for taking care of the environment, but it should be done with Facts, not entertaining Fiction The gas industry talking point is also "There is not one single case of groundwater contamination due to fracking." Even if this were true, which it isn't, why should the presumption be *against* the environment? If there are some doubts, why are we to resolve them in *favor* of hydrofracking? Here is how to resolve the "Safe? Unsafe?" arguments: Both sides should agree to remove the hydraulic fracturing exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Superfund, and a host of other federal environmental rules. (Including criminal penalties for willfulness, and attorney fees.) If it is safe, the industry has nothing to fear from the rules. If it is dangerous, we need protection. The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010, currently pending before the Senate, would eliminate the drilling industry?s 2005 exemption from the Drinking Water Safety Act and would require producing companies to disclose the chemicals used in their drilling activities. That?s a start.
Uranium is commonly embedded in coal deposits as well and coal burning power stations emit quantities of radioactive material in orders of magnitude greater than any nuclear power station every year. Guys, wake up and smell the roses. You want to power your economy safely then go nuclear. Not cheap but a worthwhile long term investment that pays off down the track.
There was a video (maybe from 'Gasland") taken of a man who's tap water was highly flammable. If that isn't a safety concern then I don't know what is. But of course, the natural gas industry's reply might be to install a fire extinguisher near all water faucets in the home. And exactly like the oil industry, they downplay the hazards and longterm effects of polluting and climate changing fossil fuels that are increasingly becoming more difficult and risky to extract. It's a no win situation if you ask me.
Since Uranium deposits are also associated with the sandstone deposits that have been producing natural gas and oil for over 150 years, i have to wonder: why didn't the geologists warn us how dangerous natural gas drilling is along time ago? Oh, yeah, hydraulic fracturing isn't a new practice. It's been used on sandstone for over 6 decades. Please understand a technology and get a better view of the issues before 'jumping on the bandwagon.' hground, thanks for the link. This is a good factual discussion of the issues related to Marcellus Shale.
I didn't read about any safer way to extract natural gas. Is there a safer way to remove natural gas???
I vote that all the water around these areas be reserved just for the stock holders and executives of the companies destroying the water sources. If its "so pure" then they shouldn't have a problem moving there, buying the land, and surviving on the water they are creating. While we are at it - we should include the politicians there until this practice is changed.
Perhaps you should take a look at the article called "Debunking Gasland the Movie": http://jlcny.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=192:debunking-gasland-the-movie&catid=35:gasland-the-movie&Itemid=97 to discover all of the falsehoods that were contained in the ?Documentary?. I'm all for taking care of the environment, but it should be done with Facts, not entertaining Fiction. I also like to research and look at all viewpoints before jumping on a "Let's get them!!" bandwagon.
Fracking threatens the water supply of over 100 million Americans. It is a pending disaster that will make the recent Gulf spill look like a hiccup and could ruin the ground water across large swaths of America - a disaster that would be permanent on a human scale. This issue should be at the top of everyone's list! See the documentary Gasland, and stop the gas companies before it's too late!
You stated "may leach" into groundwater? Watch the film by Josh Fox entitled "Gasland". "May leach" shouldn't even be in question; it definitely leaches into the surrounding areas contaminating ground water and the air. The gasses released off the top of these rigs are highly detrimental to those who live around them. In the process they have large pools that just sit in the sun and evaporate chemicals into the air. These "secret" mixes of chemicals they use do contain materials that do not break down at all over time. 65 of the compounds used are hazardous to human health. They are trying to begin fracking in NY right now at the head of the fresh water supply that goes to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. I can guarantee New York will not be famous for its tap water much longer if they start this process. This doesn't even take into consideration the mass quantities of trucking that has to take place to haul water away from the site. Natural gas is not even close to "clean" in the way that they try and tap into it currently.