Test developed to identify fracking risks

Test developed to identify fracking risks

A test has been developed to check for contamination of shallow groundwater from irregular gas extraction techniques such as fracking.

The trial could help monitor the safety of shale gas and coal bed methane extraction which has sparked concerns over water contamination risks.

Procedures used for shale gas extraction are comprised of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ in which shale rocks below ground are split with high-pressure fluids to release gas retrieved for fuel.

Coal bed methane is withdrawn from deep coal seams by drilling into the coal to lower the pressure and release gas.

The test’s researchers have created a new way to fingerprint methane gas by recognising tiny traces of inactive natural gases, also known as noble gases.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre have taken these distinctive fingerprints in a number of investigative shale gas and coal bed methane wells around the UK.

The analysis of fingerprints can be used to find the origin of methane at exploration sites.

Dr. Stuart Gilfillan, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who headed the project said: “Creating this fingerprint test will enable gas exploration and extraction to be carried out responsibly and should help address public concerns over this technology. It is important that careful monitoring of methane levels in nearby waters is carried out when commercial extraction begins.”