Researchers develop affordable, less intensive methane detection protocol

phys.org | 5/23/2019 | Staff
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A new testing protocol that uses existing, affordable water chemistry tests can help scientists and regulators detect sites showing evidence of new methane gas leaks caused by oil and gas drilling, according to Penn State researchers.

The researchers took a testing protocol they had described in a paper last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and applied it to a much larger dataset of domestic water wells in three regions of Pennsylvania impacted by the fossil fuel industry. They looked for certain chemical constituents in the test results to determine if methane may have impacted the sites when the samples were collected. They published their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and for the first time made public the datasets.

Scientists - Percentage - Water - Wells - Chemical

The scientists wanted to see what percentage of the water wells showed certain chemical changes that could indicate new methane contamination, like that which can occur during drilling and extraction of fossil fuels, and not pre-existing methane that is commonly found in Pennsylvania water.

"We expected to see few sites, less than 1%, showing evidence of new methane," said Tao Wen, a postdoctoral scholar in the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. "We found 17 out of 20,751 samples, or about 0.08 %, that showed possible signs of methane contamination when those samples were collected."

Shale - Gas - Wells - Pennsylvania - Oil

Unconventional shale gas wells dominate northeast Pennsylvania, whereas conventional oil and gas wells, including the first commercial oil well in the United States, dominate the northwest. The southwest has both conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells and a significant coal mining history.

The researchers divided the water samples into five types. The two types that the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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