Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Environmental Analysis
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Fracking Flowback Could Indirectly Pollute Groundwater

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014
Last Updated: Friday, June 27, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Chemical makeup of wastewater could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants.

The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell researchers have found.

Previous research has shown that 10 to 40 percent of the water and chemical solution mixture injected at high pressure into deep rock strata surges back to the surface during well development. Scientists at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying the environmental impacts of this “flowback fluid” found that the same properties that make it so effective at extracting natural gas from shale can also displace tiny particles that are naturally bound to soil, causing associated pollutants, such as heavy metals, to leach out.

They described the mechanisms of this release and transport in a paper published online June 6 in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The particles they studied are colloids - larger than the size of a molecule but smaller than what can be seen with the naked eye - which cling to sand and soil due to their electric charge.

In experiments by graduate student Wenjing Sang and members of the Soil and Water Group, glass columns were filled with sand and synthetic polystyrene colloids. The researchers then flushed the column with different fluids - deionized water as a control, and flowback fluid collected from a Marcellus Shale drilling site - at different rates of flow and measured the amount of colloids that were mobilized.

On a bright field microscope, the polystyrene colloids were visible as red spheres between light-gray sand grains, which made their movement easy to track. The researchers also collected and analyzed the water flowing out of the column to measure the colloid concentration leaching out.

They found that fewer than 5 percent of colloids were released when they flushed the columns with deionized water. That figure jumped to 32 to 36 percent when flushed with flowback fluid. Increasing the flow rate of the flowback fluid mobilized an additional 36 percent of colloids.

They believe this is because the chemical composition of the flowback fluid reduced the strength of the forces that allow colloids to remain bound to the sand, causing the colloids to actually be repelled from the sand.

“This is a first step into discovering the effects of flowback fluid on colloid transport in soils,” said postdoctoral associate Cathelijne Stoof, a co-author on the paper.

The authors hope to conduct further experiments using naturally occurring colloids in more complex field soil systems, as well as different formulations of flowback fluid collected from other drilling sites.

Stoof said awareness of the phenomenon and an understanding of the mechanisms behind it can help identify risks and inform mitigation strategies.

“Sustainable development of any resource requires facts about its potential impacts, so legislators can make informed decisions about whether and where it can and cannot be allowed, and to develop guidelines in case it goes wrong,” Stoof said. “In the case of spills, you want to know what happens when the fluid moves through the soil.”


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

On the Environmental Trail of Food Pathogens
Learning where Listeria dwells can aid the search for other food pathogens.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Wood Chips Could Help Cleanse Farm Field Run-Off
Cornell hydrologists may have found a simple solution to a complex pollution problem caused by agricultural run-off: wood chips.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Federal Grants will Fund Study of Food System, Environment
Cornell University grant will help tackle some of the biggest questions in affecting agriculture.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Cornell to Partner with DEC, Local Stakeholders on Cayuga Lake Water Quality
Partnership aims to improve Cayuga's waters.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Using Electroactive Bacteria, Students Design Toxin Sensor
Designed to detect the toxic substances arsenic and naphthalene in water by using electroactive bacterial species S. oneidensis MR-1.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Scientific News
Pesticide Found in 70 Percent of Massachusetts’ Honey Samples
New Harvard University study says that the pesticide commonly found in honey samples is implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder.
Ocean Acidfication may have a Dramatic Affect on Marine Life
Study finds many species may die out and others may migrate significantly as ocean acidification intensifies.
Nanoparticles Can Clean Up Environmental Pollutants
Researchers have found that nanomaterials and UV light can “trap” chemicals for easy removal from soil and water.
Fossil Fuel Emissions will Complicate Radiocarbon Dating, Warns Scientist
The paper is published in the journal PNAS.
New Research will Show How the Environment Could Change the Way We Eat
A new study funded by the Wellcome Trust will investigate how environmental changes over the next 20-30 years may impact the way we eat, in the UK and worldwide.
Bedside Ebola Diagnostic
A new test can accurately diagnose Ebola virus disease within minutes, providing clinicians with crucial information for treating patients and containing outbreaks.
The Deep Carbon Cycle
Over billions of years, the total carbon content of the outer part of the Earth—in its upper mantle, crust, oceans and atmospheres—has gradually increased, scientists report.
Profiling DNA Viruses in Arctic Lakes
The Arctic's freshwater lakes contain viral communities composed of DNA viruses from lineages that are largely distinct from those described elsewhere, a new study suggests.
Unravelling the Mysteries of Carbonic Acid
Researchers have shown how gaseous carbon dioxide molecules are solvated by water to initiate the proton transfer chemistry that produces carbonic acid and bicarbonate.
Algal Blooms Pose Health Risks Downstream
A new study has found that toxic algal blooms in reservoirs on the Klamath River can create unsafe water conditions far downstream on lower parts of the river in northern California.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!