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EPA identifies case studies for hydraulic fracturing study

Case Studies | June 27, 2011 | By:

Agency to conduct field work in various regions of the country starting this summer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a June 23 press release the next steps in its congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study.

The EPA has identified seven case studies to help examine potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracting”) on water resources. The sites were selected following input from stakeholders, including the public, local and state officials, industry, and environmental organizations. Field work in some of the selected regions starts this summer.

One of the most worrisome contaminants in the wastewater produced through hydrofracting is a gritty substance called TDS (totally dissolved solids), generally called “brine.” Drilling companies have disposed of this brine in municipal sewage plants, which, in turn, is discharged into rivers and streams. The EPA has consistently advised against this practice.

At minimum, geomembrane—and possibly geosynthetic clay liner barrier—systems can provide long-term detention of the waste brine. Also, most drilling operations require a drainage system under the liner of choice. Therefore, geotextiles, drainage materials and composites, geopipe, and other related products could also be involved.

The hydrofracting for natural gas plays a key role in the nation’s energy future, according to the EPA’s release. Thus, the case studies are intended to ensure that this resource is developed safely.

The site selections identify two study groups. Two of the seven sites are case studies where the EPA will monitor the hydraulic fracturing process throughout the lifecycle of a well:

  • Haynesville Shale—DeSoto Parish, La.
  • Marcellus Shale—Washington County, Pa.

Five case studies were selected to examine how hydraulic fracturing could specifically affect drinking water:

  • Bakken Shale—lKildeer and Dunn counties, N.D.
  • Barnett Shale—Wise and Denton counties, Texas
  • Marcellus Shale—Bradford and Susquehanna counties, Pa.
  • Marcellus Shale—Washington County, Pa.
  • Raton Basin—Las Animas County, Colo.

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