On October 21, 2015, professors within the Colorado State University’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering released a study entitled “Concurrence of aqueous and gas phase contamination of groundwater in the Wattenberg oil and gas field of northern Colorado” published in the Elsevier academic journal. The study examines the likelihood of groundwater methane contamination resulting from unconventional oil and gas drilling in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, Colorado.
The researchers observed that gas and contaminants present in produced water are more likely to migrate into drinking water wells due to improperly sealed wellbores or casing impairment. They also analyzed the ionic composition of the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer underlying the shale basin before comparing both presence of thermogenic methane and produced-water based contaminants into the aquifer.
Thermogenic methane is defined as a gas “produced at greater depths through high pressure and temperature processes, characteristic of deep oil and gas reservoirs that conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon wells tap.”
The researchers concluded that groundwater contamination is more likely to happen due to thermogenic methane migration than it is to result from unconventional oil and gas drilling. The study states that “[t]he results of these analyses indicate no concurrent gas and liquid phase contamination of groundwater from oil and gas activity.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow