Direct and indirect indicators to identify potential leakage of contaminants associated with unconventional oil and gas development based on conceptual geochemical and isotopic monitoring approaches

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Pauline Humez1, Bernhard Mayer1, Philippe Jean Negrel2, Julie Lions2, Vincent Lagneau3, Wolfram Kloppmann2, Jenifer Ing1, Veith Becker1 and Michael Nightingale1, (1)University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, (2)BRGM, Cedex, France, (3)Mines ParisTech, Paris, France
The extraction of tightly bound natural gas and oil raises environmental concerns regarding shallow drinking water resources. These concerns include impacts of migration of contaminants through induced and natural fractures, drilling imperfections, wastewater discharge and accidental spills. Improved understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants through long-term monitoring, and sharing of data between industry, regulators and researchers will help to effectively manage risks for shallow water resources associated with the unconventional gas and oil industry. Based on the North-American experiences related to unconventional oil and gas resources and monitoring approaches developed in the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) context, we suggest conceptual models for monitoring the potential contamination of shallow aquifers overlying production zones. The strength of sensitive geochemical tracers is demonstrated based on conceptual approaches (e.g. diffusion model) and field and tracer studies (e.g. geochemical and isotopic monitoring) with three objectives: 1) characterize subsurface derived contaminants as direct geochemical and isotopic indicators; 2) assess geochemical processes enhanced by the fluid intrusion; 3) understand parameters and processes which could impact or alter the geochemical and isotopic signatures of the contaminants (e.g. microbial oxidation, migration or transport processes etc.) to determine indirect indicators of potential contaminant leakage. This comprehensive geochemical and isotope approach using direct and indirect indicators with the analyses of major and minor ions, trace elements, and δ11B, δ7Li, δ34SSO4, δ18OSO4, 87Sr/86Sr, δ18OH2O, and δ2HH2O values in the CO2FIELDLAB project (Humez et al., 2014) allowed discriminating reactive mechanisms from non-reactive mixing processes associated with gas leakage within a shallow aquifer. These and other results indicate that this conceptual approach is promising for monitoring strategies related to unconventional oil and gas resources.

Humez et al., 2014. Chem. Geol., 368, 11-30.