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The Immediate Risks of Gas Production to Water Resources

Credit: Mantis Design/Adobe

Credit: Mantis Design/Adobe

By Margaret Shanafield & Craig Simmons

Public concerns about unconventional gas production focus on contamination of aquifers deep below the surface, yet the most immediate risk to water resources is right before our eyes.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The term “unconventional” gas refers to natural gas trapped in geology with low permeability that cannot be extracted using the formation’s natural pressure to push the gas upwards in the production well. Hydraulic fracturing or other advanced technologies are therefore required to recover an economically viable quantity of gas from these formations.

Because a large part of the world’s remaining unconventional gas reserves are located in countries that have traditionally been gas importers, the increasing economic viability of these resources could allow these countries to gain increased gas independence. However, the very techniques that have allowed this expansion to take place have also met with widespread contention and public scepticism.

In response, controversial bans on hydraulic fracturing in some US and Canadian states – and even countries such as France, Germany, Tunisia, Ireland and Scotland – have pitted environmental and human protection groups against petroleum giants. The potential impacts to water resources, most notably groundwater contamination, and possible consequences to human health and livestock are at the heart of this controversy.

There have been countless reports proposing potential impacts to water resources, but what does the science actually tell us about the probability of these impacts occurring?
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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.