Nathaniel R. Warner ’00 coauthored “Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.” The article, in which Warner and his coauthors examined the effects of natural gas collection on the water supply in Pennsylvania and New York, was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The scientists travelled to aquifers surrounding New York’s Utica Shale and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, two of the most promising sources of natural gas. The most common method of natural gas extraction, hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking,” has raised major concerns about its impact on local water supply. In their research, Warner and his coauthors took samples from drinking wells located both near and far from existing gas wells in order to compare their methane concentrations.
The scientists’ evidence consistently showed higher concentrations of methane in wells near active gas-extraction sites than in drinking wells without an active gas well nearby. However, the evidence did not show evidence of ground water contamination by fracturing fluids or deep saline brines, the liquids used in hydrofracking. Ultimately, Warner and his coauthors “conclude that greater stewardship, data, and—possibly—regulation are needed to ensure the sustainable future of shale-gas extraction and to improve public confidence in its use.”